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Archives: March, 2013


On campus: UW students find their “Voice”

Two student groups hosted the Voice of UW, a talent competition, earlier this year.

Two student groups hosted the Voice of UW, a talent competition, earlier this year.

When the “The Voice of China” – a Chinese off-shoot of the popular NBC reality talent show “The Voice” – debuted in 2012, some UW students saw the chance to showcase the talent on campus. That led members of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and Taiwanese Overseas Student Association to create the Voice of UW, a month-long singing competition that culminated in a final competition in Kane Hall earlier this year. It  was one of several student-run events the UWAA is sponsoring this year. “We’re proud of our sponsorship,” said UWAA Executive Director Paul Rucker, ’95, ’02. “It’s part of our ongoing commitment to enhancing the student experience.”

Sixty students initially signed up for the Voice of UW competition; following the format of the TV show, they performed Chinese pop songs before four judges whose backs were turned. Sixteen students were invited to take part in the second round, which consisted of duets. The top eight finishers then competed in the final competition, which took place on Feb. 16 before 600 students in Kane Hall.

Vera Tao, a member of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association and one of the event organizers, said the Voice of UW created a sense of camaraderie between the audience and singers. “It’s not just a singing competition,” she said. “It’s more like a performance.”

All eight participants received $50; other prizes included coupons to EnKore Karaoke and iPod Shuffles. The winner, Jingyi Fan, also won a set of headphones. More than the prizes, though, the Voice of UW gave students a chance to have fun and share their talent in front of peers, Tao said. “Some of them, it’s the first time in their life singing in front of a lot of people.”

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On campus: Nursing students take pulse of employment opportunities

About 80 nursing students attended the Nursing Career Fair to get the inside track on careers earlier this year.

About 80 nursing students attended the Nursing Career Fair to get the inside track on careers earlier this year.

For roughly 80 nursing students, January’s Nursing Career Fair wasn’t just about finding a job in tough economic times; it was a key step on the path to a post-college career.

The annual event, which took place on Jan. 26, 2013 at UW Seattle’s South Campus Center, brought together nearly a dozen regional recruiters and employers, including Kindred Hospital, the UW Medical Center, and Harborview Medical Center. The UWAA sponsored the career fair. “We were proud to be part of such an exciting event,” said UWAA Executive Director Paul Rucker, ’95, ’02. “It’s great to see so many students getting a jumpstart on their careers.”

Those 10 employers offered advice for those seeking positions or residencies, responded to concerns about the job search process, and gave insight on the day-to-day workings of a hospital. “They were very open to questions and to give advice, and that brought down the barriers,” said Alina Palanchuk, president of the UW Professional Organization of Nursing Students and one of the event organizers.

Palanchuk, who will graduate in June with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, came to the event with some trepidation. “I wasn’t sure how to start looking for jobs,” she admitted.

So she found it refreshing to talk with employers about finding a job in pediatrics. They explained what skills and attributes are important for pediatric nurses, and encouraged her to talk to a manager about her aspirations. The one-on-one connections gave Palanchuk confidence and hope for the post-college career search. “That’s what the focus is on, and that’s the biggest concern for nursing students,” she said.

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In the Spotlight: John Castle and Creating a Company

John Castle

John Castle

Every year, Creating a Company, as the course is dubbed, becomes less a class than a crash course in entrepreneurship. Groups of eager students team up, form a company, apply for a $1,000-$2,000 loan from the Foster School of Business, and spend the next few months hawking their product or service to the wider world.

Past companies have sold goods ranging from Husky apparel to glass jars of cake mix; other companies have launched art galleries and driven students to the mountain passes for a day on the slopes. (Read below for photos and memories of some of the course’s most memorable products.)

At the heart of it all is lecturer John Castle, who has taught the class for the past 12 years – and who will retire at year’s end.

In 2001, Castle had stepped down as CEO from Cantametrix, a music software company he helped found, when a neighbor and former UW professor approached him about inheriting the Creating a Company course. With more than 40 years of business acumen, Castle didn’t lack experience: Before joining the UW, he had served as CEO of Hamilton-Thorn, a medical electronics and diagnostics company; cofounded Seragen, a biotechnology company; and was a partner in Washington Biotechnology Funding, a seed venture capital fund specializing in medical technologies.

Since then, he’s drawn on that extensive experience as would-be CEOS have created and developed dozens of companies. Castle’s only rule in approving companies and dispersing loans is “Do no harm,” meaning that students can’t, say, promote underage drinking by selling shot glasses to fraternities and sororities on campus. (This actually happened.)

When the class ends, students return any profits to the Foster School and can buy their company for $1 to keep it going. Few companies have outlived their academic years, but Castle knows the experience will remain long after grades are posted. “Whether or not they learn how to do it well, they will learn whether or not they want to start their own business.” Castle said. “This is as realistic of an experience of entrepreneurship as we can make it.”

Read on for a look back at some of the most memorable products and services offered by students during Castle’s tenure.

Read more…

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Capturing Grays Harbor history

This man, thought to be radio DJ Stan Spiegle, appears in the the newsreel footage that sheds a light on Grays Harbor County history.

This man, thought to be radio DJ Stan Spiegle, appears in the the newsreel footage that sheds a light on Grays Harbor County history.

We ran an article in the latest issue of Columns about a UW-produced documentary centering around newsreel footage that peeled back the curtain on life in 1920s Grays Harbor County.

“Grays Harbor Happenings” looks at life before the Great Depression in this bustling coastal town. The 45-minutes of film that inspired the documentary keeps the past alive on the Libraries Special Collections website, offering short clips of events big and small. Browse the collection for a few minutes, and you’ll see footage of a shipwreck, log-rolling contests, baseball games, an ice cream social, picnics and more.

The newsreel footage, originally shown before full-length feature films, depicts a sense of time and place that resonates nearly a century later, said Hannah Palin, film archives specialist with Libraries Special Collections. “You capture people, behavior, customs, and the environment, and it’s actually moving,” she said. “It helps our current experience if we can see how we were in the past.”

Each of the roughly 50 clips contains its own back story, and some of those stories are still being uncovered today.

Here are a few of the clips with unusual histories or notable stars, along with some background information, courtesy of Palin.

This unidentified man is thought to be local radio DJ Stan Spiegle

Palin believes that the stoic man on-screen from :24-:35 is Stan Spiegle, a  DJ with KXRO Radio in Grays Harbor County.

The radio station was owned at the time by Roy Olmstead, a famous Seattle-based bootlegger during Prohibition. Olmstead would play certain songs with the station’s radio broadcasts to signal boats that it was safe to smuggle bootlegged booze into Grays Harbor. “I don’t know how much Stan knew about this,” Palin admits. “There’s this funny tie with this little 20-second clip to a whole history of Prohibition.”

James M. Phillips, mayor of Aberdeen, address a crowd at what appears to be Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds

American Indian James M. Phillips moved from Pennsylvania to Aberdeen after college, where he launched an improbably successful political career. He began practicing law in 1907, was later elected mayor of Aberdeen, and went onto serve as a Superior Court Judge from 1929 to 1950. Phillips is thought to be the first American Indian to serve as a judge in the Washington state court system. “It obviously didn’t hinder his politics at all,” Palin said.

Mel Ingram and the Aberdeen Black Cats win the Timber League Pennant

Mel Ingram was a baseball player in the late 1920s with the Aberdeen Black Cats, part of the semi-professional Timber League. The team took its logo from a good luck charm posted at logging camps throughout the region, a nod to the town’s labor-friendly policies under Mayor James M. Phillips. Palin said that Ingram might have once shared the field with Babe Ruth when the legendary slugger played an exhibition game in Tacoma.

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Soulful singing transcends language barriers: Arts Dawg date night recap

Ana Moura dazzled the audience on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Isabel Pinto)

Ana Moura dazzled the audience on Saturday. (Photo courtesy Isabel Pinto)

One of my tasks as part of this series was to write honestly about the Arts Dawg experience as a date night idea. We in the UWAA naturally felt it would make a great date – Appetizers! Wine! The arts! – but my first two dates admitted that they wouldn’t have thought to attend dance productions or symphony performances on their own.

Thankfully, Ella Mae, my date on Saturday, couldn’t have been more excited to see Ana Moura.

We talked briefly about the Portuguese fado singer over coffee while escaping the Seattle rain and waiting for the pre-show reception. Ella Mae, also an occasional singer, had brushed up on Moura’s work beforehand and found herself entranced by Moura’s voice. “Smooth” became the descriptor of the night.

We shifted topics after a few minutes and spent much of the hour-long coffee date talking about travel. We shared our travel philosophies– “get lost” and “get off the beaten path” – talked about places we’d been – like the Philippines, New York, and New Orleans – and destinations we’d like to visit – basically “everywhere on Earth.”

We couldn’t go to Portugal on this night, so Moura brought a taste of the country to Seattle.

Moura is a young star in the storied fado scene, which started nearly 200 years ago as a genre similar to American blues music; it sprung out of poor and disenfranchised communities, and most song topics touched on loss, yearning, and heartbreak.

Those themes were evident on Saturday, as Moura performed one tear-jerking tune after another. She sung all but two songs in Portuguese, leaning heavily on her latest release “Desfado,” for the set’s material. Maybe Ella Mae and I were actually better off for not understanding Moura’s devastating lyrics; how awkward is it, after all, to spend a blind date listening to songs of failed romance, sorrow, and sadness?

Whether performing a folk-inspired number or traditional fado tune, Moura enchanted throughout her two-hour set. The Portuguese might have been lost on Ella Mae and I, but Moura’s voice – which could soar just as easily as it could crawl from note to melancholy note – kept us engaged throughout the night. Some feelings and emotions transcend language.

Two hours and one encore later, no one in the crowd was ready to call it a night. Nearly everyone stood and clapped along when Moura ditched the sorrowful tunes for more upbeat, fast-paced numbers. As Moura and her band took a bow and waved to the crowd, Ella Mae turned to me and shouted over the applause. “I loved that,” she said. “So smooth.”

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A night at the symphony: Arts Dawg date night recap

Ludovic Morlot will guest conduct the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

Ludovic Morlot guest conducted the UW Symphony on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

I’m a relative newcomer to Seattle, having moved here seven months ago from a suburban outpost of Portland, Oregon. My earlier memories of the city consisted of little more than Seattle Mariners games, the fish throwers at Pike Place Market, and beignets at Toulouse Petit, so the city still feels like the world’s largest playground as I explore its diverse neighborhoods.

Luckily, Stacey, a lifelong Seattle resident and my date for the most recent Arts Dawg event, was a good sport about my infatuation. Our date started over coffee at Café Solstice on the Ave. I spent much of the hour peppering her with questions and observations about Seattle – so much so, I later asked if I was boring her with my nonstop chatter about the low-key nature of Eastlake and the fun bars in Ballard. “Not at all,” she said. “It’s fun to hear a fresh perspective from an outsider.”

After an hour of Seattle observations and get-to-know you conversation, we walked to Meany Hall for the University Symphony’s recital.

Going into the performance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Stacey and I agreed that we respect the arts but admitted that we wouldn’t think to attend a symphony performance. My exposure to classical music has been mostly limited to old Looney Tunes cartoons, and Stacey had enough of symphonies after spending much of her childhood as a flautist. “It wouldn’t be at the top of my list,” she said.

The University Symphony led off with Un Sourire by Olivier Messiaen. The piece alternated between soft, string-driven sections that sounded like they could soundtrack a sunset and skittish sections keyed by fast-paced xylophones. It was a shrewd decision to open the set with such a gripping number; it grabbed our attention and kept us on edge throughout the piece. I liked the uneasy feeling that I didn’t know where it was going, but Stacey was more measured in her enthusiasm. “That was so jarring,” she said almost as soon as the final note finished.

The first piece following intermission – and my personal highlight of the evening – was Maurice Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand Alone, starring soloist Ching-Yueh Chen. The soloist dazzled as he played the piano with – you guessed it – only his left hand. I couldn’t stop staring as I wondered how he made such beautiful, intoxicating music … one-handed, no less. Going into the performance, I don’t know what I expected, but seeing a soloist earn a scattered standing ovation with only his left hand certainly wasn’t on the list.

A lesser writer would say that we, ahem, changed our tune afterward or that the performance struck a chord. But the truth is that I was transfixed. It’s one thing to hear classical music in the background of a big-budget action movie or an NFL highlight reel. But it’s another experience entirely to see more than 70 musicians working together, telling stories with the notes, and creating something positively grand. Even Stacey couldn’t help but agree once the performance concluded. “This was a lot of fun,” she said as we walked out of Meany Hall and into the rainy Seattle night.

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