To Buy or Not to Buy Organic is a practical guide that helps consumers make informed
decisions about purchasing organic foods. The book describes how conventional agricultural practices have made certain vegetables and fruits (apples, for example) more likely to contain pesticides, making them a good choice to buy organic. On the flip side, the book lists other fruits and vegetables (such as thick-skinned avocados) that test extremely low for pesticide, making them a great less-costly option even when not organic. The author, Cindy Burke (class of ’98), claims that the book’s successful spin on the organics dilemma was germinated in her experiences and lessons learned as a business student at UW Bothell.

Burke, now a Seattle resident, left Michigan State University just short of completing her undergraduate degree in journalism. She pursued a design career in Washington, D.C. for several years before realizing that she wished she had completed her college degree.

While visiting, Burke fell in love with Seattle and she decided to move to the area. After arriving, Burke decided that she wanted a more challenging career and opted to pursue a business degree at the community college the University of Washington. Upon the advice of admission staff, Burke enrolled in system to complete her business prerequisites (mostly math) and then transferred into UW Bothell.

UW Bothell provided an experience vastly different from that of her previous university. According to Burke, “the education at UW Bothell was exceptional, with smaller classes and far more connection to the faculty.” Burke praised the experience she gained from the multitude of group projects and class presentations. She now appreciates that they served as “invaluable training” for her work today as a learning consultant and instructional designer.

Burke also recalls a couple of important life lessons garnered while at UW Bothell. “Seek opportunity everywhere,” was one mantra that she heard and embraced. Another treasure was that “if everyone you see is looking right, then look left. Don’t follow the pack.” That axiom relates directly to her book on organics.

In the years following her graduation, Burke, a food lover with a young daughter, co-wrote a book that investigated the prevalence of unhealthy trans fats (partially-hydrogenated oils) in processed foods and offered alternative recipes. Since then, food manufacturers have greatly reduced trans fats in many processed foods, due largely to the greater consumer awareness and demand.

Burke was approached with an opportunity to write a book called “100 Things You Must Buy Organic.” In the process of conducting her research, Burke noticed that everyone was jumping on the organic bandwagon. In 2006, the rise of organics was a becoming a marketing groundswell.

Yet Burke harkened back to her business training and decided to “look left” when everyone else was looking right and offer an alternative to the “all things organic” tidal wave. What if she reframed the question as, “What to buy organic and what not to buy organic?” It was a subtle twist, but a prescient one, because the book was published in 2007, when the economy was about to change significantly.

As the great recession settled in, consumers became less willing to spend money on organics, which can cost considerably more than non-organics. Food shoppers wanted better information about how to make their dollars count at the grocery store. They still wanted to eat food without pesticides, but they wouldn’t pay the organic premium price without wondering “what to buy organic and what not to buy organic?” The book continues to sell well to this day.

To Buy or Not to Buy Organic: What You Need to Know to Choose the Healthiest, Safest, Most Earth-Friendly Food, Cindy Burke, Da Capo Press, is available for purchase online and at your favorite bookseller.


Alumni Notes

Council Leadership

The Alumni Council has elected a new slate of leaders. All alumni are invited to get to know the new officers by attending a council meeting (always open to the public) or by attending an event.

UW Bothell Alumni Council 2011-12
Executive Committee:

mary howiseyChair: Mary Howisey (IAS ‘02)
Chair-Elect: Curtis Takahashi (IAS ‘04)
Secretary: Michelle Gamboa (CSS ‘05)
Past Chair: Joe Santos (Liberal Studies ‘97)
Awards & Recognition Chair: Holly Winters  (MACS ‘11
Legacy & Spirit Chair: Emily Anderson (IAS ‘09)
Membership & Marketing Chair: Jeffrey Siegel (MBA ‘08)

The roster of new council program representatives, committee chairs and at-large members can be found online at:

2011 Distinguished Alumna

Abigail Echo-HawkAt the 2011 Commencement ceremony, Abigail Echo-Hawk was named as the 2011 Distinguished Alumna. Echo-Hawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma, but has made Seattle her home for the past 12 years. In her role as tribal liaison for the UW’s Institute for Translational Health Sciences, Echo-Hawk works with American Indian and Alaska Native tribes in a five-state region to identify health priorities.

As a dedicated advocate for women’s health, Echo-Hawk was first appointed by the mayor of Seattle in 2006 to serve on the Seattle Women’s Commission; abigail echo-hawk she is now in her third mayoral appointment to the commission and currently serves as co-chair. Echo-Hawk has concentrated on policy and institutional change in order to minimize disparities for Native American and African American women in Seattle.

Echo-Hawk earned a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with an option in American Studies and a minor in Human Rights in Spring 2007. She continued to graduate school and received a Master of Arts in Policy Studies in Spring 2009.

5K Run-Walk

The Alumni Council’s 5K Run-Walk drew 500 participants, 50 volunteers and scores of supporters to campus on the morning of May 14. The number of participants exceeded last year’s figure by 160. The only “participant” that didn’t show up was the rain. Best of all, the event will be contributing thousands of dollars to student scholarships.

In addition to generating money for scholarships, the event met some other important goals, such as engaging the alumni and drawing neighbors to the campus. The winners were: Colby Litzenberger in the men’s category with a time of 16:20, and Megan Ekemo for the women with a time of 19:26.

Thanks and congratulations go to the UW Bothell Alumni Council and volunteers; the faculty, students and staff who ran or walked in the event; and the event’s many sponsors including Evergreen Hospital Medical Center, Crosby and Associates of Ameriprise, Cascadia Community College and Progressive Insurance.5k run-walk