By Stacey Schultz
Retiring to Pursue Research Interests
With the 2011-12 academic school year coming to an end, the University of Washington Bothell says goodbye to one its most beloved professors, Dr. Diane Gillespie. She is retiring from her faculty position to focus on research she has been conducting for an international nonprofit group called Tostan whose work is based in Africa.
“I started research there when I went on sabbatical in 2006,” says Gillespie, whose sister is the founder and executive director of the organization. “I am working with a team of researchers studying its approach to human rights education.”
Gillespie came to UW Bothell in 1998 to teach educational psychology in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, just eight years after the campus was founded. She quickly became a key contributor to the growth and development of the school, says Bruce Burgett, the school’s director.
“Diane has been absolutely critical to developing a culture that is collaborative, collegial, and focused on the success of everyone,” he says. “She has made the school a better place to teach and do research. She leaves a wonderful legacy and we will miss her greatly.”
In 2010, Gillespie was awarded the school’s Distinguished Teaching Award. During her tenure, she mainly taught undergraduate students studying in the Interdisciplinary Arts and Science’s community psychology and society, ethics, and human behavior degrees, while also contributing to its graduate programs in policy studies and cultural studies.
“Diane has been absolutely critical to developing a culture that is collaborative, collegial, and focused on the success of everyone.” — Bruce Burgett, Director, School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences
“My role as a teacher is to make enough room and space for people to kind of experiment with what their talents are, what they want to be doing, and then to allow them to take risks and to explore the subject matter,” she says. In this way, she has tried to help students find their calling and talents.
She also mentored junior faculty by working in close collaboration with them. “She links her success to the success of others,” Burgett points out. “She sees the growth and development of every individual as inseparable from to the growth and development of the whole. I think she is pretty unique that way.”
Over the last school year, Gillespie led a senior seminar on Tostan. As a service-learning project, students conducted research on nonprofit groups that offer human rights training and then presented an executive summary to Tostan staff members via Skype on dimensions to consider when planning a training institute.
Although Gillespie says leaving UW Bothell is the hardest decision she has ever made, the work with Tostan is where she needs to be right now. She says she will miss her colleagues and students. “Leaving is not an easy thing to do.”