STEM Dean Leslie Cornick believes in UW Bothell

Leslie Cornick

Leslie Cornick

Marc Studer photo

On one level, Leslie Cornick moved from Eastern Washington University to become the new dean of the School of STEM at the University of Washington Bothell because, as a marine biologist, she welcomed being where she could “keep her toes in the ocean.”

What also really attracted her to UW Bothell, she said, is its emphasis on undergraduate education and the resonance she felt with her fundamental beliefs.

She noticed UW Bothell’s dual identity: “Being part of the University of Washington with its reputation for incredible research and faculty and opportunities for students — but with this greater focus on undergraduate education and undergraduate research and on the student-faculty relationship.”

Making a difference

The diversity impact she could have as the STEM dean also had great appeal to Cornick.

“I love that we serve a really diverse population of students and that we are providing access to a UW education for a lot of low-income, first-generation, underrepresented minority students who might not otherwise see themselves as Huskies,” she said. “All those things resonate with my core values.”

Improving diversity, equity and inclusion for women, Black, Indigenous and other people of color as well as continuing to support veterans and being an ally for all LGBTQ members of the campus community remain front of mind for Cornick.

“I’m looking forward to engaging with students as to what we need to be doing to create a structurally diverse, equitable and inclusive School of STEM at UW Bothell and how we can have that empower what we do outside of the campus,” she said.

A strange start

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cornick and her husband moved themselves and their three dogs from Spokane to a home in Monroe over the summer. As the new dean, all the people she wants to meet, everything she wants to do, has to be accomplished remotely. “It’s definitely surreal.”

Cornick had been associate dean of the College of STEM at EWU for three years and previously served in various capacities at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. Her most recent research involved beluga whales in Bristol Bay, using ultrasound to measure blubber as a non-invasive method to assess their health.

Focusing for now on the job of dean and building relationships with industry partners in the region, Cornick won’t rule out teaching and research in the future.

“I don’t know if I will have the opportunity to go in the field and wrangle beluga whales again, but I’ve been having conversations with colleagues about collaborative work,” she said. “I’m keeping my toes in the ocean, as it were.”

New STEM capacity

One of Cornick’s more-immediate tasks is working with campus leaders, architects and facilities planners to design interior spaces in the new STEM building UW Bothell will share with Cascadia College. When it opens in the autumn of 2023, it will house biology labs now in leased space in the Beardslee Building. It will have more space for research and capstone projects.

What this means to the community, said Cornick, is more opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations among computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, biology and the physical sciences.

The School of STEM is the largest of five schools at the University, with 28% of the students in the 2019-20 school year. It is primarily located in Discovery Hall. New space brings a fresh opportunity to put the right people together, thinking in a systems way about curriculum and opportunities for faculty, said Cornick, who also is thinking about staff development.

“We’re working on making sure everyone on the STEM bus is in the right seat so they can really rise to their potential and support the school, but also in a way that is enriching and gratifying for them,” she said.

Stick with it

Cornick has been having weekly Zoom coffee conferences to meet faculty informally, and she plans listening sessions to learn more about their wishes. She plans similar sessions with students this academic year to learn what they need and want from the School of STEM.

Her message to students in these extraordinary times is: Stick with it. Stay engaged.

“Stay safe, be well and follow all the guidelines so we can get through all of this together,” Cornick said. “We want you back on campus when it’s safe. We will work with you to make sure you have what you need to succeed and stay well, whether it’s at home or on campus.”

Cornick said she’s glad to be at UW Bothell, ready to work with everyone and be part of the community.

“I really want to support faculty, students and staff in achieving their personal and professional goals,” she said. “I want people to wake up in the morning and be excited to come to work and to come to school.

“Whatever I can do as dean to support that is my goal.”


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