When Uzma and I arrived in Bellingham at the end of last summer, the most common advice we received for settling in to our new home was to take a trip to Artist Point with our daughter, Tanya.
Before long, I realized Mount Baker with its breathtaking views is much more than a place to impress tourists and new residents. Western’s very identity is intimately connected to its sense of place, and there is no more recognizable environmental feature of our identity than Mount Baker.
It is no accident that Mount Baker figures so prominently in Western’s logo, or that the university’s alma mater we sing at every commencement proudly identifies Western as “crowned by Baker’s dome.” Since Western was founded as New Whatcom Normal School in 1893, Mount Baker has represented and shaped the uniquely engaging and adventurous nature of a Western education. Generations of Vikings who have left footprints in the snow and hiking trails of Mount Baker are also responsible for so many of the things that continue to draw people to Western:
- World class environmental science research on climate change, ecology and resource management.
- Commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship
- Opportunities for students to work closely with faculty on substantive research projects
- And of course, transformative outdoor experiences that instill confidence, creativity and a lifelong love of nature.
Even for those who are not as avid about the outdoors, Mount Baker’s presence reminds us of the interconnectedness of our world, as the glacial melt from the mountain’s flanks feeds the waters of Bellingham Bay and in turn the next cycle of snow. The first time I caught a glimpse of the mountain from Bellingham I also appreciated the way it feeds the soul, its formidable presence reaching out across space and up from the depths of time to overwhelm the limitations of human perspective. In every sense, this would be a very different place without the mountain.
Nearing the end of our first year at Western, Uzma and I are continuing to learn and experience the many things that make this such a distinctively wonderful place to learn, work and live. We feel especially privileged to be a part of this community and look forward to continuing our Western education this summer, leaving our own footprints on the trails around Mount Baker.