"We are UWTacoma" storytelling

June 5, 2019

Karin Dalesky – A Story of Redemption

We cannot forget what this campus was built on, who it was built   for–working students–helping them to attain and finish their degrees. ~Karin Dalesky


Karin Dalesky is a UW-Tacoma Alumni and staff member. She has been affiliated with the University for 23 years – three as a student and the rest advising graduate and undergraduate students, as well as recruiting and program administration for the Master’s of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Back in the fall of 1996, after a rather inspiring meeting with Marcily Brown, she decided to enroll at UW Tacoma. Looking back on her experience with Brown, Dalesky says, “she was my first point of contact and she was awesome. Very encouraging. She liked the fact that I had been one of these sort of not very successful students in the past and I wanted to redeem myself.” This idea of redemption was something that Dalesky continued to take note of throughout her time at UW-Tacoma, first as a student and later as an SIAS adviser.

From her first moments as an undergrad, Dalesky was aware that UW-Tacoma was offering something different for its students: “I loved that fact that so many different types of people were here at the time. It was only juniors and seniors. Only 300 and 400 level courses. I was really proud of the fact that the University had put a campus here, and they were allowing this opportunity for people to finished unfinished business. I had a lot of respect for the campus at the time. It was really amazing.” She reflected on her New Student Orientation, and the fact that the entire faculty had shown up to welcome them. She realized from that moment that UW-Tacoma was a small institution with the ambition and desire to grow and change. When freshmen and sophomore students were first welcomed in 2006, Dalesky really felt like the campus solidified as an institution.

After finishing her degree, she began working in the library, then with the Tacoma Public School District, before finally settling into her current position in SIAS. Given the memorable experience she had with Brown during her time as an undergraduate, Dalesky tries to continue offering that feeling of redemption in her present position. “If I can help any student, even through admissions, academic advising, the graduate program, if I can do anything to help them along the way, why wouldn’t I? That’s why we are here. That’s why I’m here.”

In 2000 Dalesky made the decision to enroll in the MAIS program. For Dalesky, one of the constants of UW Tacoma is the feeling of inclusivity, and this was made achingly apparent immediately after Hurricane Katrina. After seeing the devastation and the loss faced by the residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas, Dalesky “felt compelled to go down and do something.” Little did she know that her experiences there would form the basis of her thesis and she would earn her Master’s Degree from the experience.

As she was solidifying plans for her trip, word soon spread across campus about what she was doing, and the UW Tacoma community rallied around her to help. “I remember it as the ‘Spirit of UWT’. Everybody’s like ‘You’re going down there. Wow, you’re so brave. Do you need money? Do you need this? Do you want to borrow anything?’ Everybody was so willing to contribute.” On the day of her departure, Dalesky left with a combined total of $700 cash which had been donated from friends, family, and the UW-Tacoma community. She was incredibly impressed and humbled by the actions of her fellow community members, noting “people were really interested and I was really humbled and touched by that.”

Dalesky feels that this sense of redemption even extends to the the city and campus itself. She reflected multiple times on the changes that have been made to the campus since her arrival as a student. As a student in high school, she remembers, “you didn’t come downtown for any other reason except to change busses. That was it. It was desolate, and not very many people were around. Back in the 70s and 80s these buildings were vacant and filled with dead rats and pigeons, and God only knows what else.”

This stands in stark contrast to one of her memorable experiences on campus. “I remember walking down the stairs and going “Oh my God this campus is beautiful. I walked through the front doors down by GWP and I was just floored, I really was. I thought, what a magnificent place.” She was impressed with the dedication to renovation and how it was placed so appropriately in the center of the city. She has had the privilege of seeing and experiencing the changes in the city she grew up in, which has had its own kind of redemption. “Something is happening in this city and the university is a big driving part of that. It’s gonna be one of the catalysts that leads to changing this city. And I want to be part of that. “

When directly asked about this theme of redemption, Dalesky had quite a bit to say:

This idea about redemption, I think, is a powerful theme here. I always think of the campus and how it was sort of forgotten and abandoned. Then it was revised, and vigorously so. It reminds me a lot of what happens when our students come here. Maybe they don’t have great GPAs. Maybe they are uncertain and don’t know if they can do it. But we know they are smart, and they just need a little encouragement and to be told they matter. A lot of our students come to us and they may have struggled for whatever reason, and they want to learn, and they want to better themselves. They want a better life for themselves and their families.

Asked if she had one last thing to share with current and future students, Dalesky said it would be that UW-Tacoma  “is a place to start over and realize that you are somebody. You are worth something and somebody cares. That we care. And you are going to go out and be successful.”

Rachel Howe


Photos (top to bottom): Karin in her MAIS office, Karin and Henry, Karin with Dr. Carolyn West, her MAIS adviser, mentor and good friend