Centennial Story 49: Loveday Conquest, Faculty, 1978 – 2014 (Emeritus, 2014 – present)

I was fortunate to be in elementary school when the Soviets sent up the Sputnik satellite in October, 1957. This galvanized the United States government, in addition to ramping up the US space program, to launch a variety of “new math” programs for students, including female students, a rather bold move in those days. Female students who were identified as having mathematical abilities were encouraged to pursue mathematics and other STEM fields, even without the legal backing of Title IX (which did not come into being until the 1970s). I was one of the lucky ones. At Pomona College (Claremont CA), of the 30 math majors, three of us were women. Although there were no female math faculty, many of the math professors considered us almost as daughters, determined that “our girls” (to them, we were always girls) would be admitted to graduate school in whichever fields we wished to pursue. Thus, I ended up at Stanford University to complete an MS in mathematical statistics. I then entered the UW to pursue a PhD in biostatistics through the former Department of Preventive Medicine, today the School of Public Health. (An interesting side note is that Vince Gallucci graded part of my written PhD qualifying exam when I was a grad student. Vince wasn’t sure if my answer showed a full grasp of the true meaning of “randomness”!)

I began my academic career in 1975 at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa campus in the School of Public Health. Being from the Islands, I felt that if I didn’t give this opportunity at UH a try, I would always wonder if I should have. In those days, communicating with places on the mainland (especially DC, 5-6 hours’ time difference) was difficult without email. Phone calls and faxes were expensive. Attending a statistics conference on the mainland was difficult and attending a European conference meant traveling halfway around the globe. And the cost of living in Honolulu was quite high.

Loveday on the WA Coast
Loveday on the WA Coast

I was informed of a temporary vacancy in the UW’s School of Business; my mainland colleagues suggested that I could use Seattle as a “jumping-off base” from which to do a further job search. I expected to be in Seattle for exactly one year. Then came a phone call from Doug Chapman encouraging me to apply for an upcoming faculty post in the then School of Fisheries, teaching courses in probability and statistics through the Center for Quantitative Science in Forestry, Fisheries, and Wildlife (CQS), and doing quantitative research in natural resource management (NRM) areas. I went through the interview process, gave a seminar on the Behrens-Fisher Problem (George Brown told me years later that he specifically attended my seminar to see if I could indeed convey statistical ideas to a biologist), and received an offer to start in September 1978. At first, I wasn’t exactly sure how I could integrate myself as a statistical scientist into NRM problems, but as we all now know, there are so many quantitative issues arising in NRM, that it was not difficult to find colleagues in both Fisheries and Forestry who were eager for my collaboration. I spent many years working with Frieda Taub on her Standardized Aquatic Microcosms project (students would recognize numerous “SAM”-based examples in my class lectures). A multi-year quantitative fisheries project funded by the US Agency for International Development took me, Vince Gallucci, students, and staff to the University of Costa Rica and to the marine lab in Bolinao, Philippines. After David Ford (Forestry) arrived in 1985, the Quantitative Ecology and Resource Management (QERM) program emerged out of what had previously been the quantitative NRM arm of the old biomathematics program. I was in at the start of the Center for Streamside Studies (CSS), when Bob Naiman was hired as director, and worked with students from Fisheries, Forestry, and QERM through CSS over many years. A final major project for me was funded by the NSF in the area of marine sciences education. Graduate students from various areas in what would become the College of the Environment, and the College of Arts and Sciences, were paired up with high school environmental science teachers from two locations, Seattle (an urban school district) and the San Juan Islands (a rural school district). The teachers gained from having graduate student researchers working in their classrooms, bringing current research to high school students. The graduate students gained from being compelled to present their own research and other science topics to an audience not consisting of their peers, valuable training for anyone.

In the early 1990s, I became associate dean of the former College of Ocean and Fishery Sciences (COFS, and served with two deans, Ross Heath and Arthur Nowell. During those years, there was much necessary engagement with the community and the Jensen Boat Company as the UW negotiated to build new buildings in what is now called Southwest Campus. I also worked with various student and faculty groups underrepresented in COFS and the UW in general, which has led to my being involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). I served as inaugural director of the UW Teaching Academy, followed by a stint as associate director of SAFS. And somewhere in there, I also directed the QERM program for about fifteen years following David Ford’s tenure.

In retirement, I have found myself answering the occasional call from Undergraduate Student Services in Mary Gates Hall when they need faculty members for various “Career Day” experiences with students. A recent Career Day saw the UW bus in 5th grade students from Neah Bay to the Seattle campus. Students were able to visit various parts of campus and to speak with current and former faculty (particularly women and faculty of color) about careers. I still attend the annual AISES conference, where it is inspiring to see hundreds of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students presenting their STEM research and being recruited by companies such as Boeing and Intel for jobs and internships.

Retirement has also brought the call to serve on various boards and committees dealing with education, the arts, literature, Children’s Hospital (I model in vintage fashion shows, which raise funds for uncompensated care), and the downtown Women’s University Club, which emphasizes continuing education. Thus, I find myself frequently in planning meetings for various classes or speaker topics, and needing to find instructors, available rooms, and audiovisual equipment—not unlike tasks I used to do at the UW. (A major task can be reserving a parking place for the instructor!) And I now treat myself to participating in short courses in the UK at Oxford or Cambridge, where one lives in the dorms and experiences the best part of college life (although the chefs have admitted that we paying guests are treated to a higher class of food). So I get to go back into the classroom, this time as a student, with homework (lots of readings), but no tests nor grades—the best way to be in school at this time of my life.

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