Sulkin Gift Benefits Middle School Students in Summer Science Program at WWU

Shelley and Steve Sulkin of Bellingham have made a $50,000 gift that will support the participation of middle school-age (grades 7-9) students in Whatcom County in a new course to be included in Western Washington University’s Odyssey of Science and the Arts summer program.

The Sulkins made the gift to the Western Washington University Foundation to establish the Sulkin STEM Inclusion Odyssey of Science Fund. Shelley Sulkin is a retired middle school teacher from the Bellingham School District. Her husband Steve was a longtime WWU professor and director of Western’s Shannon Point Marine Center in Anacortes, from which he retired in 2013.

The instructor of the new course, to be titled “Real World Applications of Environmental Research,” will engage students in case studies of actual research projects being conducted by Western faculty and graduate students. This may include topics such as the phenomenon of toxic algal blooms (red tides) in affecting water quality and shellfish harvesting; and how the growth of microscopic organisms can affect water quality and fish populations in fresh and marine waters.

The fund will support participation in the course by middle school students belonging to groups identified as under-represented in science and those whose economic status would otherwise preclude their participation. 

“We anticipate the fund will support 20-25 students per year for 10 years, beginning in the summer of 2018,” Shelley Sulkin said. “We feel it an important element of good citizenship for future stewards of our environment to have an understanding of the ways in which scientific inquiry can inform use and protection of natural resources.  We hope that this project will permit more students to engage in the learning process that will lead to this outcome.”

The Odyssey of Science & Arts Program is a weeklong, half-day summer enrichment program that offers students – grades 4-9 – an opportunity to explore the sciences and/or the arts through hands-on learning on Western’s campus. The program’s goal is to instill the excitement for learning through application of knowledge in a safe and collaborative student-centered environment. Area school teachers develop and teach Odyssey of Science & Arts courses, which are designed to engage students through interactive lessons and activities that foster success and inspire them to start thinking about higher education.

“We note that universities are intellectual and creative powerhouses that can contribute to the educational, cultural and economic development of the regions they serve.  We hope this project will help demonstrate the value of Western Washington University to local communities.  We also hope it will promote the concept that research, conducted by Western's faculty and graduate students, can contribute to a better understanding of our valuable natural resources and environment and, in so doing, lead to a better future for all of our citizens,” Steve Sulkin said.