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Department History

The University of Washington's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) is one of the only programs of its kind. Professor Judy Ramey gave a keynote address in 2010 with a fascinating history of the department (pdf).

The timeline below describes some of the most significant milestones in the department's history and how we found our way to our current department name in January 2009.

1974 UW College of Engineering Department of Humanistic-Social Studies (HSS) Professors James Souther and Myron White extend their teaching of technical writing to include a series of courses for students interested in the profession of technical communication. Students who complete the technical writing series can add it as a "minor" to another degree program or could use it as the focus (in effect a "major") for an interdisciplinary bachelor's degree in Engineering or in the General Studies Program of the College of Arts and Sciences.
1975 Dr. Phil Bereano joins the faculty.
1977 Thomas Williams is appointed as a full time lecturer in Technical Communication.
1978 Dr. Mary Coney joins the faculty. Jan Spyridakis is appointed as a full time lecturer in Technical Communication.
1979 By the end of the 1978–1979 academic year, 10 TC "majors" and 32 TC "minors" graduate from the University of Washington.
1983 The College of Engineering dissolves the HSS Department, but retains the seven members of the Technical Communication faculty. They become the nucleus of an Interdisciplinary Program in Scientific and Technical Communication. Professor James Souther becomes the Program's Director. Drs. Judith Ramey and David Farkas join the faculty of the Interdisciplinary Program in Scientific and Technical Communication.
1985 Dr. Mark Haselkorn, former Director of Technical and Professional Writing at Louisiana State University, replaces James Souther as Director of the College of Engineering's Program in Scientific and Technical Communication at the University of Washington.
1986 The Program begins offering courses for an interdisciplinary Master's degree in the College of Engineering, as well as courses for the two Bachelor's degrees.
1987 Dr. Jan Spyridakis continues in the department and is hired in a tenure-track position.
1988 The Program begins offering a year-long evening program, through the University of Washington Extension Program, in which science and engineering professionals can earn a Certificate in Technical Writing and Editing. The certificate program has continued to serve working professionals, even now that full-fledged degree programs have been developed. Dr. Thomas Williams continues in the department and is hired in a tenure-track position.
1989 The Interdisciplinary College Program becomes the full-fledged Department of Technical Communication, offering its own Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees. It also continues to teach courses in technical writing to engineering students.
1990 Dr. Michio Tsutsui joins the TC department.
1991 The Department adds a second section to its Certificate in Technical Writing and Editing, now offering the program not only in Seattle but also Bothell, Washington. (This section was later moved to Bellevue, Washington.) Masashi Kato joins the department.
1993 The Department of Technical Communication begins the graduate-level Technical Japanese Program, with Dr. Michio Tsutsui as Program Director.
1997 Dr. Judith Ramey is appointed as Chair of the Department. The TC Minor Program is introduced. The Department begins a partnership with the University of Twente in the Netherlands.
2000 The Department of Technical Communication launches its Evening Master's in Technical Communication program. This new degree program graduated its first class in spring 2002. Dr. Beth Kolko joins the faculty.
2002 The Department of Technical Communication launches its TC Doctoral Program. Dr. Jennifer Turns joins the faculty. Dr. Mary Coney retires from TC.
2003 The Department of Technical Communication further expands its programs for professionals by creating the Graduate Certificate in User-Centered Design in winter 2003.
2004 Donna Sakson, her husband Jonathan Mark, and Sakson & Taylor, Inc. donate $100,000 to set up an endowed scholarship fund to bring in minority students. The gift also increases TC's total endowment by almost 50%!
2005 TC's Engineering Communication Program wins the Conference of College Composition and Communication Writing Program Certificate of Excellence. Professor Phil Bereano retires from TC in 2005.
2006 Dr. Mark Zachry joins TC faculty as a new associate professor. He came from Utah State University and was serving as the editor of Technical Communication Quarterly when he joined the department. Suzanne Weghorst, the Director of the UW Human Interface Technology (HIT) Lab joins the TC department as a Senior Principal Research Scientist.
2007 TC celebrates its first PhD graduate, Carolyn Wei, whose dissertation is titled, "Mobile Hybridity: Supporting Personal and Romantic Relationships with Mobile Phones in Digitally Emergent Spaces." Masashi Kato joins the Technical Japanese Program.
2008 Dr. Jan Spyridakis is appointed as Department Chair. Four new faculty join TC: three assistant professors: Drs. Sarah Kriz, Charlotte Lee, and Julie Kientz; and Professor Cynthia Atman, Mitchell T. and Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair, CELT and CEEE Director.
2009 TC changes its department name to Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) and the Department moves its faculty and main offices to the 4th floor of Sieg Hall. New HCDE degree titles are approved at the BS, MS, and PhD levels. The department continues to grow—in its student enrollment, in the respect its faculty earns, and in the scope of its influence. Dr. Tom Williams retires from the department.
2010 Dr. Cecilia Aragon joins the faculty of HCDE.
2011 Dr. Sarah Kriz leaves the department to become the Director of Undergraduate Research at the University of San Diego.
2012 Drs. Sean Munson and Kate Starbird join the faculty as assistant professors. Andrew Davidson joins the department as senior lecturer. Dr. Julie Kientz increases her faculty appointment to 100% HCDE (from 50%, split with the Information School).
2013 Drs. Gary Hsieh and Daniela Rosner join the faculty as assistant professors. Linda Wagner joins the department as senior lecturer. Drs. David Farkas and Judy Ramey retire. The department closes its Technical Writing and Editing Certificate and Global Technology & Communication Management Certificate programs.
2014 Dr. David W. McDonald is appointed as Department Chair. Elizabeth Sanocki joins the department as senior lecturer.