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Grant helps create Hanford course for Tri-Cities freshmen

By Madison Rosenbaum, WSU Tri-Cities student intern

McAteerRICHLAND, Wash. – A professor at Washington State University Tri-Cities hopes to better engage freshmen by integrating local, Hanford history into a required core class this fall.

Kate McAteer received a $5,000 Smith teaching and learning grant from WSU to develop History 105, “Roots of Contemporary Issues,” into a course called “Hanford: An Interdisciplinary Team-Taught Freshman Seminar.”

Mandatory courses often fail to draw students and inspire long-term curiosity in core subjects like mathematics, English and history, McAteer said.

The Hanford site.

“This new curriculum will help our freshmen develop a better understanding of the local area’s history, development and culture while exploring the origins of global issues such as water, education and public health,” she said.

The course will incorporate basic study skills, time management and problem-solving techniques to help freshmen transition into the rigor of university academics.

Five WSU Tri-Cities professors — including McAteer — will teach the course, combining their education and research backgrounds for an interdisciplinary approach.

Two days each week, the class of about 120 freshmen will be taught lecture-hall style, while the third day will be dedicated to break-out groups of 25 with a faculty lead for collaborative learning. McAteer said the small-group discussions will help students quickly build the close working relationships with faculty members for which WSU Tri-Cities is known.

Students will experience history first-hand through field trips to the new Hanford REACH museum and to the Hanford site itself.

“The opportunity to look at Hanford from an interdisciplinary perspective is unique,” said Mike Mays, WSU Tri-Cities’ vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our students have a rich opportunity to benefit from this location and study of the Hanford area.”

Hanford played an integral role in World War II – manufacturing plutonium for the first atomic bomb – and production continued during the Cold War. Today, Hanford’s reactors are decommissioned and the site is undergoing cleanup overseen by the federal departments of ecology and energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

McAteer is a clinical assistant professor of biological sciences, the undergraduate education coordinator in the Office of Academic Affairs and recently was named assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs.

The grant is from the Samuel H. and Patricia W. Smith Teaching and Learning Endowment.

Learn more about WSU Tri-Cities and its commitment to dynamic student engagement, dynamic research experiences and dynamic community engagement at


Kate McAteer, WSU Tri-Cities assistant vice chancellor of academic affairs, 509-372-7371,

Madison Rosenbaum, WSU Tri-Cities marketing and communications student intern,

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