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After 19 years of student exchanges, Dayna Cole retires

February 14, 2019

CEE staff member Dayna Cole retires in March 2019 after 19 years at UW.

After 19 years with UW, Dayna Cole will soon be saying farewell. Or, perhaps she’ll be saying “farväl,” which means goodbye in Swedish.

For the majority of her career at UW CEE, Cole has helped facilitate the exchange of graduate students between UW and institutes in Nordic countries through her role as administrator of the Valle Scholarship & Scandinavian Exchange Program. Every year, UW students from CEE and Built Environments programs head to Scandinavia for research and study and UW hosts students from Scandinavia. Since 1980, when the program was founded, there have been more than 740 Valle scholars.

“To facilitate these exchanges has been pure joy,” said Cole, who retires March 1. “I feel a connection with the scholars and associates in Scandinavia before I even meet them. I guess it’s a DNA thing.”

Interestingly enough, over the years Cole has discovered that her own family’s history has some similarities to that of the scholarship program’s founder, Henrik Valle. A Norwegian immigrant, Valle founded a construction company that built many landmark buildings in Seattle, including Johnson Hall and the original HUB on the UW Seattle campus.

“I found out that my grandfather was a colleague of Henrik Valle,” Cole said. “My grandfather was a Swedish immigrant and builder who also built many buildings in early-mid 20th century Seattle.”

In more recent years, Cole has split her time with advising students in several of the department’s online master’s programs. She helped faculty launch two new online master’s programs: the Master of Sustainable Transportation program in 2010 and the Master of Science in Civil Engineering: Energy Infrastructure program in 2018.

Cole brought a well-rounded skillset to the position, with a background in psychology and theatre. Prior to joining UW, she was a student adviser in several other colleges and worked in a variety of careers, including producing videos and films, writing for a trade journal magazine and serving as a travel agent.

What she’ll miss the most are the students and her affiliations with professionals in Scandinavia.

“It’s not just that I’ll miss the students, but I’ll miss playing a part in their career development,” Cole said. “And I’ll miss supporting the outstanding faculty who I have worked with over the years.”

Cole will take many memories with her. As a representative of the Valle Program, she has traveled to Scandinavia and met consultants and dignitaries from Nordic countries, including the president of Iceland and mayor of Reykjavik.

During retirement, Cole plans to do some traveling of her own. As a yoga practitioner, she intends to travel internationally to attend yoga retreats and yoga teacher training. She’ll also explore opportunities in theatre and the arts.

Lycka till! (Best of luck in Swedish)