The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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Dawn Wright Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

June 10, 2016


“A Career Spent Mapping the World's Oceans”  June 10, 2016  Location: Valley Library, Oregon State University.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Wright describes her family background and upbringing, with special attention paid to her formative years growing up on the island Maui. In reflecting on this time, Wright discusses her early interest in science as well as the beginnings of her love of the ocean and the impact made by her experiences of multiculturalism in Hawaii.

From there, Wright details the circumstances that led to her attending Wheaton College in suburban Chicago for her undergraduate studies. After noting her work there as a Geology major, Wright discusses her move to Texas A&M University to pursue a master's degree in Oceanography. She then recalls her adjustment to life in Texas as well as her memories of both her first ocean cruise as well as the scholarly research that she conducted during these years.

Wright next traces her years of involvement with the Ocean Drilling Program at Texas A&M, commenting on her work as a marine technician and the opportunities for global travel that the position afforded. After that, Wright shifts focus to her doctoral studies at the University of California - Santa Barbara, noting her engagement with GIS and her first experiences of a deep ocean dive.

The remainder of the interview is primarily devoted to Wright's years as a faculty member at Oregon State University. In this, she describes her move to Oregon, the eight months that she spent as a post-doctoral fellow at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and her memories of settling in at OSU. She likewise discusses individuals at the university who made an impact upon her, the process by which she set up her research program, and the main themes of her scholarship while on faculty. Wright also touches upon her evolution as a teacher; shares her thoughts on the challenges that OSU has faced with respect to diversity; discusses the broader advancement of women in science; and notes the history of her passion for bicycle racing.

The session concludes with Wright's insights into the role that social media can play for academics and an overview of her work at Esri.