Phyllis Wise. Photo courtesy of UW.

The average Asian American woman could probably be stereotyped as quiet, passive and subservient.

But recently, at the University of Washington, three Asian American women will break these stereotypes as they have been chosen to serve in prominent roles at the university.

Frances J. Youn has been selected by Gov. Chris Gregoire as the student representative on the UW Board of Regents, Colleen Fukui-Sketchley was chosen to be the president of the UW Alumni Association, and Phyllis Wise has been appointed the interim president of the university.

Wise is not only the first female president to serve the UW in it’s history, but she is also the first Asian American female president at any university in the country.

“Whenever you’re the first of whatever, there are additional expectations and so I feel even more responsibility,” said Wise. “I’m just trying to take on the position as interim president as though that wasn’t an issue. But I know the Asian community and the women community are really hoping I do well so I want to be able to do it right.”

Frances Youn calls herself a “double dawg.” She graduated from UW in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Societies and Justice. Seven years later, Youn returned to the UW as an MBA student in the Foster School of Business.

With a passion for social justice, politics, UW and education, Youn says she is very excited and honored to serve the UW and its community.

Frances Youn. Photo courtesy UW.

The position of student regent gives Youn an opportunity to be a liaison for students, administrators, faculty and staff.

“I’ve always been a strong advocate for affordability and quality of education. I have the opportunity to be a voice for students,” she said. Youn hopes to be “an active listener and to also be an advocate to make sure that we are looking for problems that students are facing today.”

In the upcoming year, her top priorities are to focus on access to education and quality of education.

“The university is receiving more funding from tuition instead of the state,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize that there are a lot of students at the University of Washington that are recipients to our Husky Promise and the needs are getting greater and greater. There are more low-income and low-middle-income students in need and I think with my cultural background, I can see where they’re coming from.”

Youn is a second-generation Korean American with Korean immigrant parents that were unable to attend school because of the Korean War.

As a tireless advocate for the Asian and Pacific Islander community, diversity has been a big issue for Youn.

Upon her arrival as a student at UW in 1998, Initiative 200, the Washington State Civil Rights Initiative, had passed and she was part of the last group to enter with affirmative action. Shortly afterward, the WTO protests and riots were going on in Seattle.

“There was a lot of social justice going on in Seattle when I was an undergraduate. I saw that and thought that I needed to be involved and have a voice,” she said.

Colleen Fukui-Sketchley.

In her undergraduate years, Youn served as Asian Student Commission director and was a participant in the UW’s Diversity Council.

Youn believes that her cultural background can help her in making decisions in her position for the upcoming year.

“We [Asian American women] have a unique point of view and we also have a unique approach. I think that Asian American women are very passionate. They’re active listeners.”

Youn is very excited for Phyllis Wise’s new position as interim president.

“UW is the third largest economic contributor to Washington State, bringing in $9.1 billion dollars so for an API woman to be in that leadership role, I think that say’s a lot about how leadership is defined by a lot of different things.”

Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, a fourth-generation Japanese American will serve as the first Asian American women to serve as the president of the UW Alumni Association that has over 50,000 members.

Wise thinks it’s wonderful to have the Alumni Association president and student regent this year to be Asian American women.

“I think it gives us an opportunity to demonstrate that we are capable of taking on these kind of leadership positions,” said Wise. “I’m sure we all hope that we can take on the duties with great vigor and fulfill the needs of our positions,” said Wise. “I don’t think any of us is quiet or receding.”

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