Phyllis Wise Becomes First Asian American Female President at University of Washington

On July 8, the University of Washington Board of Regents named Phyllis Wise the interim UW president, making her the first female and Asian American to hold the title. Despite the large percentage of Asian Americans enrolled in college, their numbers are drastically scarce in university upper management. According to statistics from the American Council on Education, Asian Americans make up less than 1 percent of college presidents (comparatively, 5.9 percent of presidents are black and 4.6 percent are Latino). Consequently, Wise’s appointment comes as a welcome addition and change.

Wise acknowledges that being Asian American and female brings added pressure to the position. “When you are the first, you have extra responsibilities so that you don’t let everyone down, so that you meet the expectations of everyone,” she said. “If you succeed, they will be particularly proud, and if you fail, they will be particularly disappointed.”
Wise, who was formerly the Executive Vice President at UW, is Chinese American and immigrated to the U.S. when her parents wished to pursue an American education prior to World War II. She mentioned that as far as she knows, she might be the only Asian American female university president, private or public (university researchers are currently looking into the situation). Other current Asian American presidents, which include Dr. Jim Yong Kim of Dartmouth, John Maeda of the Rhode Island School of Design, and Dr. Leslie Wong of Northern Michigan University, are all male. The first Asian American to head a major American university was Chang-lin Tien, the eighth Chancellor of UC Berkeley, who served from 1990-1997 and passed away in 2002. [via Northwest Asian Weekly]
Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Chui/Northwestern Asian Weekly