Shawn Washington '04
Whitworth Associate Dean of Student Success & Equity
GROWING UP, ANCHORAGE [ALASKA] WAS MY WORLD. I didn't really see much of the U.S. and the world. But I just took that as an opportunity to learn as much as I could from others.
EDUCATION WASN'T PROMINENT FOR MY MOM OR DAD. I didn't focus too much on academics in high school, and I wasn't sure if I was going to go to college. I ended up attending a college in New Mexico, but I didn't stay. I eventually came to Spokane and decided to pursue Whitworth.
I WAS ON THE FOOTBALL TEAM FOR MOST OF MY TIME HERE. Then I got involved in clubs and organizations. Especially the Black Student Union – I was vice president of that club. I also had a Whitworth radio show.
THERE'S A THING CALLED MICROAGGRESSIONS, which are subtle insults toward certain people. That would happen to me, about my race and ethnicity. I definitely thought it was ignorance, and at times arrogance. Some people were curious, but they didn't know how to say things or approach me, and I didn't know at times where to go for support.
It was a tough road, but I AM BLESSED TO BE THE FIRST IN MY FAMILY TO GRADUATE WITH A BACHELOR'S, MASTER'S AND NOW A DOCTORATE.
WHEN I WAS A STUDENT, THE PERCENTAGE OF RACIAL AND ETHNIC DIVERSITY WAS LOW - in the single digits. From where Whitworth was 20 years ago to where it is now, I'm thankful I've been a part of that growth. We've been working to implement new programs and initiatives while maintaining and transforming programs and initiatives that came before me.
MY EXPERIENCE AS A STUDENT HAS CHALLENGED ME TO BE MINDFUL ABOUT THE STUDENTS I SERVE NOW. Each student has their own story of how they got to Whitworth and how they are pursuing and maintaining their journeys here. I want to play a part in helping them navigate Whitworth University.
WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO HAVE CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RETENTION, PERSISTENCE AND ACCESS FOR EACH STUDENT. It's not easy to go to college and it's not easy to stay. It's a challenging time and it takes a lot of grit.
I JUST WANT TO PROVIDE A SAFE SPACE FOR STUDENTS TO BE ABLE TO TALK AUTHENTICALLY ABOUT THEIR LIVES. I want them to tell me their real story so I can really understand how they're processing being here, especially underrepresented students.
This story appears in the fall 2020 issue of Whitworth Today magazine.