The sudden passing of Dr. Debra Friedman in January 2014 left big shoes to fill in the office of the chancellor. While Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs J.W Harrington and Vice Chancellor for Finance & Administration Harlan Patterson temporarily shared joint chancellorship responsibility, the search for an interim position was soon underway. Dr. Kenyon Chan had just stepped down from his position as chancellor for UW Bothell in September of 2013 to prepare for resuming his research and teaching track, when UWT approached him to help anchor the Tacoma campus as interim. Chan accepted the role for the duration of the search for a permanent replacement, and he will also work as chair of the search committee for the permanent chancellor position. His role of interim chancellor became effective at UW Tacoma on March 16, 2014.
Before Chan entered into the administrative realm, he was first a professor of Educational Psychology, studying how children adjusted to school and functioned in classroom settings. At the university level, he watched students struggle through the rigamarole of admissions, financial aid, and more, which led to a desire to help facilitate an ease into and through academia. As a member of the Asian-American community and first-generation college student, he could personally relate to the confusion of underrepresented and first-time students in the face of the daunting processes and information. He notes that “access and success in college is difficult” and many students find themselves lost in the process.
The opportunities which sprang from attending college were life-changing, not only for Chan, but for his entire family. His sister, brother, parents, cousins, uncles and aunts all felt the ripples of the change that started with his college education. It became a passion for him to make those opportunities accessible to as many people as possible. He wanted to help “make something happen.” His involvement in the Asian-American community was also a huge motivator to develop access and equity programs at the university level.
Throughout his career, Chan has accumulated a wealth of administrative experience such as Dean of Bellarmin College of Loyola Marymount University, Dean and Vice President of Occidental College of Los Angeles, and Chancellor of UW Bothell, which made him an easy choice for interim. He points out that although temporary, his he wants to make clear that his role at UW Tacoma is “to make sure that everyone knows this campus is alive and well despite the tragedy we’ve just faced and that the tremendous momentum and energy that students, faculty, staff, and the community have about this campus continues.” The late Dr. Friedman was a juggernaut of progress with a clear vision of UW Tacoma’s future, and Dr. Chan feels a personal obligation to make sure that “all the new initiatives and all the programs that we’ve started and things we’ve planned continue to happen over the next year and a half or so.”
When questioned about the duration of his stay, Chan explained that the search for a new chancellor takes about a year. Students can expect most of the spring to be dedicated to narrowing down campus and community ideas about the qualities and values people would like the next chancellor to embody. By Fall, the university will place national advertisements, send out recruiters, accept nominations, and field applications across the country. Most of this process is what Chan describes as a “long quiet phase,” where students may not actively see evidence of the search, but much progress is being made behind closed doors. Come October-November, the choice will likely be whittled down to three candidates who will visit the Tacoma campus, for which open forums for campus and community members will be held. Hopefully by Christmas a new chancellor will be appointed.
Chancellor Chan urges all students to get involved with the selection process. The administration wants to know what students think of candidates since they will, after all, be working for the students. Chan reminds students that “they own this campus. We’re here because of their desire for education.” His open smile and welcoming attitude invites everyone to feel at ease, especially when he encourages students to contact him in any and all ways possible in order to ensure they are getting what they need. To share student opinion, they are welcome to speak with the student leadership, email the chancellor’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit the chancellor’s office in GWP 312, and even email Dr. Chan directly.
His first two weeks in office took place over finals week, then spring break, but come Spring Quarter, Chan hopes to get more face time with students, staff and faculty; he looks forward to meeting everyone and being able to participate in campus activities. In order to become a true advocate for students, he wants to be approachable. He says students are welcome to “stop [him] outside” whether to say hello, to offer suggestions for improvement, or perhaps just to offer a warm Husky welcome for UW Tacoma’s newest administrative team member.