VOLUME 28 NO. 5 | JANUARY 24 - JANUARY 30, 2009

Mighty women to share the secrets of their success

Last updated 1-22-09 at 4:13 p.m.
From left to right:
Top: Emcee Liahann Bannerman, Debbie Bird, Vicki Asakura, Lan Pham, Patricia Loera
Bottom: The Executive Development Institute, Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet, Edith Elion, Edwina Uehara, Jill Wakefield

By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

What is the stereotypical image of a successful businesswoman?

Based on the caricatures from TV, film, and magazines, she wears couture, drinks cosmopolitans, and spends most of her days superficially lamenting over her horrid love life.

This is not an accurate picture — real businesswomen work hard. They are ambitious.

They are passionate about what they do. They are smart and complex.

Women of Color Empowered is an event organized by a planning committee to recognize women who have made a significant contribution to their field. It strives to dispel the stereotypes. To be held on Jan. 30 at the China Harbor Restaurant, the theme for the next event is “Women in Power: Nonprofits & Community Organizations.”

Held as a luncheon for hundreds of people, Women of Color Empowered will first give recognition to all the honorees for their great accomplishments. Afterward, there will be a question-and-answer session with a panel of the some of the honorees. Female heads of organizations will talk about the secrets to their success, their challenges, and their triumphs. Attendees will learn what motivates these women, strategies to maintain happy employees, and other invaluable life lessons.


Debbie Bird
Community Relations Director of Safeco Insurance Foundation

Debbie Bird is no stranger to helping out with outreach and community organizations. Bird believes that understanding and appreciating diversity will result in more vibrant communities and healthier commerce centers.

Bird previously served as the business development director for Safeco’s Jackson Street Center.

A fervent supporter of equal rights, Bird was honored in March 2008 by the Greater Seattle Business Association as Community Leader of the Year.

Vicki Asakura
Executive Director of Nonprofit Assistance Center

A third generation Japanese American, Vicki Asakura’s family history is full of civic-minded individuals. She is following in their legacy.

She is a community advocate for programs and funding in support of ESL and other bilingual services. She previously worked at the Seattle–King County Private Industry Council (PIC), where she managed federal and state funded grants providing employment and training services for refugees.

She joined the Nonprofit Assistance Center in 2000, where she currently serves as the executive director. She also serves as co-chair of the Alliance for Nonprofit Management Cultural Competency Initiative and the chair of the United Way of King County Employment Impact Council.

Lan Pham
Executive Director of Asian and Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center

With more than 15 years of experience, Lan Pham provides community outreach, education, and client support services relating to domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

Pham is a member of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and a current board member of the University of Washington School of Social Work Practicum Advisory Council. Her professional background includes community education, program development and management, and community-based social health research.

Pham has a Master of Social Welfare and is completing her Master of Public Health at the University of Washington.
Patricia Loera Senior Program Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

As a person who has faced obstacles and trials because of her ethnicity, attorney Patricia Loera strives for more equitable access to good legal representation for low-income people.

As senior program officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she manages the foundation’s investments to ensure that students graduate “college-ready,” focusing especially on the achievement of Black and Hispanic students.
Loera graduated cum laude from Central Washington University. In 1993, she earned her juris doctorate from the University of Washington.

Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet
President of Antioch University

In 2007, Dr. Cassandra Manuelito-Kerkvliet became the first Native American woman to ascend to the presidency of an accredited university outside the tribal college system.

Prior to this, Manuelito-Kerkvliet has served as the first woman president of Diné College, the first tribally controlled community college, located on the Navajo reservation in Tsaile, Ariz.

Manuelito-Kerkvliet earned her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work, her Master of Science in Counselor Education from the University of Wyoming, and her Doctor of Philosophy in Educational Policy and Management with a specialization in higher education administration from the University of Oregon.

Edith Elion
Executive Director of the Atlantic Street Center

Edith C. Elion has been with Atlantic Street Center for more than 30 years. She has served as Atlantic Street Center’s executive director since April 2002.

Prior to that, she served as an associate director for 14 years and provided direct services for more than 10 years before that.

In addition to her work at Atlantic Street Center, Elion is a licensed clinical social worker and a practicum instructor for the University of Washington’s School of Social Work.

She attended the University of Washington, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Social Welfare and a master’s degree in social work.

Edwina Uehara
Dean of the University of Washington’s School of Social Work

Edwina Uehara began her career at the UW in 1990 as an assistant professor of social work. During the 16 years that she served as a dedicated teacher and researcher, she received the School of Social Work’s Student Choice Teaching Award and the University of Washington’s Distinguished Teaching Award.

Since becoming dean of the UW’s School of Social Work (the school’s first dean of color), Uehara has sought to strengthen the school’s engagement in the community and to create new collaborations.

In 2007, Uehara was honored with the Edith Abbot Award from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, where she earned her Doctor of Philosophy.

Jill Wakefield
Chancellor of Seattle Community Colleges

As chancellor of Seattle Community Colleges, Jill Wakefield’s mission is to boost the mainstream visibility of the community colleges in addition to emphasizing the role of two-year institutions.

Wakefield is the first woman to lead the district of three campuses (North Seattle, Seattle Central, and South Seattle).
She holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Seattle University and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Central Washington University.

The Executive Development Institute

The Executive Development Institute (EDI) was founded in 1994 under the guidance and direction of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce. It was created in response to the observation that Japanese Americans were underrepresented in corporate America’s key leadership roles where the most critical decisions are influenced.
The program quickly expanded to include all Asian Pacific communities. In 2002 EDI received recognition as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

Emcee Liahann Bannerman
Director of United Way of King County’s Volunteer Center

Liahann Bannerman believes in building volunteer leadership capacity. She recieved a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Harvard University and her Master of Business Administration from Seattle Pacific University. (end)

Sign up for the luncheon! See page 16 for more details.

Stacy Nguyen can be reached at stacy@nwasianweekly.com.


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