By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
For Colleen Fukui-Sketchley, purple and gold symbolizes tradition and draws unity in her family.
A fourth-generation Japanese American, Fukui-Sketchley, 38, gives back to her alma mater and has taken her family’s connection with the University of Washington (UW) to one of the highest levels.
On Aug. 1, Fukui-Sketchley will become the first Asian American woman to serve as the president of the University of Washington Alumni Association (UWAA), which has more than 50,000 members.
She is also the youngest UWAA president in the association’s 120-year history.
Fukui-Sketchley welcomes both groundbreaking achievements after serving as vice president, then as president-elect. “For me, it’s about making and seeing systemic change. The UWAA is embarking on an important journey to mobilize its alumni,” she said.
“The task at hand is daunting as far as what can you really affect in a single year, but I am up to the challenge,” said Fukui-Sketchley.
During her upcoming one-year term, she will look at three factors: relevance, alignment, and sustainability.
Since the UW is the association’s main stakeholder, she wants to make sure that UWAA activities are relevant for “all parties involved.” Alignment with the appropriate people, organizations, and colleges will continue to move the UWAA in a positive direction.
“If you’re relevant and aligning yourself, then you should be able to sustain your organization. Being fiscally prudent is really a key factor right now,” said Fukui-Sketchley.
She also plans to create a diversity platform that will be folded into the fabric of the organization and its existing committees.
Each year, thousands of UW students become alumni. Last month, 13,500 students graduated with various degrees. “That’s our future membership right there, and if they don’t know about us and what we are doing for students while they are in school, how are we going to bring them into the fold at graduation?” asked Fukui-Sketchley.
“That’s also inviting people who may not have traditionally felt invited to the table. We need to make sure that we are reaching out, not just to student groups on campus, but to communities of color and organizations across the state as well.”
She is the corporate diversity affairs specialist at Nordstrom and focuses on community outreach and contributions “to really amazing nonprofit organizations that are doing tremendous work.”
Born and raised in Seattle, Fukui-Sketchley grew up in the Beacon Hill district of the city. She spent her adolescent years in Bellevue and Portland.
Fukui-Sketchley is a 1990 graduate of Mariner High School. As a UW student, she worked part-time in sales at Nordstrom, gaining valuable work experience in a variety of departments. After working with a corporate merchandise manager, she said, “(I) then, got my role in diversity affairs. And, then, it’s just been developing this role over the past 15 years.”
She graduated from the UW with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication in 1994. She joins other family members as Huskies, including her father, mother, and sister.
Fukui-Sketchley began her volunteer work by joining the Friends of the Educational Opportunity Program (FEOP) board in 1998. She just ended her last term after 12 years. Later, she was asked to join a UWAA advisory committee on Viewpoints, a newsletter of the UW Multicultural Alumni Partnership and the UWAA. It was her work on this committee that led to her nomination to the UWAA Board of Trustees.
Married for 10 years, she and her husband, Chris, regularly take their four-year-old son, Jackson, to Husky football and basketball games as well as fundraising events.
“I’m doing this really for my son, so that he understands what community service is. We drag him to as many events as we can,” she explained.
Paul Rucker, executive director of the UWAA, first worked with Fukui-Sketchley on the FEOP board 10 years ago. He said, “I’m sure that Colleen will be looking carefully at how legislative advocacy and mobilizing alums to support the university would be a top priority for her, and I also know that Colleen has a real commitment to ensuring that the association reflects the diversity of our student body.”
“I would say for every president, honestly, that has probably ever led this organization, you want to leave it better than you found it and put your mark on something to improve the organization,” Fukui-Sketchley pointed out. “The previous presidents have done an incredible job of setting me up for success.” ♦
For more about the University of Washington Alumni Association, go to www.washington.edu/alumni.
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.