Top Contributor: Bjong Wolf Yeigh — New UW chancellor has high ambitions

By Imana Gunawan
Northwest Asian Weekly

Bjong Wolf Yeigh (Photo from UW of Bothell)

University of Washington Bothell’s new chancellor Bjong Wolf Yeigh has ambitions for both his new institution and for its students, the majority of whom identify with underrepresented minority groups.

“In the end, when we’re successful with all the things that we’re doing, I would like to see University of Washington Bothell be the university of choice for our stakeholders — that students want to come here because this is their first choice institution,” he said. “We’re already beginning to see that.”

Yeigh, who has had academic leadership positions at Yale University, Norwich University, and in New York state, took the reins at UW Bothell in early September, after Kenyon Chan, who began his tenure as chancellor in 2007, stepped down at the end of the 2012–2013 school year.

Yeigh said he is excited to continue and further develop the work Chan has done.

“For a few years, [Chan] has really taken the campus through a tremendous growth,” Yeigh said. “[I feel] a lot of excitement, and very honored to have been trusted with the responsibility.”

Yeigh, who immigrated from South Korea when he was 11, wants to ensure that students who come from a background similar to his can receive the same kinds of opportunities to help them be successful, regardless of their interests.

“If I didn’t come to the United States, and if it weren’t for higher education or access to college, I think I would be in a different place,” Yeigh said. “For me, staying in higher education was important in the pathway for me to give back.”

Before arriving in Bothell, Yeigh was the president of the State University of New York Institute of Technology in Utica. He was also vice provost for science and technology at Yale and vice president of academic affairs at Norwich University in Vermont.

Seattle has been “a special city” to Yeigh. His family first moved to Seattle when they arrived in the United States. Since then, Yeigh has been all over the country — earning a bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, a master’s degree from Stanford University, and attending Princeton University in New Jersey for post-graduate degrees and certifications. He also served in the U.S. Navy for four years in active duty and another four in reserve duty until 1995.

In an interview with campus-produced magazine UW Today, University of Washington president Michael Young commended Yeigh’s achievements during his various roles in positions of academic leadership.

“Dr. Yeigh has been a force of innovation and change throughout his career,” Young said in a statement. “He has left a trail of success everywhere he has been, and we are very excited to have him join the University of Washington and lead our dynamic campus at Bothell as it continues to grow and develop.”

Yeigh will be heading a time of growth for University of Washington Bothell. A new student activities building will open this fall, a new science and academic building will open in 2014, and 29 new faculty members will join the university. In addition, the school will add three new degree programs this fall in education and in nursing and health studies, and the university will add four more programs in 2014.

Yeigh had experience with growth in Utica, overseeing the building of a student center, field house, and residential complex, with values over $100 million in capital projects.

“I think the accomplishments that he has in his time at the SUNYIT was the kind of thing that gave the search committee at UWB as well as myself and president Young a lot of confidence that he was someone who has the kind of ideas and initiatives to really take the UW Bothell to the next step,” said University of Washington provost Ana Marie Cauce.

Yeigh plans to involve faculty members, staff, students, and the community to find ways to make higher education accessible and affordable for students, build out the campus for growth, and develop the school’s diversity efforts.

“Now that we have really come so far in terms of the size and the volume of the institution, trying to grow smartly, manageably and sustainably –– that’s going to be a big challenge,” Yeigh said. (end)

Yeigh will be honored at the Top Contributors award dinner on Dec. 6 at the House of Hong Restaurant in Seattle, from 6–9 p.m.

Imana Gunawan can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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