Insight: Autumn 2007

Autumn 2007

Q&A with New Chancellor Kenyon Chan

Northwest Welcome for UW Bothell's New Leader

By Cliff Meyer

Dr. Kenyon Chan joined UW Bothell as Chancellor in July after his most recent appointments as dean and interim president of Occidental College, a highly regarded 1,850-student liberal arts college in Los Angeles, Calif.  Shortly after arriving Chancellor Chan sat down with Insight's Cliff Meyer for his initial thoughts about UW Bothell and the future.

INSIGHT: You moved here with your wife, mother and a dog named Boomer. Are you feeling at home yet?

CHAN: We're still getting settled in, but are just delighted to be here in the Northwest. My wife, Shirley Hune, will be a professor at the Seattle campus and my brother has lived up here for many years so we are joining him. We actually love the weather, and we love the people.


INSIGHT: Your academic focus has been educational psychology and clinical family/child psychology. Will that enter into your role at UW Bothell?

CHAN: I joke sometimes that being a clinical child psychologist for many years really helps me in being a good executive leader, because being a chancellor is like running a big family, sometimes very functional, sometimes dysfunctional, but always a big family.

INSIGHT: What attracted you to UW Bothell?

CHAN: The University of Washington Bothell is a great university that's new and growing. Plus it's still very young, which is a pretty exciting prospect. The kinds of decisions we'll make now will have implications to how it serves the state of Washington for decades to come. Not many places provide you that kind of opportunity.

INSIGHT: Was there an aspect of the Pacific Northwest region that lured you?

CHAN: Absolutely! The Northwest is one of the growing and vibrant parts of the country, with an exceptional amount of intellectual growth and entrepreneurial spirit.  And the same can be said for the University of Washington, all three campuses. This is just a marvelous university, one of the very best in the country.

I see a university that allows students to have a tremendous amount of experiential education, where they're learning by doing and they're learning in teams and they're working on projects solving real-world problems. Kenyon Chan Chancellor

INSIGHT: What early opportunities do you see for UW Bothell?

CHAN: There are tremendous opportunities for UW Bothell because we have not yet realized our full potential to serve this region. We hope that by strengthening the University of Washington Bothell we'll also be strengthening the K-12 schools around us, the community college partners and the other two campuses of the University of Washington. The better we get, the better the region gets.

Additionally, I think the whole issue of how we serve the northern part of Puget Sound is pretty exciting, and will open up a lot of new territory for us. But it won't be to replicate what's happening on the Seattle campus or what's happening at the community colleges or the other very fine four-year institutions that have programs all around us. Rather, we need to consider how do we bring the unique qualities of the UW Bothell education experience to the larger area that we are asked to serve.

INSIGHT: What is a critical factor in planning for the future of UW Bothell?

CHAN: We need to not focus entirely on the short term. We really need to dream a little bit about what this university will be like 50 years from now. Because of the developmental stages that we're in, we can make some short-term decisions that may in fact impede the growth long term. So I think that it would be very wise for us to think about the 50th anniversary, the 75th anniversary of the University of Washington Bothell, what we will look like then, and ask, "How do we get there?"

INSIGHT: I know it's early in your time at UW Bothell, but what are some things you envision for the future?


CHAN: I see a university that allows students to have a tremendous amount of experiential education, where they're learning by doing and they're learning in teams and they're working on projects solving real world problems. More problem-set learning, more active learning that's very rigorous, more team learning, because that's what people do in the career world. Rarely do you work on a project by yourself.

I also envision the kind of personal education that our faculty is able to provide students and our small class sizes allows that. This truly will be the 21st century university if we plan well.

INSIGHT: What are some of UW Bothell's current challenges?

CHAN:  Some challenges, or opportunities for growth, include educating the community on all of our many offerings and services and generating resources to continue our efforts.

INSIGHT: You're coming from Occidental College, a highly regarded liberal arts institution. Some might say UW Bothell's unique interdisciplinary and student-centered curriculum has many characteristics of a liberal arts college. Do you view that as a strength?

CHAN: I do, but I recognize there is a misconception among many folks of the liberal arts as not including math, science, and engineering.  I am a strong proponent of the liberally educated person, but that is a definition that includes very strong science and mathematics and technical training as well as the languages and the arts. This combination makes graduates extremely marketable.

INSIGHT: More marketable?

CHAN: Certainly, one must be able to draw on their education to further their position in life, both intellectually as well as financially.  I think that a lot of educators, like myself, often talk about the philosophical aspects of education - it makes you a better person, it makes us better citizens, it makes for happier lives, it helps us live more enriched lives. These are all true, but that does not diminish the importance of a college education to improve one's life, one's economic life.

And that certainly was the case for myself. I came from a very poor family. Going to college was the ticket to a better life. I think this is true for others as well, so it is our responsibility as a public university to provide that kind of access to quality education.


INSIGHT: The UW has initiated the "Husky Promise," which guarantees full tuition and fee scholarships for residents of Washington state who qualify for Pell Grants or State Need Grants. What do you think of this program?

CHAN: I think it is a great program and we will absolutely be working to support it. Our ability to raise scholarship money is going to be an important part of fulfilling that Promise. Our ability to work with K-12 partners and community college partners to prepare students adequately to go to the university is also going to be a part of that commitment. That's all part of the responsibility of the University of Washington Bothell, to ensure access to higher education and work to ease the economic barriers.

INSIGHT: How can alumni help?

CHAN:  Alumni can help us by being our eyes and ears. They should help tell us the good and bad they hear about the place.  They can help us find terrific students. They can help tell the UW Bothell story, wherever they are. And frankly, they can help support the University by whatever donation they can give, even if it's very small because a small donation actually helps us know that they still believe in the place.

Over the course of the next few months, I plan to meet with alumni throughout the region in get-togethers. We'll have more information on those opportunities soon.

INSIGHT: What else should people know about UW Bothell?

CHAN: People will soon see that UW Bothell is on the move. We are in a new and vigorous growth spurt, so hang on and see what happens!


A full bio for Chancellor Kenyon Chan is available at

The Chan File


  • Interim President, Occidental College (‘05-‘06)
  • VP Academic Affairs & Dean, Occidental College, (‘03-‘07)
  • Over 35 years on faculty at Occidental, Loyola Marymount, CSU-Northridge & UCLA


  • B.A. 1970 Sociology (UCLA)
  • M.A. 1972 Special Education (UCLA)
  • Ph.D. 1974 Educational Psychology (UCLA)

HOBBIES:  Golf, Cooking


  • Raised a record $21.1 million in external funds at Occidental in '05-'06
  • Consulted on a variety of children's television shows including: Sesame Street, Mister Roger's Neighborhood, Tiny Toons and The Smurfs.


  • The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by T.L. Friedman
  • Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, by Tapscott & Williams
  • Freakonomics, by Levitt & Dubner