By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly
Mark Mitsui became the 12th president of North Seattle Community College (NSCC) in July 2010.
He also serves as vice chancellor of student success for the Seattle Community College District and was recently appointed board chair of the new Asian Pacific Islander American Association of Colleges and Universities.
Mitsui came to NSCC from South Seattle Community College (SSCC), where he served as vice president of student services and led a team that secured a $2.4 million Department of Education grant and designation for the college as one of a nationally select group of Asian American, Native American, and Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).
Prior to SSCC, Mitsui served in leadership roles at Green River and North Seattle community colleges.
Mitsui is a doctoral student in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Washington, where he also earned his master’s degree in the same field. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Washington University.<!–more–>
1. Why is it important to you to contribute to your community?
Well, it’s always important to support your community to help build your community. For the Asian/Pacific Islander community, it also means doing what I can, in my own way, to support it. My mom used to say, “Always remember where you came from.”
2. What does the word diversity mean to you and how do you foster it in your work?
To me, it means strength. I really believe that diversity is our strength — nationally, locally, and within the community colleges here in Seattle. South Seattle Community College is one of the most diverse in the state. But also, North Seattle is becoming very diverse. Now, we are close to 40 percent students of color.
Fostering diversity at work entails capacity building … [Among our programs,] we have an internship program with the University of Washington Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity. Graduate students of color are interning in the classrooms at North Seattle Community College as a way to gain experience — they work with mentors and get a taste of what it’s like to teach at community colleges.
3. What was one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your work?
It’s been the budget, of course. The state budget, declining the way that it has — it’s been a challenge to focus on the future, while also focusing on the present.
4. What was one of your proudest moments in your work?
I was very impressed with how the college community addressed the budget last year, very proud of my college and the work that they did. Our state budget was reduced by $2 million. The college and I developed a set of strategies, or toolkits, to use to balance the budget at a much lower level, while working on addressing and maintaining our ability to fulfill our mission and prepare for the future.
We [also] worked to maintain our state funding. I think it had an impact because our State Need grant (which helps the state’s lowest-income undergraduates pursue degrees) was restored, and a portion of the Work Study was restored. Worker Training was partially restored. All were slated for elimination.
The other moment I’m proud of was when South Seattle Community College was awarded the AANAPISI grant [in 2008]. (Mitsui was vice president of student services at SSCC at that time.)
5. Can you finish this sentence? “My work excites me because …”
I believe I can have an impact or help make a change.
6. If you could pick only one trait, what trait do you think is the most important for a leader?
7. If you could compare your leadership style to that of a historical figure, who would that be?
Well, (Mitsui laughed) I’m not sure he would appreciate being called historical, but Robert Underwood, the president of the University of Guam and also the originator of the AANAPISI legislation. … I respect him a lot.
8. If you weren’t doing what you’re doing today, what other job do you think you’d be good at?
I would be teaching.
It almost wouldn’t matter what [I’d teach] … [but] I would probably be teaching health and wellness. Anatomy, for example, was one of the subjects I taught at Renton Technical College.
9. Do you have a secret talent? What is it?
Judo. … I’m the world’s oldest brown belt.
10. If you could describe yourself in only three words, what would they be?
Creative. Persistent. And hopeful. (end)
Stacy Nguyen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.