Distinguished Staff Award
Photograph of Washington MESA Team

Washington MESA Team

Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity
Lucy Casale, James Dorsey, Phyllis Harvey-Buschel, and Ku’ulani Seto

Nominated by Abel Pacheco, Director of Strategic Engagement, Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity

Awarded 2017

Dear DSA Selection Committee-

It is with great honor that I nominate the Washington MESA (Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement) team: James Dorsey, Lucy Casale, Phyllis Harvey-Buschel, and Ku’ulani Seto. Collectively they have over 75 years of experience in leading MESA locally and across the country, and have impacted thousands of children through their work. They have embodied and advanced the mission of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity for over 8 years- to ensure the access and academic success of diverse populations through the advancement of knowledge, academic excellence, diversity, and the promotion of values, principles, and a climate that enriches the campus experience for all.

I joined the MESA team in June of this year and it only took me a matter of days to see firsthand how our work impacts students, and how they truly care for each other like family. In the short time I’ve worked with the team, they’ve become a second family and its accredited to the culture its leader, James, sets. I know James would not accept this nomination without “his MESA family.”

James started working for Washington MESA in 2008 after being recruited from the Chancellor’s Office in the UC system in California, and soon after brought his colleague, Lucy Casale, to join him at the UW. Ku’ulani and Phyllis joined soon after. Together they’ve put the Washington MESA program and the UW on the map in more ways than one, and advanced equity in this region by greatly expanding the program.

Washington MESA is a program of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, and its mission is to increase the number of women and students of color pursuing a STEM education. Washington MESA does this through enrichment activities for students, and additional support and exposure to the STEM fields to these underrepresented populations. When James arrived in the midst of the recession, Washington MESA had six centers and faced budget cuts, along with the rest of the university. However, soon after he brought Lucy to the UW they applied and received a multimillion dollar grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the program. The grant allowed the program to grow from the six centers they had to twelve, and they now served community college students. Many of whom have transferred to the UW.

After the grant was completed, James and the MESA team worked with the state legislature and the Washington State Board of Technical and Community Colleges (SBCTC) to receive continued support from the state- no easy task. The MESA program is now part of the Governor’s STEM package for funding and often referenced in his speeches as a model that needs continued support and expansion. The MESA community college program is currently under consideration by the state legislature for expansion to all 34 community colleges in Washington State at the request of the (SBCTC). Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing are among MESA’s biggest industry partners and advocates.

This year James became the National President of MESA USA, leading all MESA states across the country. His successful efforts in leading Washington MESA, and MESA USA, have gained MESA special recognition from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. This fall MESA USA was listed as a partner by the White House to advance its STEM education initiative. James and the MESA team have embodied what it means to be boundless.

Lucy has mentored hundreds over her career. Lucy knows how to see a person’s true potential and provide them the support they need to realize their potential. She believes in her MESA students and she goes above and beyond to support them in attaining their educational goals. She is not only a supportive mentor for MESA students, but also for MESA staff and other UW colleagues. She has the most generous heart and she shares this generosity in every aspect of her work. Lucy is a fierce advocate for MESA students to ensure that they receive an excellent program.

Phyllis is creative, brilliant, and kind. She works tirelessly with educators across Washington State, advocating for equity in STEM education for underrepresented students. She works long hours creating STEM curriculum that is engaging, culturally relevant, and relatable for MESA students. She partners with public school educators and administrators statewide to implement MESA programming and curriculum. You can see the admiration and respect being reciprocated between Phyllis and the teachers she partners with when they are working together. The type of leadership and partnership that Phyllis demonstrates in her work is unparalleled and truly helps to ensure the success of MESA programming, as well as the service provided to MESA students.

And every team needs glue. Ku’ulani is that glue. Without Ku’ulani’s selfless dedication, work ethic, knowledge and skill, the MESA program would not be able to operate at the capacity that it does. He truly is a “Jack of all Trades” and the MESA team’s “go to” person for any technical issue. Ku’ulani often stays in the office working late into the night and will return to work early the next morning to ensure all will run smoothly for MESA board meetings, events for MESA students, and to ensure all deadlines are met on time.

James, Lucy, Phyllis, and Ku’ulani view the MESA program as an extension of their purpose on this planet. It is why James, Lucy, Phyllis, and Ku’ulani have dedicated their careers to it. Collectively their dedication to the program has created so much opportunity for thousands of young girls and students of color interested in a STEM education. They may never receive a thank you, but this team deserves to be recognized for their impact in the state and the lives of so many students. Like so many people at the UW, the work of the Washington MESA team changes the world, and this honor would be a small token of appreciation to James, Lucy, Phyllis, Ku’ulani. They may not hear thank you each day, but they’ve embodied what it means to have purpose and make a difference.

I am lucky to work alongside such great individuals and consider them family.

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