Polly Olsen, ’94, director of community relations and development for the UW School of Social Work’s Indigenous Wellness Research Institute, has been named the recipient of the 2013 University of Washington Diversity Award for Community Building.
The honor is given annually by the UW Vice President for Minority Affairs and Vice Provost for Diversity to a UW student, staff member, faculty member or community organization whose efforts toward positive change on campus have resulted in multicultural community building. It will be presented by Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange at the 19th annual Multicultural Alumni Partnership (MAP) Bridging the Gap Breakfast, Sat., Oct. 26, at the Husky Union Building.
“We are so pleased to honor Polly as the recipient of this year’s award,” Lange said. “As an advocate, liaison, facilitator, educator and leader both on and off campus, her work manifests multicultural community building at its finest.”
At the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute (IWRI), Olsen links UW researchers with tribal communities to examine health-care disparities and find solutions. Last year, the institute was named a Center of Excellence by the National Institutes of Health. Olsen also directs the IWRI’s Native Youth Enrichment Program that has been recognized by and received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
A member of the Yakama Tribe, Olsen runs the Elders Committee for the UW Intellectual House, a longhouse facility that will break ground on campus this fall, as well as outreach programs in K-12 education that focus on providing a safe climate for Native students. She plays a key role in the UW’s annual Tribal Leadership Summit.
Olsen currently serves as president of the Board of Directors for the Seattle Indian Health Board, a nonprofit community center that serves the health-care needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the greater Seattle area. Before joining the Indigenous Wellness Research Institute in 2007, Olsen was the director of the Native American Center for Excellence in the UW School of Medicine for six years. Olson holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the UW.
Previous award winners include the Seattle Fandango Project (2012); Cynthia Del Rosario (Information School, 2011); Jai-Anana Elliott (Foster School of Business, 2010); Michelle Habell-Pallán (Women’s Studies/School of Music/Department of Communication, 2009); Michael Verchot (Foster School of Business, 2008); Carolyn Chow (School of Nursing, 2007); Gino Aisenberg (School of Social Work, 2006) and Lange (Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity, 2005).