This is the sixth installment in our “Huskies on the Hill” series featuring UW Alumni serving in state government.
Today’s Q&A features State Senator Paull Shin M.A. ’72, Ph.D. ’80, who represents the 21st Legislative District. After 31 years of teaching at the college level, he retired, only to embrace public service.
Sen. Shin was elected to the Washington State Senate in 1999. Prior to that, he served in the House of Representatives from 1993-1994. He is Vice President Pro Tempore which presides over floor action in the absence of the Lieutenant Governor and President Pro Tempore.
1. What motivated you to run for office?
Having received so many blessings in this country, I decided to give back through public service. I was born in Korea and adopted by an American GI during the Korean War. After coming to the U.S., with the support of my adoptive family, I was able to learn English, receive a GED, and eventually earn a PhD from the University of Washington. I worked for 31 years as a college professor before my election to the Washington State Legislature. I have served for 19 years now. I’m still motivated by the people of Washington State and the many blessings I have received in the U.S.
2. What are your legislative priorities this session?
As a former chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee and longtime college professor, education has always been one of my main priorities. This session I have been focused on improving access to higher education for students with disabilities. My colleagues and I have passed a bill that will improve communication, establish best practices and help coordinate the transition process.
3. What has been the biggest surprise and biggest disappointment for you so far this session?
The biggest surprise and disappointment, for me, was the inability of the Senate to pass the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act would make state need grants available for qualified students who are Washington residents but do not have citizenship status. As an immigrant myself, one of the greatest equalizers has been access to education. Without going to college I would not have been able to accomplish what I have today. I want to make sure the hardworking students of Washington have a chance to succeed and pursue their potential.
4. What do you think the long-term outlook is for Higher Education in our state?
While I am concerned about the direction higher education has been heading for the past few years I think there is a recognition among my fellow legislators that continued underfunding and tuition increases will price students out of the classroom and undermine the quality of higher education in Washington State. I believe that, with proper funding and attention, we can ensure the highest quality education at an affordable price.
5. How do you spend your time when the legislature is not in session?
When I’m not meeting with constituents in the district or traveling to other countries to promote positive relations with Washington State, I spend a lot of time with my wife and family. I have two children and five grandchildren who are the joy of my life. This summer I look forward to celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary with my wonderful wife, Donna.