John Amaya | At-Large Trustee

Class of 2001, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science
Class of 2005, Juris Doctorate, UW School of Law

Why I Serve

I am the son of immigrants, I am a husband, a father and a lawyer trying to impact people’s lives by helping them reach the American Dream. I grew up in Southern California and followed college sports at a young age, which is how I first learned about the Huskies. I was also a big Ken Griffey Jr. fan and listened to Pearl Jam and Sound Garden, so I had a very idealized version of Seattle in my head from a young age.

My family didn’t have a lot of resources for me to attend college, and I was a non-traditional student in the sense that four years had already lapsed between high school and my first year at the UW. I was a little bit older than most of the students around me and more focused on what I wanted to accomplish, but I didn’t always know the right steps to get there. I turned to leadership opportunities on campus to get more immersed in the community.

The Office of Minority Affairs was the lynchpin to everything I would eventually do at the UW. Myron Apilado was the Vice President at the time. He took me under his wing, introducing me to student leaders, opening the doors to volunteer opportunities, and eventually recommending me to be a part of the student advisory board. From there, I became more involved and connected with other students, professors, and advisers. In 2000, I was recommended for a gubernatorial appointment to become a Student Regent. At first, I was skeptical about the substantive impact one could have, but I eventually opened myself up to the opportunity and was offered the position. I was the third student to hold the appointment and the first undergrad. In my experience as a Student Regent, I worked with, sat next to, and broke bread with some of the most important leaders in Seattle, the state of Washington, and the country. It opened doors that I could never have imagined.

Being immersed in that leadership community—one that embraced me wholeheartedly— shaped me into the person I am today. Without my collective experiences during my university years, I don’t believe I would have reached the levels of success professionally or personally that I have. The UW reigns supreme in my household, but it’s more than just a logo or a fight song. The school truly changed my life.


John Amaya is an attorney in Washington, DC with the law firm HWG, LLP. As a member of the firm’s litigation and investigations practice, he is focused on representing corporations and individuals in connection with global immigration, customs enforcement, and homeland security investigations. John was previously appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a senior advisor in the Department of Homeland Security, and he also served as senior counsel to then-Chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).