Husky Leadership Initiative

2019 Leadership Fireside Speakers

The Husky Leadership Initiative and Starbucks present:

Leadership Firesides 2019: Building bridges

January 17: Jennifer Cohen, UW Director of Athletics

University of Washington Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen on May 24, 2016. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

University of Washington Athletic Director Jennifer Cohen on May 24, 2016. (Photography by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)

Named the University of Washington’s 15th Director of Athletics on May 24, 2016, Jennifer Cohen has been with the UW for 20 years.

In just two years under her watch, Cohen has led Husky Athletics to unprecedented success in the classroom, in competition and in the community.

Additionally, Cohen secured a 10-year, $119 million apparel partnership with adidas that is set to get underway July 1, 2019.

Most recently, Washington measured an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 988. This marks the sixth consecutive year that UW’s overall APR rate measures above 980. Three Huskies programs earned NCAA public recognition for earning rates in the top 10-percent in their sport, including gymnastics, women’s tennis, and football, who charted the top APR rate in the Pac-12 for the first time.

Highlighting the excitement on the field in Cohen’s first two years was a Pac-12 championship and trip to the College Football Playoff in 2016 for Husky football. UW hit the 10-win mark again in 2017, making its second trip to a New Year’s Six Bowl in as many seasons.

Cohen is credited with bringing in Mike Hopkins to lead the Husky men’s basketball program in 2017. In his first season, Hopkins guided the squad to a 21-13 record – the biggest turnaround in a season since 1937-38.

Additional coaching hires include Allan Murray (Men’s Golf), Jody Wynn (Women’s Basketball), Elise Ray-Statz (Gymnastics), Yasmin Farooq (Women’s Rowing), Maurica & Andy Powell (Cross Country/Track & Field).

In the fall of 2016, UW volleyball – a perennial power – took home the conference title and played its way to an Elite Eight appearance.

Last spring, men’s rowing won the James Ten Eyck Trophy as the overall points winner for the 11th time in the last 12 years before finishing runner-up at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) grand final, while the women’s team garnered a second-place finish at the 2018 NCAA Rowing Championships.

The 2018 spring was as memorable on Montlake as many Husky fans can remember, as both the baseball and softball teams advanced to the College World Series. It was the first-ever trip for UW baseball, while softball – making its 13th appearance – played its way to the championship series.

In Cohen’s two-year span, the Huskies have won a total of six Pac-12 championships. In their first season at the helm of their program, Mike Hopkins, Elise Ray-Statz and Yasmin Farooq all took home Pac-12 Coach of the Year honors.

A native of Tacoma, Cohen joined the athletic department staff in 1998 as an assistant director of development before moving to the university’s central development office to focus on fundraising efforts on behalf of the office of undergraduate education. She also spent time with the UW’s regional gifts program before returning to athletics to oversee the department’s major gifts program.

Cohen and her team led the “Drive for Husky Stadium” campaign, in which the department raised over $50 million in gifts for the renovation of Husky Stadium, which was completed in August 2013. Cohen has also led development efforts for a number of other initiatives, including the renovation of Hec Edmundson Pavilion and the Conibear Shellhouse, the construction of the Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility, the Husky Legends Center, Husky Golf Center and various scholarship endowments.

A 1991 graduate of San Diego State University, Cohen earned her master’s degree in physical education with an emphasis in sports administration, from Pacific Lutheran University in 1994. Her professional experience includes a variety of roles in intercollegiate athletics administration at Pacific Lutheran, the University of Puget Sound and Texas Tech University. She and her husband, Bill, are the parents of two sons, Tyson and Dylan.

January 24: Noah Purcell, Solicitor General, Washington State Attorney Generals Office

Photo of Noah Purcell

Noah Purcell, Solicitor General for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office

In 2013 Attorney General Bob Ferguson appointed Seattle attorney Noah Guzzo Purcell as the Solicitor General for the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, replacing retiring Solicitor General Maureen Hart.

Prior to joining the office, Purcell worked as an attorney in Perkins Coie’s Litigation and Appellate practices. Purcell’s diverse litigation experience includes constitutional issues, antitrust claims, environmental law, preemption, campaign finance, and administrative law.

Purcell served in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of General Counsel from 2009-2010, advising on security and immigration issues and working extensively on the federal government’s challenge to Arizona’s immigration law.

After graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as an editor of the Harvard Law Review, Purcell worked as a law clerk to former U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter and U.S. Court of Appeals Judge David Tatel of the D.C. Circuit.

“Noah was a terrific law clerk, and he’ll be a terrific Solicitor General,” said Souter, who also served as New Hampshire Attorney General from 1976-78.

A native of Seattle, Purcell attended Franklin High School, where he was introduced to the law by renowned teacher and mock trial coach Rick Nagel.  Purcell attended the University of Washington, where he received a Mary Gates Leadership Award for his work founding and running Affordable Tuition Now!, a student advocacy group dedicated to keeping tuition at UW and other state universities affordable.

January 31: Carmen Best, Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department

Carmen Best, Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department

Carmen Best, Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department

Chief Carmen Best assumed the role of Chief of Police of the Seattle Police Department on August 13, 2018.

Chief Best has served with the Seattle Police Department for 26 years. Most recently, she served as Deputy Chief, overseeing the Patrol Operations, Investigations, and Special Operations Bureaus, as well as the Community Outreach section.

Chief Best has completed the Senior Management Institute for Police, the FBI National Academy, and the Criminal Justice Executive Leadership Academy. In 2015, she received the “Newsmaker of the Year” award from the Seattle Black Press. In 2016, Chief Best completed the Major Cities Chiefs Association Police Executive Leadership Institute. She will receive her Master’s in Criminal Justice Leadership from Northeastern University later this year.

Chief Best is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the National Latino Police Officers Association (NLPOA), the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force (LEITF) and serves as the Chair of the Human and Civil Rights Committee (HCRC) for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). She is also on the Trustee Board for Lakeside School, the Visit Seattle Advisory Board and the National Law Enforcement Exploring Committee. Additionally, Chief Best serves as the Leadership Council Chair for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) Seattle, and is on the St. Jude Advisory Council for Seattle.

Chief Best is married and has two adult daughters.

February 7: Justice Steve Gonzalez, Washington Supreme Court

Justice Steve Gonzalez, Washington Supreme Court

Justice Steve Gonzalez, Washington Supreme Court

Justice Steve Gonzalez is a father and husband with a long and distinguished career serving the people of the State of Washington. He won election to the Washington Supreme Court in 2012 with over 60% of the vote. Since his election, he has been widely recognized for his commitment to the laws and Constitution of our state, and open access to the justice system. Before joining the Supreme Court, Justice Gonzalez served for ten years as a trial judge on the King County Superior Court, and served as a federal and municipal criminal prosecutor.

Outside the Court, Justice Gonzalez is just as passionate about community engagement and service to others. He participates in the Northwest Minority Job Fair, and serves as Board member for the Washington Leadership Institute, an organization that aims to develop legal professionals and community leaders who reflect the diversity of Washington State.

Prior to joining the court in King County, Justice Gonzalez practiced both criminal and civil law. He was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Western District of Washington, where he was part of the team that successfully prosecuted the international terrorism case U.S. v. Ressam. He also prosecuted organized crime cases and served as the Hate Crimes Prosecution Coordinator. After September 11, he lectured on international terrorism prosecution to U.S. Attorneys in Washington D.C.

Justice Gonzalez has also served as a Domestic Violence Prosecutor for the City of Seattle, and an Associate in the Business Law Department at the Seattle law firm Hillis Clark Martin & Peterson. While working in private practice, he regularly provided pro bono representation to people who could not afford to pay for a lawyer. Justice Gonzalez continues to be a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education seminars, and taught State Constitutional Law at Gonzaga Law School in April 2018. He earned his B.A. with Honors in East Asian Studies from Pitzer College and his J.D. from U.C. Berkeley School of Law.

Justice Gonzalez is rated Exceptionally Well Qualified for the Supreme Court by 10 bar associations in Washington, including Washington Women Lawyers and the newly formed Veterans Bar Association. He was honored to receive Outstanding Judge of the Year Awards from multiple organizations including the Washington State Bar Association. He has received broad bipartisan support from hundreds of endorsers from across Washington State.

February 14: Kate Starbird, Assistant Professor, Human Centered Design & Engineering

Photo of Kate Starbird

Kate Starbird, Assistant Professor, Human Centered Design & Engineering

Kate Starbird is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) at the University of Washington (UW). Kate’s research is situated within human-computer interaction (HCI) and the emerging field of crisis informatics—the study of the how information-communication technologies (ICTs) are used during crisis events. One aspect of her research focuses on how online rumors spread—and how online rumors are corrected—during natural disasters and man-made crisis events. More recently, she has begun to focus on the propagation of disinformation and political propaganda through online spaces. Kate earned her PhD from the University of Colorado at Boulder in Technology, Media and Society and holds a BS in Computer Science from Stanford University.

February 21: Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, Philanthropy Northwest

Photo of Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director of Philanthropy Northwest

Kiran Ahuja, Executive Director, Philanthropy Northwest

Kiran Ahuja brings more than two decades of public service and nonprofit sector leadership experience, including senior positions in the Obama administration, to our six-state network of foundations and corporate giving programs. She is now leading one of the oldest regional associations of philanthropists in the country, joining Philanthropy Northwest as CEO at a critical time for the sector and our communities. Kiran has made it her life’s work to serve diverse communities, beginning her career as a civil rights lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice. She spent six years as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading efforts to increase access to federal services, resources and programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs). She went on to serve as chief of staff at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, where she played a key role in building the dynamic senior leadership team at a critical juncture for the agency. Kiran grew up in Savannah, Georgia, where her family immigrated to the United States from India and England. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College and a law degree from the University of Georgia.

February 28: Naria Santa Lucia, Executive Director, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship

Photo of Naria Santa Lucia

Naria Santa Lucia, Executive Director, Washington State Opportunity Scholarship

Naria has extensive experience in leading mission-driven organizations in their quest to raise revenue, increase effective programming, and act strategically to increase outcomes for their clients.

Naria currently serves as Executive Director of the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), a unique public-private partnership helping to build the next generation of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, health care professionals in Washington state’s high-demand employment fields through scholarships and support for low- and middle-income college students in Washington state. As Executive Director, Naria is responsible for overall leadership and management of WSOS, including resource development, program design, implementation, and evaluation, and program advocacy.

Prior to her current position, Naria served as the Director of Legal Aid for Washington Fund, a statewide organization that raises funds for Washington State’s civil legal aid network. Under her leadership, LAW Fund’s annual fund, the Campaign for Equal Justice, achieved historical annual fundraising records in 2012 and 2013, and its endowment, the Endowment for Equal Justice grew to be the largest endowment for civil legal aid in the nation.

Naria also served as the Executive Director of the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy, a juvenile and education law and social work organization in Illinois. At the Moran Center, Naria turned around an organization on the brink of closure into a strong, sustainable agency by collaborating and partnering with numerous social service organizations to develop innovative and effective programming.

Naria is a graduate of the Law School and the College at the University of Chicago, where she graduated with honors and was elected Phi Beta Kappa. She is an appointed member of the Washington Governor Inslee’s STEM Alliance and also serves on the Board of Directors of Columbia Legal Services and Seattle Goodwill Industries.

March 7: Mark Okazaki, Executive Director, Neighborhood House

Photo of Mark Okazaki

Mark Okazaki, Executive Director of Neighborhood House

A third-generation Japanese American, Mark Okazaki was born, raised and educated in Seattle, Washington though he likes to make the distinction that he grew up in South Seattle.  His entire adult life has focused on addressing issues of poverty and inequality.  After graduating from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology, he worked for a number of community-based non-profit organizations including the Center for Career Alternatives where he helped young people find their first jobs and launch their careers.  From there he went to work for the Seattle-King County Private Industry Council, the precursor to the Workforce Development Council where he helped plan and implement job training programs for low-income youth and adults throughout the county.

In 2000, Mark assumed the role of Executive Director for Neighborhood House, a non-profit anti-poverty organization founded in 1906.  Neighborhood House provides a wide range of education, employment, health and social services to thousands of low-income children, families and elders throughout Seattle and King County.

Under his leadership, Neighborhood House’s programs and services have expanded to address the needs of the community.  The budget has quadrupled to $20 million with new programs such as Employment, Housing and Aging and Disability Services.  He led two successive capital campaigns to build community service centers in the Rainier Vista and High Point public housing redevelopments.

Mark has served on the boards of the United Way of King County, the Minority Executive Directors Coalition and the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.  He has served as chair of the Asian Pacific Directors Coalition, as a member of the Coordinating Board for All Home, formerly the Committee to End Homelessness King County and as chair for the City Budget Task Force for the Seattle Human Services Coalition.

In 2009 Mark was selected as one of the recipients of the Bill Grace Leadership Legacy Award from the Center for Ethical Leadership.  In 2012 he was selected as one of the recipients of the Top Contributors Award from the Northwest Asian Weekly newspaper.  He was the 2015 recipient of the Asian Community Leadership Foundation Kip Tokuda Leadership Award, 2016 Seattle Business Magazine Executive Excellence Award for in the Non-profit Executive Director category and National Association of Asian American Professionals – Seattle Chapter 2016 Achievement in Leadership Excellence and Noble Impact award.

Mark is member of the First Hill Lions Club, a community service organization.  He’s an occasional runner.

He currently lives in Kent and has a wonderful adult daughter and an awesome son-in-law.

March 14: B.J. Stewart, Chief Operations Officer, Urban Impact

B.J. Stewart, chief operations officer of Urban Impact

B.J. Stewart, chief operations officer of Urban Impact

B.J. Stewart is currently Chief Operations Officer for Urban Impact. Prior to joining Urban Impact, B.J. was a 10 year Arby’s Restaurant franchisee and owned a staffing agency.  B.J. spent more than 10 years in consulting/public accounting with PriceWaterhouseCoopers also serving as a CPA (now inactive).

B.J. is an accomplished business leader with a proven track record of delivering strong business results. Highly adept at building strategic partnerships through effective business planning and solving complex business challenges. Proven ability to work collaboratively with functional leaders to carry out value-added initiatives. Experience includes business acquisitions, start-ups, enterprise turnarounds, and franchise management.



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Starbucks is dedicated to the development of student leaders and proud to be a presenting sponsor of the Leadership Firesides.