Othello-UW Commons

November 19, 2020

A letter from Selam Misgano

Dear Commons’ family and friends,

I am writing to share news about my transition from Othello-UW Commons.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the inaugural manager of the Othello-UW Commons and lead the launch of the initiative. I am deeply grateful for the many incredible opportunities and meaningful relationships it has provided me.

The University of Washington launched the Commons with a vision: to be a valuable and present partner and to learn from and with the South Seattle community. Together, we committed to working on advancing outcomes related to student success, community health and equity of opportunities in South Seattle. The Commons role in this work is to strengthen existing relationships and make new connections to achieve this shared vision.

When I started in May 2018, the Commons wasn’t even built yet. Together with community leaders and UW programs, we have truly accomplished a lot:

  • Launched the UW’s first place-based initiative in Southeast Seattle and opened the doors to the Othello-UW Commons facility in a festive grand opening celebration with more than 300 community and campus friends.
  • Provided space for studying, co-working, running meetings, workshops, courses with a focus on community engaged activities to hundreds of neighbors including UW students, alumni, community leaders and residents from the neighborhood.
  • Partnered with UW departments like Continuum College, Alumni Association, College of Education and others to increase educational opportunities to adults in the neighborhood.
  • Hired dozens of UW students from the neighborhood who contributed to the Commons’ mission by helping run the facility, run community engagement efforts on behalf of the University and had the opportunities to build their leadership skills along the way.
  • Created opportunities for campus and community partners to make meaningful connections and consulted with UW departments in their strategies to engage authentically with the community.
  • Supported community leaders and organizations as they navigate the University system to create partnerships that can support their social justice missions.

Through the broad work we have done, we have better identified the areas where we can have the biggest impact. This academic year, the Commons will have three main focuses:

  1. Supporting current and past UW students from Southeast Seattle to help them navigate the UW and realize their academic and career goals. Many are BIPOC, first-generation, transfer and low income students.
  2. Bringing together UW faculty and staff to learn and support each other across departments on efforts related to UW’s strategies to partnering with Southeast Seattle.
  3. Supporting community organizations and leaders to make connections and navigate the UW for accessing resources and establishing partnerships.

Thank you for your support and partnership.

The UW’s commitment to engaging with South Seattle communities continues to be strong. My personal and professional commitment to advancing equity is stronger than ever, and I will continue to serve this purpose through my new role with Seattle Public Schools, Division of Equity, Partnership, and Engagement. I look forward to collaborating with the UW and the Commons through my new role working to improve the academic and well-being of Seattle Public School students living in affordable housing communities. I continue to feel proud and support the Commons’ efforts in South Seattle and look forward to staying connected.

As the Commons’ work continues, you will be hearing updates from my colleagues. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact othellocommons@uw.edu or reach out directly to Fran Lo, Executive Director, Community Engagement and Leadership Education (CELE) Center at franlo@uw.edu.

In Solidarity,
Selam Misgano
Senior Manager, Othello-UW Commons