Member Spotlight: Erika Chen

I was grateful to snag 2019 co-Chair of the Advancement Northwest Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) Committee, Erika Chen, for a quick chat – though she was reluctant to have a conversation. She said, quietly, “I’m an introvert.”

Using her impressive LinkedIn Profile, however, the conversation was easy – there was so much material to work with! Erika is currently the Event and Volunteer Manager at Rainier Scholars, whose mission fits perfectly with Erika’s passion. She summed up her job this way: “I work at Rainier Scholars because I believe in addressing inequities, and they do a great job of walking alongside amazing students and helping them to succeed.”

Originally from Montrose, NY (a small community in Westchester County), Erika grew up in a predominantly white community. As a high school Senior, she used a decision matrix – yes, really – to figure out that diversity was a critical value for her. This realization led her to the University of Miami in Florida, where she was graduated with a business degree. Erika lived in Florida for four years after college, developing fundraising skills with Platinum Fundraising: “I realized the part I loved about my job was working with my non-profit clients, so I moved to Seattle to get my MPA at the Evans School, as well as a certificate in non-profit management.”

To say Erika has been busy since obtaining her master’s degree would be an understatement. In addition to saying yes to co-chairing the DEIA Committee (with Bryan Baker), she has been an active member of the DEIA Committee for almost a year, and was a 2018 Scholarship recipient. She took the stage with Ray Li, 2018 Professional Achievement Award winner, at the June Forum on Strategic Fundraising, she is a member of the Seattle Donors of Color Steering Committee (a quasi-independent arm of the Social Justice Fund NW), and she sits on the planning committee for the Conference on Community-Centric Fundraising, based on Vu Le’s published “9 Principles” (he of Rainier Valley Corps fame), where the planning is underway for a conference in the Spring of 2019. Finally, Erika is the newest member of the Seattle Human Rights Commission. She downplays her breathtaking involvement as an uber-volunteer: “My superpower is organization. I stay organized.”

This is what Erika says about the Emerald City: “I’ve been in Seattle for four-and-a-half years – I love it – we’ll see if we can afford to continue living here… What I love about Seattle is that I can go outside every single day – New York can get too cold, Miami can get too hot, but the weather is pretty moderate here – I can take Auri out for walks!” (Auri is Erika’s beloved Border Collie-Golden Retriever).

She summed up our conversation this way: “Our current political landscape, and the amount of hate crimes and racism that have been exposed, keep me up at night. But the people who are fighting for racial justice, and all social justice causes – because the situation is so dire – have decided to fight back, and that gives me hope for the future.”

It’s safe to say that with an (introverted) firestarter like Erika, the future is looking hopeful, indeed.

Lightning Round:

Favorite color? Purple 
Sports Team? Miami Hurricanes 
Trash TV show? “Bachelor in Paradise”
Best Book Recommendation? The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss 
One Superpower? Time Travel 
Actual Superpower? Organization
Bucket List Item? “Travel! I want go everywhere – I just went to Maui for my birthday; next up is anywhere in Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, China)!”

Written by Christina Chang, University of Washington, Office of Advancement

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