Nonprofit leader brings partnership-building expertise to Unite:Ed

Dana Arviso recently joined the University of Washington College of Education as director of its Unite:Ed initiative after previously serving as executive director of the Potlatch Fund. (Photo provided by University of Washington College of Education)

Dana Arviso recently joined UW College of Education as the first director of our Unite:Ed initiative.

News Release
University of Washington

An experienced non-profit leader with a history of building partnerships to advance educational outcomes for underserved populations, Dana Arviso, will serve as the first director of the University of Washington College of Education’s Unite:Ed initiative.

Arviso comes to the UW after more than a decade of service with the Potlatch Fund, including the last seven as executive director of the Native American-led organization, which works to inspire and build upon the Native tradition of giving and to expand philanthropy within Tribal Nations and in the Northwest. During her time as executive director, Arviso grew the organization’s grantmaking programs including its Language Preservation, Native Student Success and Healthy Pathways for Native Youth strategic initiatives.

Arviso brings a breadth of experience in Native education, informal learning, digital literacies and youth filmmaking, family literacy, early childhood education, Native philanthropy, nonprofit capacity building and cultivating community partnerships to the UW.

In her new role, Arviso will help advance the UW College of Education’s community partnerships and work with the Unite:Ed advisory board to build capacity and support for equitable community-practice-research partnerships between the College and community and education partners in the region and state.

Arviso earned her master’s degree in language, literacy and culture from the UW College of Education in 2006 and her bachelor’s degree in child development from California State University. She has served as a board member for Native Americans in Philanthropy, Social Justice Fund Northwest and the American Indian Graduate Center.

Members of the Unite:Ed steering committee are Chris Alejano, City of Seattle; Filiberto Barajas-López, assistant professor of education; Philip Bell, Shauna C. Larson Chair in Learning Sciences; Maggie Beneke, assistant professor of education; Jondou Chen, senior lecturer in education; Colleen Echohawk, Chief Seattle Club; Katie Headrick-Taylor, assistant professor of education; Kara Jackson, associate professor of education; Deb McCutchen, professor of education; Mark Okazaki, Neighborhood House; Erin Okuno, Southeast Seattle Education Coalition; Ryan Quigtar, community partner liaison; Sili Savusa, White Center Community Development Association; and Mia Tuan, dean of UW College of Education.

Below, Arviso answers questions about her pathway to a career in education, what drew her to Unite:Ed, her experience building community partnerships and more.

What first drew you to education as a vocation?

Growing up I was an avid learner who was fortunate enough to access some innovative and effective curriculum and instruction. My parents also really pushed education at home as they had experienced how education can be a pathway out of poverty. My entire schooling has been at public schools and I earned my undergraduate major in Child Development from California State University, Sacramento. I chose to study early child development because I was fascinated by how children learn and process their environment, all within the cultural context of their families and community.

My first job out of college was working in a Tribal Even Start program that promoted early literacy and the concept of parents as a child’s first teachers. This passion for working in literacy education led me to UW College of Education, where I earned my master’s degree in language, literacy and culture in 2006 and continued my journey into the PhD program. However, I did not complete my doctorate in part because I could not figure out how to navigate my desire to do community-based work within the academy. At that time there were not a lot of faculty who could serve as role models or advise me in how to carve out that pathway.

What attracted you to your new position as director of Unite:Ed at the College of Education?

I was drawn to this position largely because of my unique experience in both academic and nonprofit worlds and what I envisioned I could bring to this role in strengthening community partnerships between the College of Education and schools, community-based organizations and Tribal communities. I also hope that this work will provide opportunities for other students to pursue community-based research and practice. This part of the work is personal to me because of my own experience in feeling torn between my scholarship and my desire to be in partnership with community in my research but feeling unresolved in that tension.

Tell us about your experience building community partnerships during your time with the Potlatch Fund and how you’ll draw on those experiences in your new role.

I left the College in 2008 to work for Potlatch Fund, a Native-led community foundation, where I worked with Tribes and Native nonprofits across Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana until July 2018. This decade of experience at first seemed to be a completely different career focus until we began to focus more on how we could support Native youth. Under my leadership, we launched grant programs in Language Preservation, Native Student Success, and Healthy Pathways for Native Youth.

Part of the success of our work at Potlatch Fund was that we grew and developed our grant programs, capacity building, and advocacy strategies by listening to the communities that we served. We wanted to be responsive to those community needs and strive for reciprocity in our relationships with Tribes and Native communities. I believe that these values should be the core of the work that we do in partnership with community.

What’s your vision for Unite:Ed and the impact it can make?

The College has more than 300 community partnerships with schools, nonprofits, and communities. However, if we broaden our definition of community partnerships to include internships, Teacher Education Program placements, professional development, and other professional relationships, our community partnerships could number in the thousands. Unfortunately this work is largely unseen by the general public, when it’s one of our greatest assets.

In approaching how to build out Unite:Ed, it’s important to build off of the work that has already been started with the Unite:Ed team, which is led by Phil Bell and Ann Ishimaru, and the steering committee which is comprised of College faculty and leaders from local community-based organizations. I’m currently in the process of building my understanding of what Unite:Ed is and what it could be in the future. In my first month I’ve been on a listening tour of talking to faculty about what they understand about the work and what they hope to see as opportunities. I’ll soon begin to have meetings with our external partners as well.

Tell us about a course or professor at the College of Education that was particularly influential in your growth and development.

In my first quarter of doctoral studies, I took Qualitative Methods in Educational Research, which taught me to think about research in a much deeper way and to understand all of the history and politics embedded in the ways that we do research, build our conceptual frameworks, and employ research methodologies. This led me to take a course in the anthropology department on critical ethnography taught by Dr. Rachel Chapman which really helped me to critically examine the roots of ethnography in understanding culture and to problematize the concept that a researcher can take a neutral positionality.

Besides your work, what's something that you're passionate about?

I’m into promoting the importance of work-life balance and self-care. For me that means setting aside time to spend time outdoors hiking and exploring nature. I also really like to cook and have been experimenting with using more traditional foods.

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