Interview with Dr. Mari Acob-Nash

Dr. Mari Acob-Nash started this past summer in the new Dean of Student Life position. I sat down with her to talk about Student Life, campus engagement, hula, and dogs in outfits.

How would you explain your position as Dean of Student Life?

In the area of Student Life, we have Student Leadership and Multicultural Programs, we have the Roy Flores Wellness Center, we have the Student Childcare Center, and then our Sustainability Office. All of these areas allow students to be connected to the campus, find their identity, and find a sense of community. What has been shown in history and research is that if a student is engaged on campus, and feeling a sense of belonging, they are more likely to complete and be successful. Those are the areas that I would call Student Life: being the student voice and being engaged on our campus.

Dean of Student Life is a new position, so we’re still figuring out how we can help students feel connected here. I’m very involved in Guided Pathways, which is what the state is working on, closing the gaps for our marginalized students and making sure they have a chance to succeed. I’m also connected with the work at the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, because of our work with racial identity and special populations. That’s what I love about the job. I love that our work in Student Life is promoting and supporting students in their educational careers. My plan is that Student Life will provide a chance for all North students’ lives to be engaged and to give them a sense of community and belonging.

You used to work at North in International Programs, right? How has your experience in this position differed from that one?

I was here from 2006 to 2013. We really had the opportunity to travel and find students from overseas, and we put North on the global map in terms of a place to go to study and transfer to top universities. We had students transferring to Purdue, down to Berkley, to UCLA, even MIT—really big schools.

When you’re in International Programs, you help students navigate enrollment, registration, and advising. This includes marketing, communications, a lot of intercultural and international relationship work. I was traveling two to three weeks every single quarter, overseas. Now I get to stay on land! I really get to know the students deeply, and work with and through racial and social identities and figure out how they fit on our campus. What is really great is that I work with all students including International Programs.

So, do you have a project, plan, or goal on your agenda right now that you’re excited about?

I really see North being able to catapult forward and be one of the best Student Life and Leadership programs in the state. It is a goal of mine that all students should have positive, inclusive experiences on campus. It is a goal of mine that for every single North student to have either attended or been involved with one of our events, programs, or organizations. And I think we can do that, whether that be “I’m going to go work out in the Wellness Center,” or “I’m really involved in a club,” or “I attended orientation and spent some time learning about the campus.” That, to me, is being involved and being engaged, and I think those things will create positive experiences.

I’ve been told that you do hula, can you talk about that?

I was adopted by my Hawaiian/Filipino family in the Seattle area when I moved out here as an international student. This family I knew took me under their wings. They’re from Oahu, and they were hula dancers. I’d take my kids—they’re called keiki—to the keiki class, and the teacher, the kumu hula, would ask me, “Why aren’t you dancing?”

The part of hula you get connected to is the culture. You learn about Hawaiian culture before you can really understand what you’re dancing about. It’s storytelling and it’s about perpetuating Hawaiian history and culture. The type of regalia that you see us wear is based on the history of the Hawaiian Islands. Usually the song, mele, is based on the history of the island that it’s talking about.

That’s really cool!

It is pretty cool. I will be sharing more with the Indigenous Student Alliance, one of our student organizations, for students from Native cultures. As a haumana, which is a student, I have to, not only learn the specifics of the songs, but how to do the Hawaiian cultural crafts. A lot of the stuff in my office has a story behind it in terms of my Hawaiian culture and what it brings into education!

I also chant that have certain meanings. There’s ole aloha, which is to bring people into a situation, like a meeting, to a cultural event, or there’s a chant asking the gods to help me with my dancing or my storytelling, and then there’s a chant to share love. I hope to share some chants with my work in Student Life. I’ll chant, every once in a while, when we need it.

My last question is, um, I’ve been told that you have a dog?

Milo! So, Milo is now 12 years old. He’s 7 pounds, and I dress him up, because after your kids leave, you have nothing else to do but talk to your dog. At 11, he lost all his teeth. These little tiny Yorkies are prone to teeth loss, and now his tongue hangs out! I do dress him in costumes. You name it, I have it for him. He doesn’t always enjoy what I put him in. But he brings me joy and a chance to laugh. Sometimes when I feel a little frustrated, or stuck, I just have to look at a picture of my dog and life is better.

Thank you for your time!

Thank you! That was fun!

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.


NEW Equity and Welcome Center: An Interview with D’Andre Fisher

D’Andre Fisher, North’s Associate Vice President of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion may be new, but he is known to make sure his voice is heard on campus. Under his guidance, a new Equity and Welcome Center at NSC is in the works to open this year. Fisher said the need for an Equity and Welcome Center has been a priority of his since he began his job in July. I sat down with Fisher in his office to uncover more information about the new welcome center, the planning process, and his hopes for our community.


I find my way through the labyrinth of administrative offices on the second floor of the College Center building, passing right by President Warren Brown himself. D’Andre noted on his first day (and has reiterated with the plans for the new Equity and Welcome Center) that he must be in the President’s line of sight everyday so that his work is known.

As I walk through the opening of the Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity space, a yellow object is catches the corner of my eye. Sure enough, I turn to see D’Andre in his yellow hat. Bright yellow is also the background of the EDI signage that welcomes visitors into this space. Fisher is smiling and quickly assures me that he will see me in just a minute. Almost always do I encounter D’Andre on campus with a snazzy outfit and an inviting smile. He welcomes me into his office where I am free to sit anywhere. Tones of blue and grey are casted over the office through the windows that showcase Seattle’s infamous rain.

Acuña : What do you say is the purpose of having a new Equity Center, as opposed to our current one?

Fisher: So this is an Equity and Welcome Center, which would be the difference compared to what’s already established with the [current] equity center. So this one is geared towards really focusing on the welcoming of all, in having a sense of belonging. It’s going to be the focus, meaning that there are no binary restraints to this work, no gender restraints to this work, really being open, for all religions, all people, all backgrounds, all social statuses, and really focusing on how we make sure that every student, faculty, and staff member feels like North Seattle College is a place that they can call home, and have a sense of belonging.

Acuña : I received the plans for the welcoming center (which includes spaces for undocumented students, LGBTQ students, and prayer). Will these be the identities it will serve there and the rooms it will contain?

Fisher: Nothing is set in stone yet. We will take a year of really evaluating what the need is. We do know that the multicultural center will be there. We do know that the Gender Equity center will be in there. And from there we’re working with other groups to really self identify what will be in there. We do want to have some space for faculty members to be able to come and meet with students. We do want to have space for prayer and meditation to happen, so you know, there’s a lot of wants, but what it actually looks like, that’s not on me to determine, it’s on the campus and the community to determine.

Acuña : When did all this planning and envisioning of the space happen?

Fisher: I started thinking about this in July. It was literally one of the first things to think about. The president charged me to really come under his leadership to try to create a space where everyone feels a sense of belonging. Like I said, it’s going to be six months of just flushing down ideas, talking to key faculty members, key staff members, and key students. You know, more talking still needs to happen, so that’s why nothing is set in stone because I want to be very transparent. I don’t want anyone to feel like we’re moving on without hearing about different voices…so speaking with our veterans, student association, and you know, thinking about what we can do there. I just met last week with the new director of disability services about how we can partner and still always be partnering with international studies. I’m very excited about Ann taking on the new role, but I was really close in partnering with the former director Kathy Lee, so I wanna make sure we still have those components. And then of course, I meet with Student Leadership almost every other week I feel like! And I’m down there almost every other day! So I’m making sure that the student voice is heard.

Acuña : Would you say that working with everyone and listening to what this school has to offer is the best part about this process?

Fisher: Ab-so-lutely. Aw, you’re right! You hit it right on the head! It definitely is.

Acuña : Besides the planning, what are your hopes for this Equity and Welcome Center?

Fisher: My hopes are that within the matter of a year, the Equity and Welcome Center becomes a true hub for the college campus and the surrounding community, where there are multiple identities, multiple races, multiple religions, and multiple people from different backgrounds. And able bodies, everybody just hanging out, and really learning from each other. You know, this is a space where we can all learn from each other and ask questions…and be open to those questions! And you know, talk politics, but in a respectful manner, so if we can do it, man that would be amazing! I would really love to see that. And I know we have it here at North! So, I’m excited. And, working with the Art department in the Equity Center and seeing beautiful art done by our students. I’m getting excited now! It’s so tempting, you got me envisioning!

Acuña: What do you say to people that aren’t in support of the new Equity Center?

Fisher: To give us a chance. To give it a chance. We may not do everything according to the way that they see it should be done, and we may not do everything right the first time. But show us grace in this work because we all need grace in this equity, diversity, and inclusion work. And that’s going to be important. We all come at it at different levels. And we’re all not at the same level, so just as we need grace, and we’re showing grace, we want everyone to be the same way.

North Seattle College’s new Equity and Welcome Center plans to open on March 1.

Heidi Grace Acuña

Student Cabinet Member

Interview with D’Andre Fisher

PTK Honor Society is happy to welcome D’Andre Fisher, our new Associate Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to North and caught an interview with him to find out more about his work on campus.

What life event was a catalyst in your decision to become an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion?

That’s a great question, I don’t know if it was specifically a life event but just my pure existence. As a self-identified African-American male in today’s society, I think you have no choice but to be in this work or do this work because you have to speak for so many voices that are unheard. Unfortunately, I don’t get the chance to take off being a male, or take off being black, or take off being someone who identifies with religious freedoms, or take off being someone who identifies with the LGBTQ + community. I don’t get to remove that on an everyday basis; I have to wear that every day. So this work for me is my life. It’s just my everyday, it’s just my pure existence in a room, me walking into a space where I can be the only one of that person in that space.

What is one of the most fulfilling aspects of your work?

Knowing that I’ve helped a student, a faculty, or a staff member who felt like they didn’t have a voice. Knowing that I’ve helped them really navigate through an experience, that they felt maybe unappreciated, they felt maybe harmed, or they felt like they did not have a voice or a seat at the table. That’s the most rewarding aspect, just seeing the liberation of so many communities.

Can you share with us a single action we could do in our day to make our community a safer and more respectful place?

I think so many times in Higher Ed institutions, we tend to forget that they’re educational spaces. We need to start educating ourselves on different communities, on different populations, because the notion of getting away with saying or doing things, with microaggressions, and it being “Oh, I didn’t know” – that’s unacceptable now. And it has been unacceptable and it’s unacceptable even more so now because we should educate ourselves on what it means to help and be an ally for a veteran. What it means to help and be an ally for a student with a disability. What does that look like? And you should educate yourself and not expect the population or the community to educate you.

How do you facilitate and promote discussions where everyone’s voice is heard respectfully?

The first step is to create a sense of belonging for everyone, to create a sense of “this space being really safe,” and most importantly to create a space where dialogue – respectful dialogue is the key – could happen. And how you do that is understanding and sit out in the front to say: “We will have different views, we will have different opinions, and that’s ok.” But how do we respectfully come to some type of halfway, medium, or some type of middle ground, where I can walk away and say “I heard you, I may not agree with you, but I heard you”?

Gender and identity have been strongly tied together for a long time, do you think we might be on our way towards a future where the two are completely separated, or do you think it’s impossible to have one without the other?

Social identity, whether that’s in gender, whether that’s in class, whether that’s mental health (we don’t talk about our mental health) – all of these are identities that people have to walk with every day. Like I said in the beginning, “I can’t take off one identity without being the other.” One identity may show itself as prevalent more in our lives, but we are who we are, we identify by how we identify. Whether that’s an identification that we have grown into, whether that’s an identification that we were born with, whatever that may be, or whether that’s an identity that we’ve educated ourselves more on – I think it is very, very important that we acknowledge that everybody has different identities. For us to try and put one identity against the other can be problematic in many ways.

Are there any exciting upcoming events or opportunities where students can learn more about equity, diversity, and inclusion that you can share with us?

We have the food bank that happens every Wednesday. We have multiple events that I hope that our office – the EDI office – is going to start promoting and letting the campus know about more and more on how to get involved and how to make sure that their voices are heard on campus. And for sure, once a month we will have an open dialogue discussing critical topics around diversity and inclusion, so be on the lookout for that. We’re excited!

Contact Information

Chapter Advisor Michaelann Allen:

Chapter President Veronica Carpenter:

Chapter Vice President of Leadership

Scarlett Nguyen:

Contact us if you have any questions via Canvas, via Facebook or talk to us at chapter meetings!

Meeting times

This quarter, we hold weekly meetings in the Baxter Event Center (CC1349A) every Tuesday from 2:30 – 3:30 PM.

Come by to join us if you have any questions on writing successful scholarship applications or volunteer opportunities to make our community a better place!