The UW’s new president, Ana Mari Cauce, is deliberate when she chooses her words. She puts a lot of thought into the things she says, frequently pausing mid-sentence. Her smile displays a clear passion for her job, coworkers, and the students.
Of all the UW’s presidents, she is the first woman, the first Latina, and the first to be openly gay.
“People have been taken that this appointment shattered a lot of glass ceilings, there’s a lot of firsts here,” Cauce said. “This is who I’ve been all my life.”
She said she understands how the firsts of being a Latina and a member of the LGBTQIA+ community are newsworthy, but it’s just a part of who she is.
In that same token, however, Cauce is very aware of her position.
“I take very seriously, and take pleasure in, the fact that if there’s any kid out there who is Latino, lesbian, trans, whatever, my being here gives them more confidence in how they can change the world and reach whatever position they want,” she said.
Roy Taylor, ASUW director for university affairs, has known Cauce for approximately a year, having first met her through the Provost Advisory Committee for Students (PACS).
“I think she’s in a very powerful position to set a precedent for how a university should handle making students feel included and safe and part of a community,” Taylor said. “And she’s really put in the effort to do that.”
Cauce said she is using her current spotlight to bring to light topics that the public doesn’t often think about.
Among those topics is the UW’s impact in Seattle.
“We are so much a part of this community,” she said. “I have this fantasy — and I’m not sure it’s realizable — where, just one day, everybody that’s been touched significantly by the UW, a student, a patient, if they could all turn purple for a day, there would be purple everywhere.”
“I mean, seriously,” she emphasized, “there would be purple everywhere.”
Despite her many achievements, Cauce is known for her down to earth nature.
“It’s been quite amazing,” said Elizabeth Pring, ASUW appointee to the PACS. “She’s stayed very grounded, incredibly humble. She’s true to herself and true to students.”
Pring said Cauce tries to bring in student values and perspectives. She is also always willing to get a cup of coffee with students and chat.
One thing that may come as a surprise is Cauce is currently researching at-risk youth of color. Her most recent study focused on Mexican-Americans in Sacramento.
She said she’s been doing work on immigration and acculturation for approximately 30 years, long before her presidency.
Cauce comes from an immigrant background and moved to America from Cuba with her family when she was 3 years old.
She said her family moved to America before the majority of Cuban immigrants came to the country. Cauce’s kindergarten teacher made her the liaison between cultures, translating for immigrant children and parents alike.
“Some people have described me as someone who brings people together,” Cauce said. “It comes from helping my parents understand the American culture.”
Taylor can attest to that statement.
“I remember being taken aback by how interested she is in getting to know student leaders,” he said. “She is very open and receptive to what I have to say.”
Tyler Wu, the new ASUW president, sat on the presidential search committee while Cauce was interim president.
“Ana Mari just hit every piece of that leadership profile we were looking for,” he said. “This isn’t just a win for the UW, but for students as well.”