Ana Mari Cauce is the first woman, Latina, and lesbian to serve as permanent President of the University of Washington. Born in Cuba, where her father was the Minister of Education, Cauce’s family escaped the political turmoil there by moving to Miami when she was three years old. To support the family, her parents took jobs in shoe factories. They instilled in their children the importance of education, which has been in Ana Mari’s DNA ever since.
She joined the University of Washington faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor of psychology, researching mental-health interventions for at-risk youth. She has held numerous leadership positions at the University of Washington, including heading multiple departments, Provost, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, teaching and activism, including the much-prized Distinguished Teaching Award. As interim President, Ana Mari launched the Race & Equity Initiative, bringing together faculty, staff, and students to address issues around inequity and social justice. She has spoken publicly about her own experiences with prejudice as an immigrant and a lesbian. Her devotion to fighting social inequity runs deep, she says, in part because her older brother Cesar, a civil-rights activist, was killed in 1979 by members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.
She has also come out of the closet in another way: she is a proud member of the tribe of “nerds and geeks.” As she says, “Geek is the new chic.” Whether geeks or students of color, young women, LGBTQ, or all of the above, the students at the UW can count on President Cauce encouraging them to reach for their dreams and making them proud they all belong to the tribe of Purple and Gold.