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Shawn Washington, EdD

After 13 years working in higher education, “Dr. Shawn” took a sideways leap into agency life, partly to support DH’s equity-based communications work. The move felt a little risky to Shawn as he said goodbye to the work, people and environment he knew. He’s since found a new home at DH.
Associate Vice President
Culturally responsive listener
Equity champion
Looking for commitment

Shawn’s new team often moves fast, a welcome change after academia’s slower pace. But what he really appreciates is the team’s thoughtfulness, even at a fast clip.

“I’m digging the mindfulness,” Shawn says. “People care about the work. They’re interested in the work. They’re committed to the work, and they’re interested in learning more to do more.”


Shawn’s take on:

Culturally responsive marketing.

Educators talk about culturally responsive teaching. Shawn is interested in culturally responsive communications and marketing, too.

Translated from education, culturally responsive marketing is about what we say and how we say it to diverse groups. As communicators, our first job is to understand the beliefs and attitudes that we bring to our work. But we also have responsibility to understand and respect what our audiences bring to the conversation: their histories, cultures, socioeconomic experiences.

It’s a process of listening and learning so we can speak to, and act on, what communities know.



Responsive means meeting the needs of the community after you ask what the needs are, not coming in and saying, This is what you need.

Supporting young people.

Shawn was a first-generation college student who went on the earn his doctorate in higher ed.

As the associate dean for student success and equity at Whitworth University, Shawn supported students in and out of the classroom — including first-generation students and others with experiences different from the university norm.

He helped students hone their time management and study skills. He also got to know their specific needs and challenges. He helped students living with food insecurity connect with programs to help them. He helped students who felt isolated build connections.

Equity means providing everyone with what they need to learn and live a healthy life at college. The concept extends beyond the university to any organization working toward DEI goals.

“Thinking about who’s missing – not just who’s here, but who’s missing?” Shawn says. “Focus on the inclusive piece, and work toward equity.”

Diversity statements that are more than statements.

As organizations continue to release and refine statements in support of diversity, equity and inclusion, Shawn warns against “performance activism.”

“You need to make sure what you say is what you mean,” he says. “Do those statements mean anything to the folks who work at your organization? What is the feeling? How is it important? What does this mean to them?”

Audiences are wary — and rightly so, he says — of statements that sound lofty but carry little weight: “People need to come from a sincere, humbled place and say, ‘We made some mistakes.’ They need to commit to actions.”

Doctor of education, higher education,
Concordia University-Portland

Master of arts, sport and athletic administration, Gonzaga University

Bachelor of arts, sociology, Whitworth University

Leadership & Volunteering

Pre-College Training Facilitator, ActSix Leadership Scholarship Program

Volunteer, Spokane International Academy

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