Most Influential

Most Influential, Education: Sheila Edwards Lange


By Chris S. Nishiwaki February 19, 2024

Sheila Edwards Lange

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

When Dr. Sheila Edwards Lange was appointed chancellor of the University of Washington Tacoma in the fall of 2021, she became the highest-ranking Black administrator in the UW system.

Under her leadership, UW Tacoma raised and diversified admissions as well as academic standards, buoyed by programs such as Pathways to Promise, and the Transfer Student Success and Equity Intensive. In addition, her advocacy for more Pell Grant funding, and with the support of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, increased federal funding for the Tacoma campus.

Edwards Lange collaborated with her counterpart at neighboring Pierce College, Chancellor Julie White, on the Transfer Student Success and Equity Intensive.

“One of the things that was most impactful for me as chancellor was sitting in a focus group with students who had transferred from Pierce,” Edwards Lange told trade publication Inside Higher Ed. “When we asked the initial question about what the process was like, they all had really good things to say, but when you drilled down more, they shared how difficult they thought it would be to get into UW Tacoma. We had not given our students enough information about the transfer process.

“(White) was already at Pierce, and Julie, we had worked together. The relationships between the leadership, and our teams, is what makes this work.”

That ability to build and sustain relationships has been the hallmark of Edwards Lange’s rise and success. She has held various positions in higher education, including as vice president of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity at UW’s Seattle campus; as president of Seattle Central College; and now as chancellor at UW Tacoma.

“It’s no surprise she’s been successful in every role,” says University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce. “She is strategic, hardworking, and determined, but also compassionate and caring and an excellent listener.”

Edwards Lange’s success has also been fueled by a spirit of innovation and social justice, and the rise of UW Tacoma has paralleled the renaissance of the city itself.

“Dr. Lange is adding depth to UW Tacoma as an urban-serving institution,” says Dr. Constance Rice, a UW regent and former president of Seattle Central College. “She has expanded programs for veterans and Indigenous populations. The students all praise her accessibility. We are very fortunate to have her.” Edwards Lange is among only a handful of Black women corporate board members in the state. She serves on the boards of Pugh Capital Management, the Seattle Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and AAA Washington. She also serves on the governing boards of several nonprofits.

In addition, she created a leadership group with the Washington chapter of the American Council on Education to train more women to become college presidents.

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