Velma Veloria joins UW Honors to teach and engage

July 20, 2019

Velma Veloria joins UW Honors to teach and engage

The University of Washington Honors Program is proud to introduce Velma Veloria, Director of Advocacy and Mobilization for the Equity in Education Coalition, as our first Honors Curriculum and Community Innovation Scholar.

Velma smiling in front of trees
Velma Veloria on campus, 2019

This new faculty award, supported by private gifts to the Honors Program Fund, will bring in scholars from across the University and the broader community to develop and teach groundbreaking seminars and lead extracurricular projects through the Honors Program.

Veloria will bring decades of grassroots leadership and advocacy expertise into the UW Honors community next year through development and teaching an interdisciplinary course on civic activism with her colleague, Third Andresen, a popular lecturer in UW’s Comparative History of Ideas department. During her two-year appointment, Veloria will also create an anti-human-trafficking course and engage students, alumni and faculty in conversations and projects that underscore opportunities to be involved and make change.

Early interest in political activism

Born in the Bani municipality of Pangasinan, Philippines, Veloria emigrated to the US in 1962, and graduated from San Francisco State College in 1976 with a degree in Medical Technology. Upon graduating, she decided to visit the home country from which she had emigrated. During her trip, Veloria was confronted by martial law under the Phillipines dictatorship. Travelling the country and seeing the injustice among its people, she returned to the U.S. determined to make a difference.

Veloria joined the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), a group of political advocates focused on getting the US to cut ties with the dictatorship in power and to condemn the Philippine government. Veloria continued working with the KDP until the Marcos dictatorship was finally ended.

Veloria went on to serve as the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Washington State Legislature from 1992-2004. Representing the residents of south Seattle, Veloria advocated for affordable housing, workers’ rights, and racial justice. She was the prime sponsor of HB 1175, making Washington the first state to criminalize human trafficking at the state level.

Blazing new trails

As the Director of Advocacy and Mobilization for the Equity in Education Coalition, Veloria works to eliminate the racial and economic disparities present within primary education.

Veloria also co-chairs the UW Women’s Center Anti Human Trafficking Task Force, and serves in leadership roles within several nonprofits such as the Faith Action Network and the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC). Outside of her upcoming collaboration with Honors, Veloria is tasked with ensuring that the Filipino Community Village, a 94 unit affordable senior housing with an Innovation Learning Center, comes to fruition and runs smoothly.

In her own words, Veloria works through so many activist organizations in order to “ensure that we live in peace and social justice.” Veloria says she is excited for this chance to engage with the Honors community, stating that “this opportunity will test my ability to accept a challenge, move it forward, and set the course for future Curriculum and Community Innovations Scholars.”

“My own experience as an immigrant living with racism, discrimination, and American imperialism encouraged me to seek out leadership and advocacy opportunities,” remembers Veloria. “These experiences provided me an analysis that this democratic form of government is very well protected and any change will have to come from those most affected by racism, discrimination, poverty and American colonialism.”

Veloria sits next to Maria Elena Garcia, speaking into a microphone
Veloria, seated here with Professor Garcia, explained at our 2019 Honors Hearth: “I decided I would go into politics to make this country my home.” – photo by Stuart Danford

Although her official role in Honors does not begin until next fall, Veloria met with current and prospective students at our recent Honors Hearth on April 17. She told her story in conversation with Hanauer Honors Professor Maria Elena Garcia, responding to questions about growing up, making change and pushing through self doubt. She encouraged the audience of young people to connect with those who seem different, to give the benefit of the doubt as often as possible and to recognize that policy and systems are shaped and upheld by individual people.

She wants to facilitate that understanding and usher students into their own causes and methods for community organizing. There are a few spots reserved for incoming freshmen in Veloria and Andresen’s fall seminar: HONORS 394 A: Critical Community Organizing. Veloria says she is also excited to be a mentor on independent study projects and facilitate experiential learning opportunities as often as possible over the next two years.