November 8, 2023

Event Recap | 2023 Leadership Awards & Celebration

On October 18, 2023, the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance hosted the Public Leadership Awards & Celebration at Town Hall.

Honoring Public Service

Thank you everyone who joined us for the Public Leadership Awards & Celebration. We launched the Public Leadership Awards in conjunction with our 60th Anniversary in 2022, and we will continue it annually going forward. In these times, it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the courageous leadership happening to improve our communities and transform our public systems. It’s a moment to celebrate and to learn together, and to recharge for the continued work ahead.

Throughout the evening, we had the opportunity to honor the work of our three Public Leadership Awardees Pa Ousman Joof, Anne Levinson, and Dr. Brent Jones. As Dean Jodi Sandfort shared in these challenging times, “it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the courageous leadership happening to improve our communities and transform our public systems.”

Celebrating Community

Expanding Pathways to Public Service

We also had the opportunity to watch a short video about Alex and Arielle’s experiences with the Evans School’s Junior Summer Institute (JSI) program this summer. We believe that access to a world-class public policy education should not be for the privileged few, yet we know many barriers exist and historical inequities persist. JSI is just one of the programs that Evans School is leading to expand pathways to public service and support students along a continuum of growth and learning.


It was an honor to celebrate the 2023 Public Leadership Awardees: Pa Ousman Joof, Judge Anne Levinson (ret.), and Dr. Brent Jones.

Dr. Brent Jones, Anne Levinson, and Pa Ousman Joof
Dr. Brent Jones, Anne Levinson, and Pa Ousman Joof

Community Catalyst Pa Ousman Joof

Research proves grassroots leadership is a critical component of any community’s wellbeing. The Community Catalyst Award recognizes a leader whose efforts impact not just any community, but one which they call home, too. This individual is celebrated for their consistent efforts to foster collaboration, amplify local voices with special attention to historically underrepresented groups, and maintain proximity to those who are impacted most by their work.

Pa Ousman Joof is the founder and Executive Director of the Washington West African Center (WAWAC). Since founding WAWAC in 2017 from his living room as a volunteer-run organization, he has worked to build the organization’s capacity, which now offers 10 key programs and serves more than 5,000 community members annually with a staff of six and a program center in Lynnwood. WAWAC provides culturally relevant services to the West African community in Washington, offering an After-School Program and Summer Camp for children, monthly Grandma hangout for seniors, Weekly Food Drive (Washington West African Market), Emergency Transportation, Language Interpretation/Translation, Outreach and Advocacy, A Drop-In-Center with case management with support for the West African community to apply for resources, including scholarships, jobs, unemployment, medical insurance and other government benefits.

Prior to founding WAWAC, like many immigrants, Pa worked various menial jobs and faced many struggles including eviction, disconnection of utilities, and no means to buy food or diapers for his children. Pa Ousman struggled and lived in fear of being deported for 18 years, only becoming a US citizen on September 7, 2022. These experiences inspired Pa Ousman to establish WAWAC to provide the services and support he needed but could not find as an undocumented immigrant to his people. Currently, Pa sits on several boards, including the Snohomish County Racial Equity Housing Advisory Board, City of Lynnwood Parks Love Co-Design team and Washington State Department of Health Collaborative Thought Partner, where he champions and advocates for Racial Equity.

Systems Changemaker Awardee Anne Levinson

The Systems Changemaker Award recognizes a leader with remarkable sensitivity to the future and courageous determination to do what is necessary today to inspire a better tomorrow. They use strategic and pragmatic leadership as a medium to create change. And while their individual influence can move mountains, this changemaker intentionally shares power and responsibility. They understand systems change is most achievable when conducted as a collective effort and are a trusted convener and facilitator of collaborative action.

For nearly two decades Judge Anne Levinson (ret.) has been an advisor to governments, non-profits, and foundations on issues including child welfare and juvenile justice, police accountability, campaign finance and disclosure, gender based violence, and gun violence prevention. Learning from research and the experiences of those most impacted, Judge Levinson leads multi-disciplinary reviews, builds coalitions, and recommends ways to redesign and improve systems, strengthen laws, policy, and training, and ensure effective implementation. She shepherded creation of a first-of-its-kind regional unit to more effectively implement court-ordered firearms removal from DV abusers and those at risk of harm to self or others; and comprehensive reforms of laws on protection orders, unlawful firearm possession, and oversight of law enforcement.

Previously, as a judge, Anne founded and presided over the country’s first municipal mental health court. She led consumer protection reforms and partnered with others to stop efforts to deregulate energy markets as chair of the Utilities and Transportation Commission. She chaired the Public Disclosure Commission, spearheading passage of legislation to strengthen the state’s Fair Campaign Practices Act, and co-chaired a bi-partisan blue-ribbon commission that recommended creation of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families. She served as a Special Assistant to Mayor Royer and as Deputy Mayor, Chief of Staff, and Legal Counsel for Mayor Rice, where she led several initiatives, including developing the first families & education levy, the first self-managed transitional housing for the homeless, the first transitional housing for women, enacting domestic partner benefits, reform of finance and contracting systems, and helped lead efforts to address the AIDS epidemic.

One of our state’s first openly LGBTQ public officials, she advocated for state laws providing rights and protections for LGBTQ individuals and families and chaired several campaigns that defeated attempts to roll-back those laws. During the litigation about relocation of the Sonics, she put together an all-female ownership group and led the negotiations to secure the Seattle Storm’s future in Seattle.

Anne graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Kansas and received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. She is also a graduate of the University of Washington Cascade Institute’s Senior Management Program.

Dean’s Leadership Awardee Dr. Brent Jones

The Dean’s Leadership Award celebrates an individual or group committed to equity, radical courage, and uncompromising servant leadership. This leader is not afraid to run against the grain where required to support human dignity, embrace diversity, and foster democratic ideals.

Dr. Brent Jones is a visionary educational leader committed to fostering the success of all students through transformative cultural shifts and the revitalization of PreK-12 educational systems. As the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, he oversees Washington state’s largest school district and champions an environment where every student can flourish.

With an extensive background in the public sector, Dr. Jones has cultivated a profound expertise in strategic planning, community engagement, change management, and human resources. His leadership roles span across notable institutions including King County Government, Kent School District, Seattle Colleges, Green River College, and the Seattle Public Schools system.

Notably, Dr. Jones has been instrumental in propelling Seattle Public Schools towards greater equity and innovation. He masterminded the implementation of a district-wide racial equity strategy, forging impactful public-private collaborations to expedite student advancement. Furthermore, his leadership culminated in the integration of racial equity considerations within collective bargaining agreements, the establishment of the Civil Rights Compliance Office, and pioneering initiatives in talent development and recruitment aimed at enhancing workforce diversity and employee engagement.

Dr. Jones has deep community roots and is a proud product of Seattle Public Schools and the University of Washington. He has earned master’s and Ph.D. degrees in Education Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Jones’ unwavering dedication to educational excellence, combined with his dynamic leadership, has left an indelible mark on the landscape of education in Washington state. His commitment to equitable, innovative, and inclusive education continues to shape the lives of students and educators alike.

Thank you for supporting the Evans School!

The evening helped raise critical funds to support the school’s mission of educating leaders, generating knowledge, and hosting communities to co-create solutions to pressing societal problems. It’s not too late to give and support this work – gifts of every size make a difference and are greatly appreciated!

Please visit our YouTube Channel to view the full program or select segments

Thanks you to our generous event sponsors