Ekkarath Sisavatdy

First Term Ends 6/30/2020

Lao American by chance, love by choice, and Lao’d by necessity; Commissioner Sisavatdy was the last in his family of 10 to be born in Vientiane, Laos and a refugee immigrant to the US in 1978.  Known to many as simply Ekk, he has built a home and community in Des Moines, WA.  Ekk has worked over 13 years in higher education and is currently the Project Director for the Asian American, Native American Pacific Islander, Serving Institution (AANAPISI) at Highline College.  He graduated from Western Washington University with his Bachelors in Social & Political Effects on Southeast Asians in the US  – Go Vikings!  Ekk also completed his Master’s in Education in Higher Ed from Central Washington University – Go Wildcats!

His dad shared with him at an early age why it’s crucial to get involved and give back.  He said, “If you don’t care about your community, don’t worry, they’ll be many others that do, and most will come with good intentions, but not all.  Will you be okay with them speaking on your behalf and representing you in ways you may not feel is authentic and appropriate? Will you be okay that they don’t live your experiences, share the same values or truly don’t understand your community(s)?” These questions are what spurred Ekk to get involved.

He believes everyone is a teacher of humanity and all have enriching stories to share with one another. His mission is to provide space and opportunity for our communities to participate, share, and be heard.  As an Asian Pacific Islander, it’s important that we support each other and give back, especially to our underserved communities.  He is an active, co-founding member of the Southeast Asian Education Coalition (SEAeD).  Ekk currently also serves as commissioner of the City of Des Moines Arts Commission as well as a member of the Advisory Council for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center’s (SEARAC) “Moving Mountains” Equity Summit, and a member of the Asian Pacific Director’s Coalition.  Ekk has interned with SEARAC’s Leadership and Advocacy Training (LAT) program and Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc. (LEAP) Leadership in Action (LIA).  He has been a part of many clubs and organizations and has been a club advisor for the Lao Students Association, Khmer Students Association, Pacific Islander Students Association, Red Cross Club, and Cooking Club at Highline College.

Ekk believes that gratitude makes attitude, knowing our gifts is a must, mentorship is key because we can’t be what we can’t see and legacy work is truly heart work, and yes it’s all hard work!  He is a self-proclaimed groupie to two notable Lao organizations which he believes embodies this philosophy – the Pom Foundation’s Kinnaly Music and Dance Troupe, and Legacies of War.

Ekk adores his team at Highline and spending time with his fiancé, parents, siblings and 15 nieces and nephews. He also enjoys hanging with friends and is a sucker for home cooked meals and road trips!

Ekk has been featured in PRI’s The World and The Chronicle of Higher Education.