Michael Young, University of Washington President
“China has an enormous population with enormous needs. These vast needs are an excellent opportunity for joint research and teaching projects.”
~Michael K. Young, President, University of Washington
The University of Washington is the USA’s top public university (2nd among all universities) in attracting federal research funding. It has several campus locations in the Seattle region.
Michael K. Young became President of the University of Washington on July 1, 2011. Also a Professor of Law, President Young has a distinguished record as an academic leader with broad experience in public service and diplomacy.
Prior to his appointment at the UW, he served as President and Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Utah. Under President Young’s leadership, Utah raised its stature nationally and internationally. It led the nation in the number of new companies generated from university research, significantly raised the academic profile of the student body.
Before assuming the presidency at Utah, he was Dean and Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence at the George Washington University Law School. He was also a professor at Columbia University for more than 20 years.
President Young is a graduate of Brigham Young University and Harvard Law School and has broad experience across legal, public service, and diplomatic arenas. He served as a law clerk to the late Chief (then Associate) Justice William H. Rehnquist of the U.S. Supreme Court. He has held numerous government positions, including Deputy Under Secretary for Economic and Agricultural Affairs and Ambassador for Trade and Environmental Affairs in the Department of State during the presidency of the first President Bush. He also served as a member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1998-2005 and chaired the Commission on two occasions.
He has published extensively on a wide range of topics. Topics include the Japanese legal system, dispute resolution, mergers and acquisitions, labor relations, the legal profession, comparative law, industrial policy, international trade law, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), international environmental law and international human rights and freedom of religion.
President Young is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Married to Marti Young, he has three grown children, a teenage step-son, and five grandchildren.
Q: What does your job mean to you personally?
A: It is a great privilege. The University of Washington is one of world’s top universities. It has a vast number of immensely talented people teaching and learning in a highly collaborative environment. The research conducted here addresses some of the world’s great challenges.
I believe very strongly in the public mission of the university. I particularly like the wide diversity of the student body and that we make higher education accessible to students from all economic backgrounds. I couldn’t think of more fulfilling job. This job gives me immense satisfaction every day.
Q: Is there anything in particular that makes you successful in your job?
A: In a word: people. Leading a great university requires people with specialized expertise in key leadership positions, both within the university and among the university’s alumni and friends. I am fortunate to have inherited a very outstanding team of colleagues in administrative and faculty leadership positions, as well as in the community. It would be impossible to do my job without them.
Q: What are your priorities in growing the UW, particularly with respect to new research and technology commercialization?
A: The UW has tremendous strengths in research. The New York Times once called the University of Washington a “research colossus.” I think that term gets it exactly right. We’ve been America’s top public university in competing for federal research funding for the past 38 years.
The UW also has a strong track record in putting that extraordinary research enterprise to work for the good of our state. In large part, this is because the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) has developed an innovative and aggressive approach to moving discoveries with commercial potential from our labs to the marketplace. More than 250 companies have already been founded based on UW research.
I think we can do even better. Over the next few years, our goal is to double the number of new companies spun out by the UW. We plan to create a new culture of entrepreneurship. We will do this with public/private partnerships, creating on-campus incubator space for new companies, and more effectively putting our talented students to work on real world problems. We’ve already taken some big steps in this direction.
In February 2012, we opened the New Ventures Facility. This business incubator provides UW start-ups access to critical lab and office space on our Seattle campus. We are also working on a first-of-its kind venture capital fund that will help promising start-ups overcome one of their biggest obstacles: the lack of early-stage capital. I am very excited about the potential of these efforts to both create jobs and improve lives.
Q: How would you explain the UW as a leading global research institution to someone from China?
A: As I mentioned earlier, the UW has an enormous research enterprise. This translates to an even more enormous impact that is felt both locally and far beyond. Part of this impact is economic. Indeed, the UW is a highly powerful economic engine, generating more than $9 billion in annual economic impact for the state of Washington and supporting 70,000 jobs. Perhaps more important, however, is the impact our research has on lives around the world.
Much of the UW’s research focuses on the development and creation of new technologies. We foster significant advancements in areas such as global health, bio-medical sciences, clean technology, environmental engineering, and computer science. Through the UW’s ongoing development of new research and projects, as well as the commercialization efforts that are being established the UW is able to maintain its leadership in technology and innovation and provide expertise and talent to numerous local companies such as Microsoft, Amazon and Boeing. The talent includes 15,000 UW graduates each year.
Q: With respect to China and East Asia, what opportunities do you see there?
A: The UW has always had a strong presence in East Asia through an influx of Washington State trade, development and cooperation in the aerospace, transportation and energy sectors, and through the exchanges of scholars and experts. International students alone have contributed over $463 million to the Washington State’s economy, with the UW hosting the greatest number of these students. The UW has also established training and degree programs that have made it a leader in entrepreneurship and innovation, including interdisciplinary research that involves many cross-border partnerships with industries and universities abroad.
China is one of our world’s fastest growing market economies. With one in three Washington State jobs tied to international trade, it is incredibly important for higher education to develop new student talent to have broader cultural understanding in working with institutions and businesses abroad.
China has an enormous population with enormous needs. These vast needs are an excellent opportunity for joint research and teaching projects to be conducted in the fields of biotechnology, medical technology, global health and environmental reforms.
Collaboration and effective sharing of knowledge between the UW with institutions throughout China and East Asia are essential.
Our global concerns are shared concerns. At the UW, we are very focused on environmental sustainability, global health and regional economic development. These match the needs of China, which range from food safety to environmental cleanup to medicine and technology.
Having these partnerships in China and East Asia will provide UW students with the opportunity to gain an education that will prepare them to have diverse perspectives and preparation for the dynamic way we communicate and innovate in our fast paced and changing world. These partnerships also provide a foundation on how relations can be built through higher education, business, and industry.
Technology and commercialization are also inextricably linked to Washington State’s vision of prosperity. The Bellevue-Seattle region in particular acts as a hub for technology research and creations of new industries around technologies. Today, it can be argued that China is our region’s most critical trading partner, generating over $20 billion in revenue each year.
Please also see the University of Washington profile on BellevueCN.com.