Leading the Way

Lessons to learn from female role models after Women’s History Month

Assistant Head of School for Finance and Operations, Susan Lansverk has worked at University Prep for 16 years. In her role as the chief financial officer, she manages UPrep’s finances, investments and assets as well as overseeing strategic decisions such as purchasing property and building new buildings — like the new ULab. Additionally, Lansverk oversees the school’s IT department, overall facilities and legal representation.

Before coming to the school in 2007 under the leadership of Erica Hamlin, Lansverk had never worked for a female boss.

“Unfortunately, in a lot of companies, when you talk about the top leaders, there are still not enough women in those positions. It’s better, but I would have thought from when I was younger, that it would be better to where I am now,” Lansverk said. “But here at school, it’s terrific because we do have gender diversity.”

Lansverk believes gender diversity is important because it brings different perspectives and experiences to leadership teams. She also believes it is the job of female leaders to be role models for younger women and girls in the community.

“I think it’s sometimes hard if you’ve had to really work hard to not expect other people to have to go through the same thing,” Lansverk said. “But I do think it’s really important for women of are more at the end of their career, like I am, to really help smooth the path for other people.”



Director of Middle School Susie Wu came to UPrep in 2018 after working for Rainier Scholars for 17 years.

Wu joined a very male-dominated administrative team when she first came to the school. She remembers the pressure she felt working next to former Director of Upper School Ken Jaffe because of the large male presence he had.

“I had to make myself a big presence when I was with him or even when I was not standing in the same room with him,” Wu said. “I remember, especially in my first couple of years with Ken, physically, I had to, you know, kind of stand taller. I had to force myself to be much louder and more visible than I usually am comfortable.”

Wu said Jaffe was an excellent co-worker and mentor and believes that working with male leaders was beneficial because she was able to learn from their leadership styles.

“You know, I actually enjoyed working with all of these male leaders. Mr. Levinson helped me understand what this role was and Mr. Jaffe was amazing,” Wu said. “And, it is always really great, though, to have like somebody like Ronnie here now as a female head of school to be my supervisor.”

In her time at UPrep, Wu is proud of the ways she has gotten to know the Middle School teachers, increased communication with students and families and adapted to working with middle schoolers for the first time.



Eighth grader Huda Hassan is the president of UPrep’s Middle School. Hassan plans events alongside three other Middle School executives, advocates for her fellow peers, and looks for ways to improve her school community.

“My favorite part is the reaction from the students after planning everything because I try not to tell everybody, so it’s kind of like a surprise for them. It doesn’t matter what the reaction is, I feel really proud after seeing what I’ve done,” Hassan said.

She is also proud to be a leader for her peers.

“I think about this a lot. It really gets me uplifted and upbeat because I know that there are a lot of males in leadership positions, and it’s really fun to see other women in big leadership roles,” Hassan said. “Whenever I see a female CEO or something like that, that’s what I aspire to be: a strong person who identifies as female in a male-dominated society. I think it uplifts me and others at the same time.”

Hassan appreciates being able to see so many strong women at UPrep and believes it is important for young women and girls to see other women in positions of power.

“It’s a matter of representation,” she said.  “And there’s a matter of uplifting other people who we identify with so that younger people, especially Middle Schoolers when they see women in high roles are like, ‘Oh, I can do that too. I can aspire to do this.”