Opportunity Scholar Stories

Meet Bryan Dosono, Opportunity Scholar Alum

Written by Veronica Craker

Graduating College Debt Free

In 2008, Bryan Dosono graduated valedictorian of Wapato High School, a huge achievement resulting from years of hard work. His formative years were nurtured in the Yakima Valley, a region renowned for its rolling fields of orchards and vineyards. Bryan’s childhood was shaped among these lands by his parents, Filipino immigrants who sought to provide their children with a prosperous future.

“My parents came here from the Philippines in the ’80s,” Bryan said. “I attended Wapato School District throughout K-12, and that was such an interesting time to be in Central Washington and get exposed to a unique richness of diversity.” While simultaneously enrolling in all available advanced placement classes at Wapato High School, Bryan also enrolled in the Yakima Valley College Running Start Program and Yakima Valley College Upward Bound Program to maximize his exposure to a variety of subjects not offered by his local school district. He led his high school’s student body as triple president of the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement Program, the Future Business Leaders of America, and the National Honor Society. Among his senior class, Bryan was voted the Prom King and “most likely to succeed.”

After graduating high school, Bryan enrolled at the University of Washington, graduating with his Bachelor of Science at the top of his class. He earned his college degree with no student loan debt thanks to several scholarships, including the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship.

“As a son of Southeast Asian immigrants who labored in the agricultural fields, I knew early on my family did not have the funds to help me afford college,” Bryan said. “I looked at this scholarship opportunity as another way I could acutely focus on my studies so that I wouldn’t have to juggle a fourth, fifth, or sixth job to fund my education.”

Bryan says being an Opportunity Scholar allowed him to focus on school full-time.

“If I didn’t have that financial security, my mind would be whizzing with questions like ‘how am I going to pay for my next meal’ or ‘how am I going to fund the next quarter of college?’ Just alleviating that monetary burden was so important for my holistic wellness,” he said.

During his final year of college, Bryan was selected as the UW’s Homecoming King and recipient of the President’s Achievement Award conferred by the UW Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity.

Transitioning from the Yakima Valley to Silicon Valley

Since then, Bryan has earned his Ph.D. in Information Science and Technology from Syracuse University. Before earning his doctorate, he served as a Google Policy Fellow, became a youth ambassador for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and completed a Virtual Student Federal Service internship with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Shortly after graduate school, Bryan worked in the startup scene in San Francisco, starting as an Experience Researcher at Airbnb. Today, Bryan works at eBay as a senior design researcher and volunteers his time mentoring younger professionals trying to break into the tech industry. The path from the rich agricultural lands of Wapato to the bustling concrete jungle he resides in now was primarily shaped by the disparities he witnessed from living in a rural and economically disadvantaged area.

“My family did not have reliable access to the latest hardware or software, so if I needed to submit a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document, I’d have to allocate extra time to take care of that at a public library because I knew I couldn’t do that at home,” Bryan said. “That inequity provoked me to question how we can improve technological infrastructure to economically empower our own communities.”  

While an undergrad at UW, he conducted research that enabled him to return to the Wapato School District and interview school leaders to understand their plans for digital inclusion.

His paper, “Digital Inclusion for Migrant Millennials: Improving the ICT Landscape of Yakima Valley Schools,” examined the benefits of information and communication technologies to vulnerable populations such as low-income families, residents of rural communities, seniors, disabled citizens, at-risk youth, immigrants, refugees, and people of color.

“It felt like a full 360 experience to interview my school district administrators and share those findings across different conferences and gatherings to humanize the need for digital inclusion,” Bryan said. He credits his preparation for graduate study to his involvement with Federal TRIO Programs like Student Support Services and the Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program.

Rooting Excellence in Identity

In his graduate research training, Bryan conducted a social computing study looking at online communities and Asian American groups. “There are hundreds of thousands of online communities on platforms like Reddit, and because I was intrigued with unpacking the complexities of the Asian diaspora, I found Reddit to be an interesting site to study collective action. Given the backdrop of the 2016 US presidential election year, it was a fascinating time and space to understand what kind of conversations were going on in the public sphere.”

During the height of intersectional social justice movements, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, Dosono noticed something peculiar happening on these Reddit sites.

“I observed how certain online communities were decolonizing their sense of collective self through public discourse,” Bryan said. “From that, I was able to not only analyze the types of content deliberated on these different Asian American online communities, but I was also able to speak one-on-one with the folks who moderated these online communities and illuminate the struggles they were encountering with keeping their space alive.”

A chapter of his dissertation, “Decolonizing tactics as collective resilience: Identity work of AAPI communities on Reddit,” won a Best Paper award from the Association of Computing Machinery—a spot that is typically awarded to only one percent of peer-reviewed journal submissions.

Bryan says this experience has helped to inform how he approaches his work today. With his lived experience as a first-generation college student from a rural area and his critical lens as a researcher, he can approach his work in an impactful way for designing technologies that improve the quality of life for marginalized groups. “The 509 raised me, but the 206 made me,” he said jokingly about his former area codes. “Even though I grew up in Wapato, Seattle is where I learned to navigate capitalist systems as an adult. Seattle is such a thriving tech hub, and while I live in New York now, Washington will always be home.”