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Dear Alumni and Friends,
It is time to put some myths to bed. Thomas Edison did not invent the lightbulb. Lizzie Borden did not take the axe. George Washington did not cut down the cherry tree.
And now yet another report, “How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment: A Report on Earnings and Long-Term Career Paths,” issued by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, supports what we’ve known all along. Liberal Arts majors do well economically, even in a difficult economy. Together, we can offer our children the freedom and opportunity to pursue their passions and grow through the discernment that comes from a rigorous liberal arts education.
This issue of our e-letter focuses on several aspects of that discernment. Philosophy Professor Jason Wirth, a Zen priest, discusses his approach to philosophy in the lifelong process of growth and development. MA in Psychology alumni set up a counseling and community center to meet the needs of a local community with scarce resources. Senior Stephanie Harruff raises awareness by “taking the plunge.” On May 21, we celebrate 20 years of educating leaders for a just and humane world at our Master of Nonprofit Leadership gala.
You’ll read here too about the Film & Family Homeless Project in our Center of Strategic Communication. Please join filmmakers and their student production assistants for a screening of their animated films work on Monday, June 2, at 4 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium.
With lectures, concerts, and events too numerous to list completely here, I encourage you join our College’s Facebook page, mark your calendars, and join us this spring.
I hope to see you soon.
David V. PowersDean
Six acclaimed Seattle-area filmmakers are creating four short animated films that illustrate the stories of Washington families who are homeless or living in poverty. Working with the fellows are Arts and Sciences students who serve as production assistants. This new Film & Family Homelessness Project, housed in the Communication Department’s Center for Strategic Communications, funded by a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant, seeks to ignite advocacy and change.
A free campus screening is scheduled for Monday, June 2, 4 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium. The four films will premiere at the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival Monday, May 19 and then travel around the state.
The four films feature the work of award-winning filmmakers: (1) Writer and director Heather Ayres and Emmy award-winning stop-motion animator Sihanouk Mariona animate conversations among homeless parents and children about the challenges of homelessness; (2) Amy Enser, a writer, director, and editor, and Drew Christie, an animator, illustrator and filmmaker highlight the difficulties of being a homeless teen; (3) Laura Jean Cronin Cronin, an award-winning filmmaker, artist, and producer at Reel Grrls, depicts prospective buyers walking through an empty home, seeing the family who once lived there, and remember the moments that led to them losing their home; and (4) Neely Goniodsky, who has produced and directed 16 animated short films, showcases the cycle of a family falling into homelessness and how they move out of it with a compassionate, supportive community and resources.
“The nature of animation gives filmmakers freedom to employ creative, artistic storytelling techniques while respecting the families whose stories are being told,” said Professor Barry Mitzman, center director.
Lindy Boustedt, a longtime Seattle University employee and a well-known independent film writer, director and producer with First Sight Productions, is the project manager.
“The fact that all four films will be animated is the most exciting part of the project,” Boustedt said. “It makes this project unique and is proving to be a wonderful way to approach the subject matter. We have a stellar independent animation scene here in Seattle, and I’m happy we get to shine a light on their amazing talents.”
The seven student production assistants are Bridget Baker, Photography and Digital Design major; Victoria Crim, Strategic Communications major; Nicole Scoble, English major, and Film Studies students Brian Cunningham, Tanya Evanchak, Sean Raffety, and Daniel Schiff.
You can follow the students and receive the most current information about the project on the Tumblr blog here.
By Tiana Quitugua, class of 2014
Photo Caption: Film director and SU Film Fellow Laura Jean Cronin sets up a shot on the first day on set. Project manager Lindy Boustedt (center) is producing the films. Photo by SU student Tanya Evanchak.
Growing up in San Francisco, Philosophy Professor Jason Wirth was exposed to Eastern traditions. Attending a Jesuit high school, he knew by his senior year that studying philosophy would be his life’s work. When he finished his doctoral studies, which focused on German and French philosophy, he immediately felt there was something profoundly missing.” He soon delved into the philosophies of indigenous peoples and Zen Buddhism. Today, as a philosophy professor and Zen priest, he brings a perspective to his courses that centers not on finding answers to some of life’s most perplexing issues but on asking the right questions.
Wirth encourages his students to cut through the barriers to living life philosophically, to embrace solitude, to open themselves up to the wisdom from the full range of traditions. The Greeks, for example, had some of the most profound writings on friendship and an “edgy” quality of not being afraid to look at difficult questions. Nietzsche warned against herd mentality. In Zen Buddhism, one must awaken the heart in addition to the mind. Wisdom traditions, including those in the Pacific Northwest, offer enlightened ways of living.
This past winter quarter, Wirth taught the Book of Job. With all the problems and pain Job experiences as a starting point, he opens his students to the very questions that Job asks. The material challenges the cliches that keep students from thinking seriously about the world.
“The Book of Job is really profound, but I have ulterior motives,” he said. “Sometimes we have a tolerance for half-baked lies and platitudes that keep us from thinking seriously about our world. Philosophy opens up in the spirit of Job. It requires students to cut though all those screens and half-truths that protect us from the very scary experience of thinking. It lets us get real.”
Wirth found in his study of Zen a way to fully awakening oneself, going beyond thinking into the heart.
“Even if your brain is smart, it doesn’t mean that your brain isn’t still neurotic,” he said. “People think Zen is about peace, about relaxation. If you want to relax, have a beer. If you want peace, practice Zen. It’s hard and takes time and effort to awaken the heart and the mind. That’s what Zen is about.”
Philosophy is a way to assess and gauge what matters in life, and Wirth encourages his students to continually ask questions: Who are you? What are the questions most worth asking in your life? What kind of life do you want? And if you want it, in what ways do you want that for everyone?
He leaves his students with this advice: “To live philosophically, be the change you want to see.”
Watch the video:
That someone who saw “Forrest Gump” 30 times would be a Film Studies major is not too big a stretch. That someone would jump into the frigid Puget Sound waters for charity requires a dedication beyond the ordinary. Welcome to the world of Stephanie Harruff.
Senior Stephanie Harruff has produced films, worked as an extra in movies, and volunteered in the pediatrics unit at Swedish Hospital while taking a full courseload. In her spare time, she also founded and now chairs Seattle University’s Special Olympics Club. On February 1, Harruff, club members, and friends headed to Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park to participate in the Polar Plunge, a Special Olympics annual event.
The day was cold, dry, and overcast. Thirteen club members, along with more than 150 swimmers from law enforcement and private companies, braved the 45-degree waters to support the athletes who compete in Special Olympics events throughout the state.
“My dad inspired me to volunteer with Special Olympics,” she said. “Once in college, I decided to start a student club for volunteering and fundraising.” For the Polar Plunge, the club raised about $2000.
Harruff, whose uncle has a disability, has made videos for Special Olympics, including one in which staff and Special Olympians invited singer Joe Jonas to come to an event.
“He didn’t come, but it was a fun project,” she said. “We all had a great time putting it together.”
Harruff, who works part-time as a producer and on-air personality for radio station 102.9 Now, is finishing up her major in Film Studies and a minor in Business Administration. After graduating in June, she plans to continue her career in radio, but not before passing the torch to Amanda Cowden, Psychology major, who will organize next year’s Polar Plunge.
In south Seattle lies Skyway, a community where a third of the households earn less than $35,000. Although the population is growing, services have not kept up. The Matumaini Counseling and Community Center is filling a void by providing mental health counseling to children, youth, and families. The center opened its doors in April.
Matumaini is the brainchild of James Norris, MAP ’09, center executive director. He enlisted the aid of longtime community mental health therapist Jerry Evergreen, MAP ’90, to serve as clinical director and brought out of retirement Joan Dinkelspiel, MAP ’01, who is the development director and a family therapist. Karin Hoggard, MAP ’09, rounds out the clinical staff.
Norris traces his decision to open the center in Skyway to his early years growing up in Los Angeles. There he saw his share of violence and lost lives.
“It was tough, it was challenging, but I had people who came into my life that encouraged me and showed me a different way--how to live and be successful and move forward,” he said.
After attending Western Illinois University and coming to Seattle, Norris enrolled in the MA Psychology program. He did his practicum at the YMCA with homeless youth who had aged out of the foster care system. Unlike a traditional setting for therapy, the drop-in center focused on creating an environment where a relationship of trust and respect became the entry point for therapy.
“That experience and my education brought me to this place to give back to young men, women, and children and give them tools so they can reach their goals,” Norris said.
With Evergreen, Dinkelspiel, and Hoggard part of the team, the center is bringing much-needed resources to Skyway youth and families.
None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support of Pastor Lawrence Willis of True Vine of Holiness Missionary Baptist Church in Skyway, which houses the center. Pastor Willis recognizes the importance of having local services in the community.
“One of the greatest needs in this community is mental health for our middle-aged young men, ages 22 to 32, because of the epidemic with PCP, with drugs, and how the community reacts,” he said. “Too many young men have been outcasts in their families, pushed to the side, and shunned. They need somewhere to go and someone to talk to. I believe in James and what the clinic can bring to this area, how it can heal the community and the families. I can pastor and preach, but he has the profession and education to work with that population.”
For Dinkelspiel, whose experience in community mental health includes working with homeless and drug-dependent adults, young children and their families, grandparents, and foster parents, the Matumaini mission and vision drew her readily out of retirement.
“This counseling center is important right now as youth and families in the inner city are moved through gentrification to outlying areas,” she said. “Many people are left without resources, and they deserve our support. I’m motivated to give back to our Seattle community,” she said.
Jerry Evergreen was a natural fit to serve as clinic director. With more than 25 years of experience in mental health as a therapist and clinic supervisor, he has developed policies and procedures that holistically address the needs of clients. For the staff of therapists and interns, he provided supervision on issues such as depression, anxiety, trauma, grief and loss, divorce and separations, and other family disruptions and transitions. Karin Hoggard, MAP ’09, completes the staffing. Hoggard has been a therapist at the Center for Human services where she worked with children, families and refugees.
Norris has big dreams for the center, hoping in five years to be a place with a full staff of therapists and student interns and where the community can come and feel connected.
“This is my responsibility because I was been given so much by others, people who invested me,” he said. “This is how I honor them—by investing in others so they reach their potential.”
James Norris, Joan Dinkelspiel, and Pastor Lawrence Willis
April 10: SU Graduate Programs Open House
April 15: English Professor Molly Clark Hillard reads from her new book, Spellbound: The Fairy Tale and the Victorians
April 25 & 27: Spring Choir Concert: “All God’s Creatures Got a Place in the Choir!”
May 1: “Imagining the World” International Photo Competition Reception
May 5: Guest Artist Violin Recital, featuring Satoko Sandy Yamamoto
May 7-18: Theatre presentation of “Big Love,” by Charles Mee, directed by Prof. Rosa Joshi
May 21: Master of Nonprofit Leadership 20th Anniversary Celebration, with keynote by SU President Stephen Sundborg, SJ
May 29 - 30: Africa Day Celebration, “Lessons from Our Revolutionary Past,” with keynote by Prof. Stephen Ward
June 2: Film & Family Homeless Project film screening
Details and more events are on the campus calendar. Click here.