Things are happening at the Seattle University Alumni Association (SUAA). Energy is building, connections are being formed and opportunities for growth, learning, engagement and service are being added continually as we strive to foster a tight-knit alumni community. All of this is to enhance the alumni experience for all SU graduates.
With so much going on, we wanted to take a pause and introduce some exceptional new members of our growing team. These marketing, engagement and philanthropy professionals are a pretty special group – and share a commitment to building authentic and reciprocal relationships with the Redhawk community.
Nicole Parker-Donaldson, ’21
Assistant Director for Student and Young Alumni Experience
Upon graduating from SU with a master’s degree in Student Development Administration, Nicole Parker-Donaldson expected to be working in the arena of diversity and inclusion. After all, her previous communications degree and more than two years of experience in SU's Office of Diversity and Inclusion lined her up perfectly to follow this path. But when a great opportunity arose at the SUAA, Parker-Donaldson realized her experience was highly “portable” and that she could apply her diversity and inclusion expertise to literally any career.
Working with alumni was not just any career choice, though.
Long passionate about education, as a young student, Parker-Donaldson realized all too well the many prejudices that create certain negative expectations in our society. She knew that as a person of color, she was not expected to achieve a high level of education. But she had other plans and a number of strong, positive mentors who helped guide her. In many ways, they inspired her to become a mentor and a role model in her own right.
These qualities and attributes are indispensable in her work with the SUAA as she builds bridges between students and alumni and creates programming for our newest graduates.
When Parker-Donaldson isn’t busy with her family, she enjoys writing and performing poetry and finding little moments of peace in natural spaces.
Aaron Zhao, '24
Graduate Coordinator, Annual Giving
Aaron Zhao was well on his way to earning a computer sciences degree when, as he stared fixated on a large monitor filled with cascades of numbers and codes, the thought occurred to him, “I’m not enjoying this. What am I even doing here??”
At the time, Zhao volunteered as a peer advisor to fellow students. He found that he reveled in the opportunity to help his classmates navigate through a variety of challenges and obstacles. It was a highly fulfilling experience and it’s where he began to discover his passion.
After completing his computer science degree program at the University of Washington as a first-generation student, he knew his path was headed in a different direction.
That path led him to SU in pursuit of a master’s degree in Student Development Administration. He knows he wants to work with students in some capacity, especially if he can help to guide and inspire them.
When asked what brought him to the SUAA, Zhao says, “As an undergrad, I received a lot of really great support and encouragement from alumni mentors. Now, I’m excited to be in a position where I can help to facilitate those same kinds of connections.”
He’s definitely in the right place for that.
Airi Tanaka, '24
Graduate Coordinator, Marketing Communications
Airi Tanaka has more than six years of marketing experience at one of the largest e-commerce companies in Japan, but she hopes to apply that knowledge—and the knowledge she gains as a Part-time MBA (PMBA) student at Seattle University—to a much smaller company.
Having come from a family of entrepreneurs, Tanaka hoped that her father’s and grandfather’s businesses would be kept within the family. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t happen. And so now, one of Tanaka’s career goals is to begin a new family tradition of passing down a business from generation to generation. She’s not sure, quite yet, what that business will be. But as an entrepreneurially minded person, she has plenty of ideas. Regardless of the route she chooses, the project will have at least one requirement, says Tanaka: It must contribute in a meaningful way to the betterment of society while providing opportunities for the less fortunate.
A self-described workaholic who excels in data analysis and the technical side of marketing, there’s hardly an SUAA touchpoint that Tanaka hasn’t been involved with during the past six months. If you’ve received a communication or message from us, it likely passed through Tanaka’s desk at some point.
Lucia Nava, '23
Graduate Coordinator, Alumni Engagement
Lucia Nava is pursuing a Part-time MBA (PMBA) degree at Seattle University while simultaneously working with the SUAA to assist in outreach and engagement efforts, grow and support several alumni chapters and coordinate with student alumni ambassadors.
This is Nava’s very first job in the United States. A native of Mexico City, she saw Seattle as a place of opportunity and moved here with her two children during the early stages of the pandemic.
“It’s been challenging,” she admits, “to come to a place where you don’t understand the culture and customs.”
This sentiment has often led to Nava feeling a step behind. She has faced a steep learning curve not only culturally, but also in terms of understanding the intricacies of how American universities operate. “It’s much different than Mexico,” she says.
Still, Nava and her family have found value and opportunities among the challenges. Her children have been enriched by the diversity of cultures in Seattle and her work at the SUAA has forged bonds that have led to a sense of belonging. And, in the long term, the insights she’s gaining at SU will enable her to better guide her children’s journey into higher education.
With backgrounds in nutrition, yoga instruction, international relations and business management, Nava brings a wide range of talents to the SUAA team.
We can find a common theme in the stories of Nicole, Aaron, Airi and Lucia—they all exhibit a deep desire to give back and to contribute in a positive, meaningful way. These traits are certainly not uncommon at Seattle University, but we still consider ourselves privileged to have such people on the SUAA team.
Collectively, Nicole, Aaron, Airi and Lucia:
- Represent four nationalities
- Speak six languages (English, Cantonese, French, Japanese, Mandarin and Spanish, plus a little Portuguese)
- Hold seven degrees, with three more in progress