Alumni Blog

Joe Schultz, ’06, Opens Home and Heart to International Student in Need

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on June 10, 2021 at 11:06 AM PDT

Alumnus Hameed Makttoff smiles in the sunlightWhen Joe Schultz, ’06, saw a Renton High School track coach’s Facebook post seeking a room to rent for an international high school student in need, he didn’t hesitate to respond.

“My undergrad experience at Seattle U inspired me to share my home,” Schultz explains. “I am from a culturally homogenous town in Montana and SU opened my eyes to a broader world of people, places and ideas, what we should expect of ourselves and of society. I wanted to help and my wife, Vanessa, and I had an extra room.”

The student, Hameed Makttoof, ’20, had escaped war-ravaged Sadr City, Iraq, and landed in Seattle via United Nations guaranteed safe passage. At the time he was 16-years-old, alone, illiterate and unable to speak English. A social services organization placed him in a group home with other youth in the foster care system and enrolled him at Renton High School as a freshman. He took three English Language Learner (ELL) courses each day and joined the cross country and track teams. He was a talented runner.

A year later, a frightening racist encounter with a group home employee drove him to seek new living accommodations. Makttoof moved in with Joe and Vanessa, both special education teachers at Chief Sealth International High School, as an18-year-old sophomore.

“We weren’t sure what our relationship would be—parental or landlord/tenant,” Joe says. But Hameed quickly became part of our family, and Vanessa and I became like an older sister and brother to him.”

The Schultz’s transferred Makttoof to Chief Sealth High School, which has a strong ELL program and one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse student bodies in Washington State. Joe and Vanessa took turns tutoring Makttoof at home, often one cooking dinner while the other worked with him. “Education was a beacon to Hameed, and he worked harder than anyone I’d ever met,” Joe says. In 2016, Makttoof graduated high school.

He enrolled at Central Washington University on a track scholarship, but the demands of college athletics and a heavy academic schedule became overwhelming, and his grades began to spiral downward. Always supportive, Joe told Makttoof about a Seattle U program he’d learned of called Fostering Scholars.

“I had read about the program in The Seattle Times and Seattle U publications,” he says. “Fostering Scholars appeared to provide a very supportive environment for promising students who had been in the foster care system and needed some extra support in transitioning to college life. The program provided financial, academic and personal assistance while students worked towards an undergraduate degree and navigated adulthood. It sounded like just the thing for Hameed. Plus, Seattle U is close to our home.”

Joe connected Makttoof with Colleen Montoya Barbano, director of the Fostering Scholars Program, and she was struck by Makttoof’s determination to do what it took to be at Seattle U. He returned to Central for a quarter and took the upper-level classes in math, science and psychology, his area of interest, that SU undergraduate admissions had advised, earning straight A’s. He applied and was accepted to Seattle U and the Fostering Scholars program as a transfer student.

In June 2020, Makttoof graduated from Seattle U in with a BA in psychology. He was on the Dean’s List and received the Bayanihan Award for Community Service and Involvement. Later that summer he was notified of his acceptance to graduate school at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he recently completed his first year in the PhD Clinical Psychology program. Makttoof received his U.S. citizenship in 2019.

The Schultz’s demonstration of the Jesuit value of cura personalis (care for the whole person) in their relationship with Makttoof and Joe’s role in connecting Makttoof to the life-changing Fostering Scholars Program are beautiful examples of how this alumnus engaged with the very heart of Seattle U.


Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge Comes to a Successful Close

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on June 10, 2021 at 11:06 AM PDT

Collage of Colina Bruce, the Alumni and Students of Color (ASOC) and Women of SU members

As the comprehensive Campaign for the Uncommon Good approached its final year, President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., challenged the Seattle University Alumni Association to engage 10,000 alumni with the university through connecting, volunteering and giving by June 30. We are proud to announce that 10,401 (and counting) alumni have joined the Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge! Thank you for making this initiative a success.

Over the past several months the SU Voice has shared stories of alumni responding to this challenge and below are three more examples of the impact our alumni have made in the last year. And if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to get involved, there are still a few weeks left before Our Moment for Mission officially comes to a close on June 30.

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Alumni and Students of Color: a new paradigm for community

Seattle University taught me how to create community. That’s one of its gifts to me. Everywhere I’ve gone in my professional life, I’ve created a community that provided the support I needed. Now I want to support others.

– Shasti Conrad, ‘07

A new alumni group is currently in formation at Seattle U, one that sets aside traditional structures associated with organizations in favor of community. Alumni and Students of Color (ASOC) will provide a safe, welcoming space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) alumni and students to mingle and engage in conversation with others who share similar experiences in grappling with race-related challenges both within a Seattle U context and beyond.

“So many of us are used to having to claim power in spaces or come in with an agenda in order to be seen or heard,” says ASOC co-founder Shasti Conrad, ’07. “That’s not what ASOC is about. We don’t want to be a performance-based group. It’s not about delivering specific results; it’s about creating space for it.”

Co-founder Rita Bruce, ’75, concurs. “We will lead with trust and move at the speed of trust in building community. It’s important that we form groups to “do,” but ASOC is forming to “be.” Out of “being,” and anchored in Jesuit values, we will serve. We are alumni-driven and will serve an untapped wealth of BIPOC alumni; through this service we will mentor and welcome-in students of color.”

While Seattle U does have established affinity groups for alumni of color, including African-American, Filipino and Indigenous alumni, ASOC is intended to serve as an umbrella community for all these groups, and to amplify what each group is doing.

“We’re greater together,” Conrad explains. “You need numbers to enact change. ASOC is also a place where alums can be honest about ways that Seattle U needs to grow and do better. How can SU demonstrate its commitment to being more equitable and create a platform to uplift alumni and students of color? ASOC provides a way for the university to be part of the solution at a time that we’re grappling with racial justice in this country.”

ASOC’s 15-member steering committee is comprised of alumni from different backgrounds who have been gathering virtually since the beginning of the year. Still very much in formation, ASOC hopes to begin active outreach in the fall.

For more information about Alumni and Students of Color contact Shasti Conrad, or Rita Bruce, 

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Colina Bruce, ’07, ’15, Supports Access to Education with Black History Month Periodt.

While isolating at home during the pandemic, many people discovered a new hobby that brought them joy and a renewed sense of purpose. Colina Bruce, ’07, ’15, decided to transform her hobby into a new home business. She launched Noir Lux Candle Co. on Labor Day, September 7, 2020, turning her love of handcrafting small-batch soy candles in joyful nostalgic scents into an online for-profit venture. It’s a new direction for Bruce, who has worked in the non-profit sector her entire career, but she’s not abandoning her roots.

Bruce partners with non-profit organizations, helping them to raise funds that support their mission through her “Candles for a Cause” collection. Each candle is themed and comes with a custom label. Bruce researches aromatherapy blends and essential oils to create fragrances she feels represent the mission of each partner organization.

Seattle University’s Black Student Union (BSU) is one of Bruce’s partner organizations. This year, BSU members decided to amplify the call for diversity, equity and inclusion through the university’s first Black-serving scholarship initiative. The BSU scholarship aims to help recruit and retain Black and African-American students with demonstrated financial need. The organization’s goal is to create a $200,000 endowed scholarship. Bruce serves as an advisor to BSU.

“I wanted to support the scholarship effort, so I asked the students if I could donate 10 percent of proceeds from a candle I would custom-make for BSU and promote on my website during the month of February, which is Black History Month,” she says. “They were excited about that.”

The candle Bruce created is called, “Black History Month Periodt.” The word “month” is intentionally crossed out. “We celebrate Black History Month every year,” Bruce explains, “but it feels like one month is not enough time to really dive into the accomplishments of Black folks. So rather than celebrating and amplifying Black History Month, I wanted to make the statement that Black history is history period, and we should acknowledge it year-round.”

The candle’s fragrance is called Caribbean teakwood, which contains amber, ginger and musk. “It really embodies what I think of when I think of Black culture,” she says, “strong, fragrant, diverse, complex, significant.”

BSU members also promoted the candle through their social media. A donor offered to match funds raised through candle sales throughout the month of February, which brought total funds raised through the candle funding stream to $1,000.00. Bruce plans to continue supporting BSU through sales of the Black History Month Periodt. candle each February.

Why is it important for Bruce to stay engaged with Seattle U as an alumna? “As a college student, I was always looking for mentors or for opportunities to network with professionals who looked like me, who had an experience that was similar or different from mine, and who was doing well,” she says. “It was encouraging and motivating. So now when I have any sort of platform, I want to utilize it not just to tell my own story, but to give current students hope and an opportunity to visualize their future selves achieving success.”

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Women of Seattle U Establishes First Alumni Community-Driven Scholarship Endowment

The Women of SU, an alumnae affinity group with a mission to lead, empower, serve and grow, aligned with the university’s comprehensive Campaign for the Uncommon Good in 2018 to establish an endowed scholarship for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Theirs is the first-ever scholarship initiative driven by an alumni community at Seattle U.

“The initiative evolved through our members’ desire to support current and future students while we also worked to build our alumnae community,” says Mary Gorjance, past president, Women of SU. “We looked to the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), given Seattle U’s enhanced emphasis on STEM education and the campaign’s initiative to build a flagship Center for Science and Innovation. When we also discovered that every department in the CSE at that time was headed by a woman, we saw our scholarship as integral to a Seattle U legacy of support for women and other underrepresented students in STEM education.”

The group’s fundraising efforts were complicated by the COVID pandemic, which eliminated in-person events. However, University Advancement’s annual Seattle U Gives fundraiser, which happens 100 percent online, provided an even more important stream of support during 2021.

“Seattle U Gives is a 24-hour grassroots, momentum-building event supporting a number of university funds,” says Gorjance, who currently serves on the Alumni Board of Governors. “Women of SU was able to promote our scholarship and inspire alumnae, family and friends to support it with whatever they could afford. We want our scholarship recipients to feel there are thousands of alumnae behind them as they pursue their studies at Seattle U.”

Seattle U Gives experienced its most successful year in 2021. A total of 22 gifts were made to the Women of SU Scholarship, unlocking an additional $5,000 challenge gift to the scholarship fund.

Women of SU has surpassed the required $50,000 goal to fully fund an endowment, raising $70,000 in under three years. The initial scholarship recipient will be announced in fall 2021. The alumnae group hopes to continue growing the endowment and the number of students it can help each year through future donor contributions.