Alumni Blog

Alumni Spotlight: Nina Cataldo, '15

Posted by Seattle Universit Alumni Association on December 4, 2018 at 4:12 PM PST

Nina and three friends stand in front of a Christmas tree in Santa outfits.


I’m Nina Cataldo, Seattle University College of Arts & Sciences ‘15. While I grew up mainly in Portland, Oregon, I used to spend my summer and winter holidays traveling back to Tokyo, Japan to be with my mom’s side of the family. In college, I did a semester exchange at Sophia University in Tokyo. This experience landed me a job as an advisor and writer for a Japanese publisher, and so, I returned to Tokyo upon graduation. Although I grew up very close to my Japanese roots and traditions, it has definitely taken some adjustment to move back to Japan and navigate it as a working adult. One interesting aspect has been watching the whole holiday season unfold in the city.

It’s fascinating how Japan can be such a tradition-driven country, and yet, be so keen on adopting festivities from the West. In recent years, for example, Halloween has become the biggest celebration (probably even bigger than in the U.S.) around Tokyo. While the majority of this country doesn’t identify with Catholicism or much of any religion at all (because Buddhism and Shintoism are considered part of the lifestyle instead of religions), Christmas has also become a modern long-standing celebration in Japan. However, the culture and traditions around it are much different than in the U.S.!

Christmas in the States is about decorating the Christmas tree, attending mass, spending time with family, and sharing a meal with loved ones at home. I often associate American Christmas with a time of reflection, love, and peace. In Japan, Christmas has turned into a special date-night, mostly associated with a romantic time for couples to celebrate together, exchange gifts, and to enjoy the Christmas light illuminations all around the cities. These illuminations are incredible and each year their setup and shows seem to get more extravagant. The whole city is lively leading up to the Christmas day and all night long.

Another odd and commercialized tradition in Japan for Christmas is eating KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Japanese families and groups often need to put in Christmas day KFC orders weeks in advance or line up for long hours! My friends, whom are mostly expats, and I usually organize a get-together at one of our homes before many head home or away. We combine holiday traditions from our homes, like mulled wine and mince pies from Europe and a white elephant gift exchange. It’s nice to have friends who are like family when our own aren’t nearby, and the holidays are a great way to learn about various cultures while living in such a diverse city. All of this aside, Christmas isn’t recognized as a national holiday, so we work through the week or generally until the 28th of December.

Japan’s biggest and most important holiday is New Years; New Year’s holiday resembles more of the family time that Christmas or Thanksgiving has in the States. As a result, we usually have the whole first week of January off for the holiday. On New Year’s Eve, the whole extended family gathers at the (grand)parents’ home and shares a noodle cuisine called toshikoshi soba which translates to “overcoming the year soba (noodles)” with the noodles representing a long and prosperous year ahead. While some stay out for various countdown events, shows, and parties, many choose to stay at home and maybe pay a visit to the local temple or shrine for a prayer after midnight called hatsumode (first prayer). All the New Year’s Eve festivities or downtime is followed by a massive feast on New Year’s Day. The traditional osechi ryori “New Year’s cuisine” is prepared alongside other dishes that varies from household to household, and region to region. In my family, 16 of us gather at my grandma’s home and we order sushi, make katsu (pork and chicken cutlets), have a crab feast, and add a few other dishes like sashimi and kamaboko (fish cake). The feast is followed by lots of relaxation and food-induced naps, as well as massive sales, and more likely than not for me, a trip up to the snowy mountains for snowboarding.

The holidays are a hard time for many to be away from family, especially for people like me who are expats. But the holidays have been a great time for those of us who have become friends to share a piece of our home and traditions with each other. There’s nothing as touching and exciting as seeing new friends try a Thanksgiving feast for the first time, or seeing my Jewish friends eager for my reactions at my first Hanukkah festivities. This time of year is a reminder that we can create holiday cheer and adopt local traditions or make new holidays traditions no matter where we are in the world.

Justin Santiago, ’17: Creating Community for our Veterans

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, MBA '18 on November 1, 2018 at 1:11 PM PDT

Justin's headshot, wearing suit and tie

Justin Santiago, ’17, was a Master at Arms (military police officer) Petty Officer 3rd class (MA3) in the U.S. Navy before finding his way to Seattle University. “I was transitioning to life outside of the military and working as a driving school instructor. When I came across a student who was attending Seattle University, it all fell into place.” Justin shared, “The student said it was by far one of the best programs and schools he had enrolled in, so I decided to check it out.”

Justin considered the University of Washington, but it wasn’t the right fit. After Justin toured campus and spoke to professors and students, something clicked and he knew this was where he wanted to be. “I really liked the values of the university and how they focused on developing the whole person,” Justin shared, adding that he really identified with the school’s slogan at the time, “Inspired from above, ignited from within.”

During his time at Seattle University, Justin was a member of the Association of Latino Professionals For America and became involved in Seattle University’s Veterans Group. SU’s Veterans Group is based out of Seattle University’s Outreach Center, which serves as a resource and space on campus for members of the veteran community.

“I assisted with the first wreath dedication ceremony. This was incredible,” Justin said, explaining that the Outreach Center was looking for ways to commemorate Memorial Day. “I was inspired by wreath dedication ceremonies I’d seen in the Navy and I thought it would be something meaningful the university could do to honor the fallen.”

Today, Justin works at DocuSign as a member of the Financial Services team and is the president of the newly developed Veterans Alumni Group.
According to Justin, the main objective of the Veterans Alumni Group is to provide outreach and resources to alumni and students who are veterans, active duty and their dependents. Justin said, “We want to reach out to members of the SU veterans community and provide a professional network as well as support for those looking to transition to civilian life.”

The Veterans Alumni Group is looking to grow its base and engage more community members. As president, Justin encourages those interested in helping to solidify the mission of the group and learning more to reach out to PJ Graziani, Assistant Director in the Seattle U Alumni Association, at
Celebrate Our Veterans During Homecoming

Seattle University is honoring our veterans during Homecoming November 8-11. From fundraising opportunities and service projects to cheering on the Redhawks, there are lots of ways to celebrate our veterans during Homecoming. Check out just a few highlights below.

Saturday, November 10

Homecoming Day of Service
9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Seattle U/International District

One way that you can join our veteran community is to participate in Homecoming Day of Service with the Mission Continues. The Mission Continues empowers veterans who are adjusting to life at home to find purpose through community impact. Participants will conduct a neighborhood litter pickup and planting operation in support of the Danny Woo Garden. Register here.

Robert Bennedsen Veteran's Day 5K
9-11:30 a.m.
Seattle University

The run is free with a suggested donation of $15. Attendees who donate $15 or more will receive a limited edition SU challenge coin, while supplies last. Proceeds benefit the Veterans Emergency Fund. Bring your kids and dogs and run or walk the course. Register here.

Sunday, November 11

Men's Basketball Mega Rally and Game
6-7 p.m. Rally | 7 p.m. Game
ShoWare Center

We are showing our gratitude to ALL military & veterans by giving them 4 FREE tickets to our men's basketball game and rally. Sign up for your complimentary tickets and make sure to bring your Military ID in order to retrieve your tickets.

A complete list of Homecoming activities is available here.