“To be brave in challenging the status quo, to speak up for the voiceless … to believe in something bigger than yourself.”
This is how Leslie Ikeda, ’18, describes the qualities Gretchenrae Campera, ’08, brings to her work on behalf of marginalized students.
Campera is the assistant director for student success and outreach at Seattle University. She helped to envision and open The Outreach Center, which provides support for first-generation students and student-veterans. Her initiatives include a first-gen graduation celebration, First-Gen Week, and SALUTE, a student-veteran honor society. She elevates the voices of the first-gen community through Imprint: Narratives on the First-Gen College Student Experience, a compilation of creative and scholarly writing from our first-generation community.
“Gretchenrae’s most visible contribution to Seattle U is the uplifting of two of the most vulnerable student populations. … she was able to bring this community into one place, give them a space to call home on campus and allow them to express their experiences through writing and critical mentorship,” says Georgia Pirie, graduate coordinator for student veteran initiatives in The Outreach Center.
Tom Hove, the center’s VetCorps Navigator, adds, “Now, we have individuals coming to Seattle U because they hear we are a veteran- and military-supportive school. … Gretchenrae truly cares about the success and future of others.”
Campera, who identifies as queer, Filipina and first-generation, could have fallen through the cracks at Seattle U if not for her resilience and the guidance of professors and staff. With this support Campera stayed on track academically and got involved in student leadership opportunities. It’s this type of support that Campera provides students through her work with The Outreach Center.
Her current work reflects the support she received as a student, and she uses her current position to provide similar support to current students.
In a short time, she has blazed a trail across the country. At the University of Vermont, Campera earned a master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, held her first student affairs job and co-coordinated the Queer People of Color group. She earned the University’s Staff Leadership Award for her commitment to inclusion. At Boston’s Emmanuel College she worked in residential life, creating diversity trainings for staff and students.
The teachings of the Jesuits tell Campera she is on the right track.
“When I think about the Jesuit ideas of discernment and calling, I feel like the student affairs work is what I am meant to do,” she says. “This is what gets me out of bed in the morning, knowing I am doing my life’s work.”