SU Voice Alumni Blog

Alumni and Students of Color Host First Event at Homecoming

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on October 7, 2021 at 12:10 AM PDT

Meet our newest affinity group, the Alumni and Students of Color (ASOC), at their first social before the Homecoming Rally and men’s basketball game. ASOC provides a safe, welcoming space for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) alumni and students to join in community with others who share similar experiences in grappling with race-related challenges. Join the founding members and find out how you can get involved!

DATE: Sunday, November 14
TIME: 3-4 p.m.
WHERE: Climate Pledge Arena

Your registration gets you three events for the price of one—the ASOC social, Homecoming rally and men’s basketball game against Idaho State in the ASOC seating section. And you’ll make history as you cheer on your Redhawks at the first basketball game ever played at the new Climate Pledge Arena.


Climate Pledge Arena requires proof of vaccination and that masks are worn indoors at all times.

Register now!

The Inauguration of Eduardo M. Peñalver

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on October 7, 2021 at 12:10 AM PDT

On September 23 and 24, Seattle University celebrated the inauguration of its 22nd president, Eduardo M. Peñalver. Festivities began Thursday with the Inauguration Mass at St. James Cathedral. The Most Reverand Paul D. Etienne, Archbishop of Seattle, served as the celebrant. Jesuits West Provincial The Reverand Sean O. Carroll, S.J. gave the homily and missioned President Peñalver.

The inauguration ceremony took place Friday morning at Benaroya Hall. With dignitaries from universities across the country in attendance, blessings were offered, musical performances were enjoyed and speeches offered gratitude and advice for our new president. The highlight was Peñalver’s powerful speech setting the direction for Seattle University while exploring the juxtaposition of our university being innovative and progressive as well as Jesuit and Catholic. He used Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ art entitled “Somewhere Better Than This Place/Nowhere Better Than This Place” as his theme to reconcile this tension. Peñalver concluded his speech saying, “I will work tirelessly to ensure that for Seattle University’s second 130 years, there will be nowhere better than this place to imagine somewhere better than this place.”

The President’s Inauguration website has the full text of Peñalver’s speech, a highlight video, full event videos and photos.

Teresa Blanco Olympio, ’06, Shares the Impact of Life Lessons and Networking In Her Remarkably Successful Career

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on October 7, 2021 at 12:10 AM PDT

National Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, recognizes the contributions of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture and achievements of the United States. Seattle University is blessed by the many promising Hispanic students and accomplished alumni who have spent their student experience on our campus. Teresa Blanco Olympio, ’06, is one of these alumni. She began her life in a remote village in the mountains of Mexico and now at 39, serves as the Senior Director, BCA Production Systems at The Boeing Company, the first and only Hispanic female to hold this senior executive-level position in manufacturing in the company’s history. She also serves on Boeing’s first Racial Equity Task Force, a team of 25 company-wide leaders who are driving the company’s racial equity strategy in direct partnership with CEO Dave Calhoun and the Executive Council. Olympio credits life lessons learned and the power of networking in her professional success.

Humble Beginnings
Olympio’s parents migrated to the U.S. from Mexico in 1979. Unable to speak English, they found work in orchards and packing sheds in Chelan, Wash. Teresa is the second of the couple’s five girls, all born in the U.S. However, because their parents couldn’t afford childcare, the girls were sent to live with their grandparents in the village of San Jose de la Montana in the Mexican state of Michoacan. They attended school in Chelan starting in the first grade but returned to Mexico each summer until middle school when they became involved in sports and other activities.

“I remember my first days of school vividly,” Olympio says, “because they were very painful. I felt excluded because I couldn’t speak or understand English.”

She didn’t like attending ESL classes so in a demonstration of the “can do” attitude that would underly her future success, Olympio learned the language quickly, and by second grade was no longer in ESL classes.

Olympio’s inspiration to attend college was influenced by her college-bound friends. She’d never had a mentor and no one in her family had ever talked to her about careers. She visited three universities while in high school, Gonzaga, the University of Washington and Seattle U, and decided Seattle U was the place for her.

“I chose Seattle U for a lot of reasons,” she says, “It was in a big city, but the campus didn’t feel like a big city. People were friendly, and on the campus tour the leaders talked a lot about the community and giving back, which resonated with me. Also, I grew-up in a Catholic family, and the school had values similar to my own. It was the right fit.”

She applied to Seattle U and was accepted.

Tough Situations
I always tell folks, when in a tough situation, you can choose to make the most of it or let it impact you in a negative way. I’ve never been a negative person, so the only option I ever see is to make things work.

Teresa Blanco Olympio

Throughout high school, Olympio had been active in Future Farmers of America (FFA), competing in speaking events at the national level. This experience would serve her well in her professional career. She ran for FFA Vice President, a state office, during her senior year and won. It was a fantastic leadership opportunity, although it would delay her college start for a year.

Then, a few months before the end of her term, Olympio became pregnant. She resigned her office, moved out of her parents’ home, rented an apartment and began working fulltime at Farmers Insurance. She had to put the well-being of her daughter first.

Things were tough, but Olympio’s dream of attending college remained alive. With the support of her sisters who helped with childcare and an understanding boss who allowed for flexibility in her work schedule, she enrolled fulltime in Wenatchee Valley Community College. After two years she graduated with honors and an AA degree.

On to Seattle U
Pursuing her dream of a four-year degree, Olympio transferred to Seattle U as a junior majoring in business. Her parents offered to care for Jomary, Olympio’s young daughter, in Chelan so she could focus on school. Olympio financed her Seattle U education with scholarships, student loans and part-time jobs. She lived on campus and studied hard during the week, then traveled to Chelan on weekends to be with her daughter. After two years, she graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Business Administration. She remained engaged with Seattle U for a time, serving on the Alumni Board of Governors

A Meteoric Career Trajectory at The Boeing Company
Olympio’s Boeing career began shortly after graduation with a tip from a Seattle U graduate student she’d met who was a Boeing employee. The grad student was moving to another position and encouraged Olympio to apply for her old job as a cost estimator in the Interiors Responsibility Center. Olympio interviewed for the position and was hired.

Over the next 15 years, she rose quickly through the ranks at Boeing, learning the entire value stream of supply chain. In her first supply chain post, she worked directly with executives, one of which encouraged her to apply for Boeing’s Leadership Development Excellence Program, designed for employees with future leadership potential. She was accepted into the program, a two-year opportunity to learn and network.

After graduating from the leadership program, Olympio was rotated to a position in the factory where she came to fully understand the production system: how airplanes are built, how quality control works, supply chain and what happens when mechanics don’t have the parts they need.

“The person who made this rotation happen was an executive I’d met in my first couple of years at Boeing,” she says, “The power of networking can’t be overstated! I grew some really tough skin in this position. I got yelled at by both sides, but I loved being in the factory because there’s so much going on.”

After two years in the factory, another mentor told Olympio it was time she got some hands-on experience in procurement. She moved to the 787 program, working with airline customers and designers, managing projects to deliver the interiors that customers wanted. This position, Olympio shares, added another layer to her tough skin.

“I do well in high stress situations with complex integration,” she explains. “As a procurement agent I had to pull together engineering, supply chain, manufacturing and multiple suppliers. I moved my desk right next to our engineering team because it was the best way to learn the technical side.”

During this time Olympio joined Boeing’s new Emerging Leaders Program. She was very active and vocal, helping to design the program and pave the way for future emerging leaders.

After completing the program, her career trajectory moved into international work. Olympio’s first managerial role in procurement required travel to Germany, New Zealand and London. After a couple years, she was promoted to Senior Manager, Field Operations in Japan. Still in her early thirties, Olympio was the first female ever to hold this position.

“It was challenging to work in a culture where there aren’t a lot of women in leadership positions,” she says. “But I knew what I was doing and I worked hard at solving some quality issues with our Japanese suppliers to get the product out the door while earning the suppliers’ trust.”

During her time in Japan, Olympio remained connected to her U.S. teams in Everett, WA and Charleston, NC. “I’d observed that when you go out in the field and stay too long you can get “lost” in terms of being considered for career progression opportunities because you’re not present,” she says. “I didn’t want to get lost.”

After returning to the States, Olympio wanted to get back in the factory and requested a rotation into fabrication. “I wanted this rotation because I think that salaried employees tend to lose sight of the challenges that hourly employees face. The environment is very different than in the salaried world. I wanted to get that hands-on experience with our union representative, work through a grievance and learn about union language and contracts. The only way to do that is to live it, so I did for one year.”

Olympio’s leadership style was getting noticed at the executive level, and her name began to be put forward on interview slates for executive positions. The first executive-level job she landed was as a director with a newly formed enterprise team, Global Field Operations. She was charged with setting-up new structures that entailed a lot of integration, calling upon her experience in supply chain, field operations and international. From there she was interviewed for another promotion.

“The hiring manager was looking for someone with deep manufacturing experience,” she says. “I hadn’t grown-up in manufacturing, but my approach was to talk about my diversity of experiences in which I’d accumulated more experience than a traditional manufacturing leader. I’d spent time in many factories and understood production systems.”

This successful interview landed Olympio her current position of Senior Director, BCA Boeing Production Systems. In a span of 18 months, she’d been promoted from an entry-level executive to a senior executive.

She again emphasizes the power of networking. “The reason my name was placed on that interview slate was because a Senior Vice President in my network brought it forward in discussion. I am the only person under 40 and the first and only Hispanic female in manufacturing to achieve this executive level.”

Shortly after starting this new position, Olympio was invited to participate on The Boeing Company’s first Racial Equity Task Force.

“When I joined Boeing, there was no one who looked like me in senior executive roles,” Olympio recalls. “Now I’m here, and when new Hispanic employees come in, they can see someone who looks like them and who shares a similar background and I think that’s powerful. I have a platform that’s not available to a lot of leaders who look like me, and if I can use that platform and my voice to raise others up and show there is a path for them from management into executive positions, then that is success.”

Re-engaging with Seattle U
This fall, Olympio will return to Seattle U as a mentor for students in the Albers School, helping them to hone their business acumen. “Seattle U provided me a superior education that I don’t believe I would have received elsewhere. I appreciate all the time my professors took to answer my questions and open my eyes to issues around work that are not in the textbooks. My Seattle U education is the foundation to my career success. I look forward to mentoring business students, some who may be future Boeing employees.”

Class of 1971 Sweethearts Reflect on their SU Journey and Look Toward Homecoming

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on October 7, 2021 at 12:10 AM PDT

As the Seattle University Alumni Association gears up to celebrate the Class of 1971 (and beyond) at the 50+ Reunion during Homecoming (Nov. 11-14), we took a moment to connect with Jim and Carolyn Coe, two married Class of 1971 alumnae currently serving on the planning committee. Carolyn, ’71, was an intensive care nurse for 44 years and Jim, ’71, was a high school teacher and assistant principal. Though they live in California’s Bay Area, thanks to the power of regional events—and more recently Zoom—they’re able to stay connected to the university and decades of Seattle U classmates.

Looking toward Homecoming next month, Jim and Carolyn reflect that “SU gave us not just our educations, but friendships and connections that have lasted a lifetime. Whenever we attend Alumni Association events, we meet old and new friends—it’s a special feeling and we have a lot of fun. It also keeps our school spirit alive and helps spread the word about the university. Even here at home, we love running into people wearing their SU gear out and about. Everyone experiences the university in their own way, but we’re all united by how holistic and inspiring those experiences were. The more that we can help people hear about SU, the more this opportunity can be extended to others!”

Jim chose SU after receiving a scholarship that covered tuition for all four years. Carolyn was encouraged to look into SU by a friend who had a Jesuit family member teaching at the university. She then chose the university for its comprehensive four-year nursing program, which offered more breadth and a deeper patient-centered, holistic approach than the popular two- and three-year programs of the day. As an English education major, Jim also enjoyed his program’s “whole-person” approach—eventually. “We had to take five philosophy and four theology courses! We all cursed it because we just wanted to get to our major-specific coursework, but looking back I really benefited from those. That background knowledge added a lot of depth to my understanding of literature and improved the way I taught it.”

Jim and Carolyn met sophomore year after arriving to a university dance at the same time. They also eventually took a psychology class together, where Jim trained a fish to swim through a hoop but Carolyn found her success cut short—and her fish in literal hot water—due to an overly aggressive Bellarmine radiator. Squeezing in time together in those days was difficult. Jim would finish classes, do homework and then head straight to his evening job. And, until moving into apartments their senior year, the mingling of different genders was tightly controlled on campus through single-sex dorm buildings and strict curfews. But Jim and Carolyn found opportunities to steal time together: visiting the Student Union, attending movies and Alpha Phi Omega events, cheering on basketball games, participating in book sales and blood drives, and walking through campus as the leaves turned fall colors—even enjoying Carolyn’s first ever snowfall together.

After graduation, Jim and Carolyn had to move to Yakima to find employment opportunities, but they still kept in touch with their faculty mentors. “We graduated during a tough time for Seattle, amidst the Boeing bust. Even though we had to move, faculty encouraged us to continue our intellectual and professional development, wrote us notes, and even visited from time to time.” Jim and Carolyn went on to have three children, including a son who graduated from SU in 2000. “He toured and got into a lot of great schools, but SU was his favorite because of their well-rounded approach. Some of his siblings’ experiences felt like a cattle call more than a classroom—nothing personal and kids just packed into rooms—but his worth as an individual was recognized at SU. He loved the balance of technical and liberal arts education in his biochemistry program, as well as the tight-knit cohort of the Honors Program. His wife is an SU graduate as well! We’re really grateful for the care and the great education he received.”

Jim and Carolyn have been giving back to the university, through small but impactful gifts and volunteering, for a whopping 44 years. Because of his full tuition scholarship, Jim was able to graduate without debt. He understands first-hand the difference this makes for students and young professionals, and wants to be part of increasing access to that opportunity for more Redhawks. Jim and Carolyn also support the basketball program, thankful for the excitement it brought them as undergraduates and the continued yearly opportunity to get together with friends and fellow alumni for Bay Area games.

The couple is greatly looking forward to Homecoming’s festivities next month. “Whenever we’re able to visit Seattle, it’s an amazing feeling walking through campus and seeing how it has changed—more student housing, the updated library, the construction of the Law School, the Student Center, and now the Center for Science and Innovation. You want to see your university thriving, growing, continuing to provide this lifechanging education to the next generation. The new buildings and programs show that SU’s special formula is still relevant. It’s working and more people want to be a part of it.”

We hope you’ll join Jim and Carolyn for the Homecoming celebration by attending the 50+ Reunion, GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Reunion, Thursday’s Veterans 5k, Friday’s Parade, Sunday’s Alumni and Students of Color Social, or the big game and rally at the new Climate Pledge Arena (tickets available Oct. 18)! See more details and register here. Go Redhawks!

Gutiérrez y Muhs, Alumni Collaborate on Anthology of Chicanx/Latinx Poetry

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on September 9, 2021 at 2:09 PM PDT

On Mexican Independence Day, September 16, Seattle University professor Dr. Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs and six alumni will celebrate the publication of their new anthology of Chicanx/Latinx poetry entitled In Xóchitl In Cuícatl: Floricanto. One Hundred Years of Chicanx/Latinx Poetry (1920-2020).

First editor Gutiérrez y Muhs compiled this 724 page historic, bilingual book. Not only does it feature her poetry, but also works from alumni Aldo Resendiz, ’11, Alexander Ziperovich, ’13, Carlos Sibaja-García, ’13, and Joshua Holguín, ’12. Two other alumni contributed to the anthology. Marianne Mork, ’16, served as principal editor while Veronica Eldredge, ’16, designed the book’s cover artwork and was copy editor.

Gutiérrez y Muhs collaborated with Juan Velasco Moreno of Santa Clara University and Armando Miguélez, Director of the Academic Language Institute and of the Centro de Estudio Hispanounidenses of Miguel Hernandez University in Alicante, Spain. Gutiérrez y Muhs met Miguelez in 2016 when she was the invited poet at the opening of the Centro.

The four alumni poets were selected by all three editors. Gutiérrez y Muhs shared how historic and invaluable it is that they are going to be published alongside 62 renowned poets spanning 100 years of Chicanx/Latinx poetry. “I’m very excited for them because this opens a lot of doors for them in poetry. They were all my students,” she enthused.

The book will launch at GRITO de POESÍA in San Jose on September 16, Mexican Independence Day. A celebration of Chicanx life and culture, the free event will include readings by 20 poets included in the anthology. To learn more, visit the event’s registration page

A reading is being planned for Seattle in the future. The Seattle University Alumni Association is a sponsor and will provide event information when it is available.

A Sit Down with President Eduardo Penalver

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on September 8, 2021 at 9:09 PM PDT

On July 1, President Eduardo Penalver began his tenure in Seattle University’s most highly visible all-encompassing post with some tremendously large shoes to fill left by President Emeritus Stephen Sundborg, S.J. But that’s not the only challenge he faces coming on board. As the first lay president in Seattle U’s 130-year history, Penalver must bring Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality to his work in ways different from his predecessors. Viewing an abundance of opportunity as embellishing the challenges he will face, Penalver firmly embraces his position.

In the years ahead, he envisions growing Seattle U’s student population and increasing the number and reach of our programs through greater access to education, while also building Seattle U’s reputation through nationwide recruiting and elevated awareness of the opportunities available to students in our unique location. You, our alumni, will play a vital in role making President Penalver’s vision a reality.

Earlier this month the SU Voice sat down with President Penalver—Eduardo, as is his preference—to chat about his first two months as president, his priorities and his thoughts on the value that alumni bring to a university.

VOICE: It’s great to meet you, Eduardo. You’ve no doubt had a busy last couple of months! Can you share a bit with us about your experience since you became president on July 1st?

EDUARDO: As they say, it’s been like drinking out of a firehose! I’ve been trying to go full speed since day one, meeting as many different people as I can and trying to listen, learn and understand where I can have the greatest impact. I’ve been overwhelmed by the welcome I’ve received, the outpouring of invitations from trustees, community partners, local business leaders and people who care about Seattle University and are invested in its success. The breadth and diversity of that outreach has been remarkable. It’s probably been like air traffic control work for Anne Moran, ’87, my Senior Assistant, keeping everything moving and getting things scheduled.

VOICE: How do you feel about making history as Seattle University’s first lay president?

EDUARDO: Certainly, it’s a daunting challenge, and not just because I’m not a priest. It’s always challenging to follow someone like Fr. Steve who was so successful for so long, and at a very high level. I’ve heard that, for many people, he is the embodiment of the university.

Fr. Steve told me he knew he was likely to be the last Jesuit president at Seattle U and had been laying the groundwork for the transition to lay leadership since he arrived. He’s been very generous with me, providing advice and making introductions to help this transition go as smoothly as possible.

VOICE: Did you have any trepidations?

EDUARDO: I had trepidation when I was initially contacted about the search, but everyone I’ve talked to has been very supportive of this transition and offered their help in ensuring we remain faithful to and respectful of the university’s Jesuit and Catholic identity.

The Jesuits have a depth of understanding and familiarity with the Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality that I can’t replicate in the same way. As much as I admire it, I have to find other ways to honor that tradition in my work. Going about that requires a degree of thoughtfulness, and I’ll have to lean on other people to help me ensure that Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality remain at the center of who we are, and are available to our students, faculty and staff.

But every challenge is an opportunity. And so I also see this transition to lay leadership as an opportunity to think about how we’re living out our Jesuit identity at Seattle University and how we could do it better, how we might structure things differently to enhance the way we live out that identity. We know the students are changing and the society around us is changing. We need to find new ways to engage people who are skeptical of organized religion and of the Catholic church in particular.

VOICE: Where will you focus your efforts in the first few years?

EDUARDO: A big part of my attention this year will be on continuing to listen and learn to really know this community. I’ll also be working to form relationships with people inside and outside Seattle U, looking for areas of convergent interests between the university and the broader community. If I can do that effectively, a lot of good will come from it. Looking for new resources will also be a big part of my job not just in the first few years, but indefinitely.

VOICE: I assume some of those relationships you’ll be working to build are with the business community. Will our alumni have a role in that effort?

EDUARDO: Yes, with the business community. Seattle U is fortunate to be located in the most dynamic metropolitan region of the country. We’re surrounded by iconic traditional Northwest companies like Boeing, Costco, Weyerhaeuser, Microsoft, Alaska Airlines and Starbucks, and more recent arrivals like Amazon, Zillow and Expedia. We have alumni at very high levels in the business community, and it’s important that we continue to actively engage our alumni to help us achieve our goals. Schools are only as strong as their alumni are loyal and engaged. That strong alumni network is instrumental in building relationships off campus, as well as in attracting students. Often, the first interaction a prospective student has with a school is through an alum who shares their student experience with the prospect.

For the business community, there’s real reciprocal value in fostering a strong relationship with Seattle University. I’ve heard from local employers who are having trouble attracting talent from outside the region to Seattle because of competition for those people, as well as the cost of living here. Seattle University can help recruit students to this region. Once here, alumni can help open doors for student internships, projects and employment opportunities. In this way, Seattle U can help local businesses to find qualified employees even as those businesses help Seattle U recruit a strong and diverse student body.

VOICE: What are some other ways you would like to see our alumni engage with the

EDUARDO: Seattle U is doing great work with our alumni in a multi-stranded approach that we want to continue. We need alumni to mentor and sponsor students, and to come back and talk with students about their career paths and experiences. We need alumni to serve as adjunct faculty, to help us with student recruiting and to interview student applicants. We need volunteers to organize the alumni community and to host events. We need alumni to attend university events and to contribute to the Annual Fund. And we need alumni to hire our graduates. There are many opportunities for alumni to engage with Seattle U.

VOICE: How do you, personally, plan to be involved with our alumni?

EDUARDO: I will be meeting with groups like the Alumni Board of Governors and the Board of Regents, and any time I travel I’ll try to meet with groups of alumni wherever I am. I’ll also do some alumni-specific travel around the state and the region.

I look forward to engaging with University Advancement across any number of initiatives to bolster our connection with alumni.

Alumni giving is an important part of a university’s success for sure. But people tend to give not just because they have a sense of gratitude to the university, but because the university has continued to be a part of their lives. We need to keep investing in efforts to connect people back, to make Seattle University relevant to them and to get them involved in the lives of our students, in the life of the university.

VOICE: In closing, what message would you like to send to Seattle University alumni?

EDUARDO: Stay involved. Once you graduate, you become an even more important part of this community. Seattle University is not a place where you spend a few years getting your degree and then move on. We need you to continue to participate in so many different ways, to enrich the lives of our students and to help us sustain the university’s mission, which is such an important one. We can’t do it alone.

Alumnus Volunteers and Learns From Students in the Process

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on September 8, 2021 at 8:09 PM PDT

Joe Blaschka Jr., ’73, has been making a difference for Seattle U students since shortly after graduating with his electrical engineering degree. He’s been a passionate volunteer for 10+ years and made his first gift—$10 to the SU Fund—in 1978. Scholarships and guidance from faculty mentors helped Joe get through school while juggling two jobs and a family. Now, as both a donor and volunteer he ensures today’s students can access the same resources and personalized guidance. Working with the Project Center, providing mentorship and resume assistance to College of Science & Engineering students, and serving on the Dean’s Leadership Council and Electrical & Computer Engineering Advisory Board, Joe helps students build confidence and skills for their futures, while also enjoying their innovative perspectives and the way they keep his industry knowledge up to date.

In Joe’s time at Seattle U, faculty members were able to provide much of what students needed to prepare for life after graduation. Joe’s mentor, Dr. Richard Turner, and generous financial aid were crucial to his Seattle U experience. “Dr. Turner had open office hours where you could drop by to ask for help understanding the material, but he’d also encourage me to ‘hang in there’ when things got tough, providing the emotional support I needed to push through.” Dr. Turner also encouraged Joe to join IEEE, the electrical engineer’s professional association, and took him to a conference in Los Angeles—helping Joe develop a network of professional connections and a love of lifelong learning that would be essential to his success. “Without scholarships and Dr. Turner’s mentorship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend that conference, let alone graduate. All of the support I received inspires me to give back to the university, volunteering my time and giving financially to help current students facing similar challenges.”

Seattle U still has an intimate 1:11 student to faculty ratio, but in today’s fast-paced, ever-changing world, alumni volunteers are crucial to ensuring every student receives this transformative level of personal guidance and exposure to real-world examples to help prepare them for fulfilling lives and careers after graduation. Volunteers like Joe, and his fellow 1,297 alumni who volunteered during last year’s Our Moment for Mission challenge, make an immense difference in students’ lives every day.

In Joe’s words, “It’s really important for alumni to spend time helping students understand what their given major is really like after graduation. Even by just sharing ‘this is what my experience has been,’ you’re providing examples that can help them identify opportunities and learn what it’s like to work in different fields or sizes of organizations, or how to navigate transitions and make intentional decisions. You have the chance to get them really engaged and excited about their future in a special and different way than faculty members. I know that sometimes alumni think, ‘I pay tuition, go to class and get my diploma. That was the deal and I paid for it.’ But at Seattle U you’re getting more than you paid for—like all of that personal interaction, support and the holistically-focused core classes. I think that then, when you’ve ‘made it’ to some degree and aren’t a struggling student anymore, it’s good to give back—financially or with your time—so others can access those same resources. Seattle U wouldn’t be Seattle U if only those who could afford it attended.”

Joe feels like volunteering gives him the satisfaction of helping someone, but he also enjoys learning from students and staying in touch to watch their careers grow. “I enjoy hearing how differently students approach and tackle issues than in my day, and their innovative perspectives on challenges and the world.” One of the key things Joe does is help students boost their confidence by connecting their academic struggles and successes to things they’ll encounter in their careers and the real world. “I also help them paint a mental picture of life after graduation, while explaining that they’ll always have the opportunity to remake themselves—what they do for their first one or two years after graduation doesn’t need to be what they’ll do for the rest of their lives. This seems to ease the pressure of these big life decisions, helping them noticeably relax.”

After years of volunteering with the College of Science & Engineering and watching the Sinegal Center for Science & Innovation and renovated spaces in the Bannan Science & Engineering buildings take shape, Joe is eager for students to begin using the new facilities this fall. “It will be great for students to have modern facilities. I had to chuckle when I first started volunteering in the 2000s and walked through a Bannan building that looked so similar to how it had in 1970. The engineering department was stuck in time, but now it has leaped into the 21st century.”

The new building and renovated spaces offer an array of modern, hands-on learning tools and opportunities, but Joe is equally excited that the planning, fundraising and construction processes strengthened the university’s partnerships with local companies. “These partnerships have raised their awareness of Seattle U and our amazing students and alumni. Seattle U graduates aren’t just skilled employees, they’re well-rounded, they’ve explored ethical issues and they’re trained to be thoughtful leaders. This gives them amazing long-term potential at organizations.” Joe started his own electrical engineering consulting company shortly after graduation and credits his holistic education—“so much more than just engineering”—with giving him the initial skills needed to run a small business.

As a volunteer helping to advise students at the Project Center, Joe now sees this holistic, pragmatic approach to education in action on a regular basis. At the Project Center, groups of seniors undertake design projects to solve real-world problems put forth by industry partners. “These students start their projects in November thinking everything will go smoothy, but by March they’ve completely retooled and readjusted. Over the course of those months, they worked on the ground in an industry environment, honed their real-world budgeting and project management skills, and learned to work as a team to resolve complex issues and overcome unexpected hurdles. Their growth—both personal and professional—is astounding.”

Volunteering and giving to the university are extremely rewarding experiences that make a measurable difference in the lives of thousands of students every day. By making a gift or contributing your time as a speaker, mentor or advisor, you’re lending students your unique voice and experience—showing them a diversity of pathways and models of excellence. The Our Moment for Mission challenge may be over, but the value and impact of alumni involvement in the university will never end. Explore opportunities to give or volunteer today.

Our Moment for Mission Exceeds Goal

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on September 8, 2021 at 8:09 PM PDT

Last year, President Emeritus Stephen Sundborg, S.J., challenged us to get 10,000 alumni involved in the life of the university by connecting, volunteering and giving. Thanks to our Seattle University alumni community, together we exceeded the goal of Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge with10,862 alumni stepping up to ensure that current and future students have the same purpose-driven, passion-fueled education and experiences that they did.

Alumni worldwide came together to make a difference for our students and university.

By connecting, volunteering and giving, alumni directly impacted the university community. Below are just a few examples.

  • Shasti Conrad, ’07, conceived and co-founded Alumni and Students of Color (ASOC) to create a safe, welcoming space for BIPOC students and alumni to come together.
    See more here.
  • Colina Bruce, ’07, ’15, used her candle business to raise funds for the new Black Student Union Scholarship.
    See more here.
  • Brian Gonzales, ’00, president of the Portland Alumni Chapter, shared the stories that keep him connected to SU through volunteerism and giving.
    See more here
  • Terren Drake, ’14, valued his mentee experience so much, he became a mentor for Albers School of Business and Economics Students.
    See more here.
  • Renee Rassilyer-Bomers, ’03,’05,’16 was the driving force behind the COVID vaccination clinic at Seattle U.
    See more here.
  • Class of 1963 and 1964 alumnae connected through SUAA’s new Reading Redhawks program.
    See more here.


Alumni involvement is essential to inspiring the next generation of leaders. Our Moment for Mission may be over, but alumni can still make a difference by connecting, volunteering or giving this year.

Homecoming, including the 50+ Reunion (Classes of 1971 and earlier) and the GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) Reuion, is a great opportunity to accomplish this while celebrating with your friends and classmates. Mark your calendar now for November 11-Sunday, November 14. Event registration is coming soon! Visit the Homecoming website to see the full schedule of events.  

Welcome Ellen Whitlock Baker!

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on September 8, 2021 at 6:09 PM PDT

Photo of Ellen Whitlock Baker

The Seattle University Alumni Association (SUAA) has a new leader. Ellen Whitlock Baker will join Seattle University as Assistant Vice President for Alumni Engagement on October 4.

Ellen joins Seattle U from the University of Washington (UW), where she has served for 16 years, including more than seven years with the UW Alumni Association (UWAA). As a member of UWAA’s executive team, Ellen was responsible for the strategic development of UW’s alumni engagement practices. Most recently, Ellen has focused her work on how to create authentic engagement with alumni who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). She created an annual engagement conference for UW Advancement employees focusing on developing engagement programs with a racial equity lens, including securing sought-after Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) speakers and community leaders.

“I’m thrilled to join Seattle U at this particular point in time, with the new leadership of President Peñalver and the Strategic Directions and LIFT SU setting a thoughtful and ambitious course for the university,” says Whitlock Baker. “Seattle U’s alumni community will play an active role in the implementation of these new directions and I’m looking forward to stewarding the transformative partnership between alumni, students, faculty, staff and leadership. It’s clear that Seattle U is a very special place, and I can’t wait to join the team and serve this incredible alumni community.”

As Ellen prepares to join Seattle U, she is most excited to meet the alumni community to get as much feedback as possible. “That’s something I’m really passionate about—listening to and building relationships with communities,” shared Ellen. “I need to hear from alumni and stakeholders to know what to prioritize at SUAA.”

Ellen is impressed with the volunteer leadership and success of Seattle U’s alumni communities: its regional chapters, affinity groups and alliances. “Seattle U’s dedicated volunteer groups are ready, willing and able to support what is needed, both here and in the regions.”

The transition from a large state university to a mid-size Jesuit university brings with it many opportunities. One advantage Ellen appreciates is the access she will have to President Peñalver, Provost Shane Martin and other leaders across campus.Ellen notes, “It’s clear from our conversations that SU leaders trulyvalue alumni engagement. That is a great sign.”

Ellen has numerous accomplishments from her time at UWAA. She led and developed campus partnerships through the Constituent Relations program, creating a community of practice for all engagement-focused staff from schools and colleges across UW’s three campuses. As one of 20 leaders selected to serve on UW Advancement’s Equity Council, she recently led a process to develop a white ally group for the 600-person Advancement team. This year, Ellen was recognized for her university-wide leadership by receiving the peer-nominated Marilyn Batt Dunn Endowed Award for Excellence

Outside of work, Ellen loves to read, particularly young adult fiction. She is a passionate novice gardener, building three raised beds with her husband at the beginning of the pandemic that have resulted in a copious vegetable crop with relatively few plant casualties this summer. Ellen was born and raised in Honolulu, HI and came to the Northwest to attend Whitman University. She earned her Master of Public Administration at UW. She lives in Edmonds with her husband Jordan, daughter Linnea and pandemic puppy Kaiju.

Redhawk Recipes

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on June 24, 2021 at 3:06 PM PDT

Just in time for summer, we have two refreshing red Redhawk recipes. The Watermelon Mojito combines the sweetness of fresh watermelon, the zing from lime juice and kick of white ruma perfect cocktail to sip sitting pool side on hot summer afternoon or for an evening backyard party. Gazpacho is a classic cold, spicy Spanish soup, ideal for sweltering summer days—and a great way to use your home-grown tomatoes! 

Watermelon Mojitos
Watermelon mojito

4 fresh mint leaves
¾ ounce fresh lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
2 ounces light rum (optional)
3 ounces watermelon puree, strained*
Club soda, to taste
Mint sprigs and watermelon wedges for garnish
*For watermelon puree, cut the watermelon into 1 inch cubes and blend for 15 seconds 


  1. In the bottom of a Collins or other tall glass, use a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon to muddle mint leaves, lime juice and simple syrup. 
  2. Fill the glass two-thirds with ice. Add rum and watermelon puree. 
  3. Top with club soda to fill the glass; stir well. 
  4. Garnish with a sprig of mint or small wedge of watermelon, if desired. 

Gazpacho (Serves 4)
Gazpacho photo














1 1/2 pounds vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 
Tomato juice 
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped 
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper 
1/2 cup chopped red onion 
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced 
1 medium garlic clove, minced 
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
1 lime, juiced 
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar 
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 
1/2 teaspoon toasted, ground cumin 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chiffonade 

  1. Fill a 6-quart pot halfway full of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. 
  2. Make an X with a paring knife on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 15 seconds, remove and transfer to an ice bath and allow to cool until able to handle, approximately 1 minute.
  3. Remove and pat dry. Peel, core and seed the tomatoes. When seeding the tomatoes, place the seeds and pulp into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl in order to catch the juice. Press as much of the juice through as possible and then add enough bottled tomato juice to bring the total to 1 cup. 
  4. Place the tomatoes and juice into a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, jalapeno, garlic clove, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
  6. Transfer 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to a blender and puree for 15 to 20 seconds on high speed. Return the pureed mixture to the bowl and stir to combine.
  7. Cover and chill for 2 hours and up to overnight. Serve with chiffonade of basil.