SU Voice Alumni Blog

High Profile Speakers Headline the Crosscut Festival

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on March 5, 2019 at 2:03 PM PST

Join the Crosscut Festival at Seattle University!

Seattle University is proud to host and sponsor the Crosscut Festival May 3-4 and we hope to see plenty of Seattle U alumni in attendance—we have a special discount for you.

The Crosscut Festival is a public affairs ideas summit of thought-provoking conversation and innovative thinking, tackling the most important issues of our time with acclaimed journalists, current and former elected officials, best selling authors, and newsmakers of all types descending on Seattle U’s campus.

A slew of headliners will appear on five stages throughout campus, including Seattle rapper and icon Macklemore, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, Obama Administration Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, distinguished Seattle U alumna Hollis Hong Wear, ’09, and the best collection of writers, journalists, and academic minds around. Check out the entire lineup and program.

Karen Lynn Maher, ’00, attended Crosscut in 2018 and had this to say, “Attending last year's Crosscut Festival was amazing. I arrived being curious and left with deep gratitude for the opportunity to participate in and observe conversations about important and complicated challenges that we face every day. I believe the solutions will unfold when we take the time to come together, listen to one another and truly search for right actions. I can't wait to attend again this year.”

Register now and enjoy a 20% discount when you use the promo code: Alumni. (The code is case sensitive, so make sure you capitalize.) Student tickets are only $20, so if you have a young Redhawk in your family, encourage them to register, too! Questions? Reach out to the Seattle University Alumni Association at

We’ll see you on campus the first weekend in May.  



Red Talks: Uncommon Voices on Topics That Matter

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on January 10, 2019 at 2:01 PM PST

In December 2018, Seattle University kicked off the first installment of its inclusive excellence speaker series Red Talks which features intersectional voices on a range of topics. The Red Talks series is led by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in partnership with the Office of the Provost. The first talk was entitled “Who Makes the Rules? Often, They Are #SoWhiteMale. What Does That Mean and Why Should We Care?” showcasing School of Law professor Brooke Coleman, JD.

Natasha Martin, VP of Diversity and Inclusion


We sat down with Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Natasha Martin to learn more about this exciting new speaker series.

Red Talks, inspired by the popular TED Talks series, offers a signature opportunity to explore and grow together. “When I think about who we are as a university, we are a community filled with talented thought leaders and innovators and we are in the heart of one of the most vibrant, creative cities in the world.  I wanted to find a way for SU to contribute to engagement around diversity, equity and inclusion and really lean into it in a different way. As a university, producing knowledge and facilitating academic excellence is what we do here in our efforts to educate leaders for a just and humane world. We have incredible faculty, staff, students and alumni. These are folks who are having a real impact on the world – we want to elevate the conversations we are having on campus in a way that leverages all of our treasures and helps us to become better known for our robust talent and expertise.”

While you can invite TEDx conferences to a college campus, Natasha wanted this to be a series that Seattle U can own, grow, and further advance as significant partners with the broader Seattle community and beyond. The aim is that this series includes a range of individuals and perspectives, perhaps not often heard from or engaged with, a platform for impactful “uncommon voices” as the tag line references. Each installment of Red Talks is professionally produced and will be posted online. You can learn more about the series and find the video here once it is made available.  

The theme for this year’s series is Women Voices at the Intersection. Of this year’s series, Natasha noted, “It’s important to think about who is telling the stories and whose voices are missing. At a time when women’s voices are being diminished, dismissed and distorted in a way that doesn’t give full agency to women, I want to offer a forum to explore a range of women’s voices and leadership. That was really important to me.” Natasha went on to add that, “To me, this effort is very much tied to who we are as a Jesuit Catholic university. We are modeling inclusive dialogue and how using one’s authentic voice in a complex world stretches all of us to think differently about what it means to be an engaged citizen of society in service to the greater good.”

Natasha would like alumni to get engaged with Red Talks, both by attending the events and by partnering on the program and presentations. If you are interested in engaging with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Red Talks, send your ideas to

Check here for the most recent updates on topics and upcoming Red Talk sessions, as well as access to videos of past segments of the series.

Taking Care of Employees Is Good Business

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on January 10, 2019 at 2:01 PM PST

Jatinder Jassal, MBA '18Jatinder Jassal, MBA '18


Jatinder was drawn to Seattle University’s MBA program because of its emphasis on giving back, ethics and service to the community. Before he entered the MBA program, Jatinder was already a business leader. After graduating from Washington State University with a degree in biology in 2009, Jatinder encountered a tough economy and decided to help out his dad at the family’s business. His father owned a Little Caesars franchise, but the stress was taking its toll on his health. By 2009, Jatinder took over the franchise and grew the business from one store to four.

What was Jatinder’s secret to success? Taking good care of his employees. “To be successful in business you need to keep your stakeholders happy and you need a strong team to do that.” To Jatinder, a strong team means retaining good employees. He took the time to understand their pain points and needs. Many of his employees lived paycheck to paycheck. Jatinder decided he could help them plan for their future by giving his employees a 401k plan and providing the first contribution and matching subsequent contributions at 4%.  

In 2015, Jatinder came to a crossroads—he had to decide if he would open more restaurants or do something different with his career. Jatinder decided it was time to continue his education and pursue his MBA at Seattle U, graduating with his degree last summer.  “The most important lesson I learned in the MBA program was Blue Ocean Strategy.”  Blue Ocean Strategy is the idea that you don’t compete head to head with the big competitors, you go where the competition is not.

Lessons like these inspired Jatinder to launch a new business venture called Motosel Engine Care. “Instead of being a small company trying to compete with the big players, we partnered together with the other small players in the industry so that we all get a larger piece of the pie than we would get on our own.”

Jatinder said it is because of his strong and reliable employees at his Little Caesars locations that he was able to get his MBA and launch this new venture. “With strong employees, you are able to step away and trust that they are keeping things running. If you want to get somewhere fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, you bring others. I think success is the team you bring with you.”

Jatinder recently joined the board of Seattle University’s Business Owners Alliance, a group that provides support, community and networking opportunities for alumni businesses. He is hosting the group’s first event at one of his franchise locations on January 22. He says it is an opportunity for business owners to build their network and let others know about their company. 

When we asked Jatinder what the future has in store for him, he said he is looking to pass the family business on to his sister and focus on new opportunities to grow his experience. “My background is in small business. I’ve always worn many different hats while working in various capacities of B2C and B2B ventures. However, it’s important for me to be able to leverage my experiences and implement these skill sets for an even bigger challenge. Part of the reason for going back to school was to go beyond the status quo, position myself to work for a larger organization, and focus on larger projects.”

Seven Tips to Manage Your Career in the New Year

Posted by Career Coach Paula Fitzgerald Boos on January 8, 2019 at 4:01 PM PST

The new year is a great time to take stock and reflect on where you are professionally, what you have done well in the past year, and how you want to grow or change in the coming year. It is a time to assess and make some proactive plans. To do a thorough audit, I encourage you to consider how you are doing in the three domains that intersect to ensure career success and satisfaction:

  • Follow your curiosity (values and growth)
  • Do what you love and what you are good at (strengths and contributions)
  • Stay connected to the people who you like/respect and who like you (ratios and relationships)


Following are seven tips to consider as you intentionally move into 2019.

  1. Get clear on what you want to be moving "toward" and why. This may include asking for a promotion, raise, or a new role in your current organization, or pursuing a change to a new company or track. Begin with the "why" by getting clear on your values and decision drivers and then defining your options. Learn how.
  2. Identify and name your growth choices for 2019. This may be adding skills through a new project or promotion in your current company, pursuing education or certification, identifying new behaviors to adapt or influence differently, or making a choice to exit and move to a new company and role.
  3. Make the time to create and/or refresh your list of favorite accomplishments and professional outcomes or contributions. Make sure to tune in to what made them your favorites. What were the skills you were using and your strengths that shine? Knowing what you are good at and love to do is essential. It is also important to know the metrics of success and be able to include vivid stories that include both the data and the engaging narrative. Identify your strengths.
  4. Update your marketing collateral and content with your most recent accomplishments. This is the perfect time to update your resume and polish your LinkedIn profile. Thoughtful Personal Branding is even more important in our digital world. Learn how to build your personal brand online.
  5. Consider your ratios—self, personal, team—for optimal problem solving and creativity. Individuals need to experience 3 to 1 positive to negative emotions. For healthy primary relationships we need 7-10 positive to 1 negative interaction, and for healthy team functioning, we need 3-5 positive to 1 negative.
  6. Research continues to confirm the value of focusing on wellness as the most powerful way to avoid sickness--physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. Committing to incorporate regular self-care behaviors like exercise, gratitude, meditation/prayer/mindfulness, journaling, laughing, and any others that enhance well-being will make the biggest difference in your year.
  7. Update your Relationship Map to identify your key players/partners and make your plan to connect proactively with them. Ensure you are actively cultivating mentors and that you have your version of your personal and professional board of directors. Include those who inspire you and challenge you and most importantly offer you important feedback. Map your plan for consistently engaging with and nourishing your professional network.

Just do it! You know what it is that you most need to do for your professional development and growth. Change can be hard. Forming new habits takes energy—and growth is essential for all of us! Commit to yourself and find an accountability partner who will support you through your change.

Taking Care of Business: Alumni Business Owners

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, ’11, ‘18 on January 8, 2019 at 3:01 PM PST

Seattle University alumni and students are well known for their leadership skills and commitment to service. As an institution that places an emphasis on professional excellence and discernment, it should come as no surprise that many alumni feel called to start their own businesses.

With so many entrepreneurs in the Seattle U alumni community, we are excited to announce the new Alumni Business Owners Alliance. This group aims to provide community, support and networking opportunities for alumni business owners. Read until the end to learn more about how to get involved.

In this issue of the SU Voice we feature just a few of our alumni business owners. We will continue to highlight alumni business owners throughout the year. If you are a business owner that would like to be featured, contact us at


Andre Taybron, MPA ‘00
Kipara Group LLC
D.C. Metro area (Alexandria and Arlington, VA)

Two alumni of Seattle U stand for a picture

Kipara Group LLC is a premier residential real estate and design services firm in the Washington, D.C. metro area. According to co-founder and Seattle U alumnus, Andre Taybron, ’00, the company’s mission is to help clients establish an environment where they can comfortably work, live, play, and love, explaining that, “We work with each client to facilitate transactions and create spaces to help them build and live their best lives.” Andre and fellow co-founder Brian Gendron not only want to take care of their clients but also vulnerable community members who might not have the resources to afford stable housing. 

“Seattle University’s social justice-minded philosophy and teachings continue to have a positive impact on my personal and professional lives. At Kipara Group, we emphasize housing as being a right for every individual, influenced by Jesuit tradition,” Andre said, adding that he advocates for affordable, safe, and sanitary housing for all.

In the wake of the recent announcement that Amazon will open part of its second headquarters in the D.C. area, Andre was featured in the Puget Sound Business Journal, saying, “I recognize from my observations and experience in Seattle (from 1996-2015), the potential to make money from Amazon's decision, yet I am anxious about Amazon's expansion because I know it will displace longtime residents.”

We asked Andre what his secret to running a successful business was and he said it all comes down to relationships. “We build relationships with individuals who trust us with, what is usually, their most expensive purchase and investment.” To Andre, success is having repeat clients who are willing to recommend their services to others.

Learn more about Kipara Group here.

Outside of his work, Andre stays involved with Seattle U as a leader in the Washington D.C. Alumni Chapter.

David Engelstein, MBA ‘12
Dragon Bicycles, LLC
Seattle, WA

David Eingelstein profile picture

David Engelstein began his career working for a family textiles business, where he helped manage the company's product development department. This experience inspired David to follow in the footsteps of other direct to consumer companies likes Casper, an online mattress retailer, and develop Dragon Bicycles. Dragon Bicycles sends consumers affordable quality bikes that are ready to use right out of the package.

A cyclist himself, David found inspiration in the German company Canyon, which also provides bikes straight to the consumer, but at a higher price point than David and his team offer. According to David, the most affordable Dragon Bicycle design starts at around $1400 compared to the competitor’s $2000 and includes a bike designed to fit the customer’s measurements, free shipping, 30-day trial and easy returns.

Still a new company, Dragon Bicycle opened its doors about 18 months ago and began selling on Cyber Monday 2018. David said that to thrive they need to be flexible, confident and willing to adapt. He’ll consider Dragon Bicycle a success if a year from now a big competitor mentions their name in an article.

Dragon Bicycle has partnered with a local summer camp to supply them with branded bicycles and is looking to build partnerships with a variety of businesses. David wants alumni to know he is passionate about putting people on great bikes and he hopes you’ll learn more about Dragon Bicycles, LLC here.

ChrisTiana ObeySumner, ‘13, MNPL’16
Epiphany with Equity: Education and Consulting
Seattle, WA


According to ChrisTiana, it wasn’t just a desire to develop a successful business plan that led them to launch their consulting firm. It was a combination of planning, impulsivity and the desire to fulfill an unmet need that led them to start Epiphany with Equity: Education and Consulting. “I feel it is important to share that someone can start a business out of necessity and still be successful,” ChrisTiana said.

As someone with a diagnosed developmental and psychiatric disability, ChrisTiana is familiar with being a self-advocate and having to fight back against oppressive systems. In their consulting work, ChrisTiana uses their expertise in issues of intersectionality to explore the

"why” at the root of issues within organizations that are striving to be more inclusive. ChrisTiana uses a holistic approach with their clients focusing on everything from anti-racism initiatives to accessibility issues and cultural frameworks.  ChrisTiana’s clients have included the Washington Autism Advisory Council, GeekGirlCon, the Arc of King County and others.

“My myriad experiences of navigating and deciphering the messiness and convolutions of sociopolitical and sociocultural humanity underlies the philosophy and approach of my workshops, assessments, and formal consulting and strategy services—the phenomena of these explored not as intersections, but as interwoven tapestries of history, action, behavior and experience,” ChrisTiana said.

ChrisTiana’s message to others is that the pathway to entrepreneurship is less like cartography and more like spelunking. There is no right or wrong identity, ability, background or method to embarking on the journey. And it is more likely for those who do not come from privilege to have to chart their own path. They suggest leaning on your networks and community and collecting every bit of advice along the way to critically consider whether it works for you.

Those looking to connect with ChrisTiana and their services are encouraged to reach out to them through LinkedIn.

Get Involved

The stories above highlight just some of our alumni business owners. If you are a business owner who wants to build community with fellow Seattle U entrepreneurs and learn about the Seattle U Alumni Business Owners Alliance, join them at one of their upcoming events.

Business Owners Alliance Site Visit
Little Caesars
January 22, 2019
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Space is limited. RSVP required.

Business Owners Alliance Happy Hour
January 24, 2019
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Peddlers Brewery
1514 NW Leary Way, Seattle
No RSVP required.


Seattle U Holiday Recipes

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, ’11, ‘18 on December 6, 2018 at 4:12 PM PST

A big thank you to everyone who submitted their favorite holiday treats. We asked the Seattle U community to share their favorite holiday recipes with us and they delivered. Click here for all you need to have a delicious holiday season! 

2018 December Holiday Recipes


A collection of pictures of pies, cakes, cookies, breads and other holidays treats.

Fr. Steve's Christmas Message 2018

Posted by Seattle University Alumni Association on December 5, 2018 at 4:12 PM PST

Fr. Steve Hands Crossed

Season’s greetings, alumni!

This time of the year always reminds me to reflect on what I am most grateful for and how blessed I am to serve the Seattle University community. I am reminded of the important role Seattle U plays in the lives of each of our students, alumni, staff, faculty and all the lives they touch. The gifts of the season are often referred to as joy, gratitude and hope, which are also gifts those committed to Seattle University enjoy throughout the year.

It brings me great joy when I see the active role Seattle University takes in our local and global community. Our students mentor and support central district schools as part of the Seattle University Youth Initiative and join our staff and faculty in Professionals Without Borders, traveling to Belize, Nicaragua and Zambia to help with health and infrastructure projects. Our alumni serve in leadership roles shaping local, national and global policies, leading industries and making a positive impact.

Much of what we are able to accomplish as a community and a university is due to our Jesuit roots and values. Over 125 years ago we got our start as Seattle College, led by Jesuits dedicated to educating the whole person and creating leaders for a just and humane world. I am grateful for the Jesuits who came before us to educate our students and the ones who will come after us to continue our mission and inspire a new generation of students to go forth and set the world on fire.

I am grateful for the students and alumni who use that Ignatian-inspired flame to shape their careers, inform their educations and give back to underserved populations.
I am grateful for the staff and faculty who support our students and embrace our Jesuit values to help ensure we educate the whole person and give each student a personalized learning experience.

I have hope that Seattle University will continue to inspire students and alumni for generations to come.

And finally, I hope that you and your family have a Christmas season that is filled with a peace and comfort that allows you to reflect on all the ways you are blessed and for what you are most grateful.

From our community to yours, Merry Christmas.
Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J.
President, Seattle University

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.

Investing in First Generation and Veteran Students

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

In keeping with the Jesuit ethic of cura personalis, Seattle University is committed to developing each student as a whole person—mind, body and spirit. Within Seattle University’s Student Development department, this integrated approach to Jesuit education is seen as a call to action, informing how Student Development staff engages students and collaborates with campus partners.

A sense of belonging, involvement and connection is crucial to student academic success, mental well-being, graduation and, ultimately, success professionally and personally. For many alumni, their experience outside of the classroom was just as formative and impactful as their time spent in class, which is why Seattle University recently invested $6.5 million in the Student Development Initiative.

Students standing next to Outreach Center sign

Part of that investment was in Seattle University’s Outreach Center, which opened its doors in the fall of 2017. The Outreach Center was the brain child of Dr. Alvin Sturdivant, vice president of Student Development. He identified that first generation students weren’t getting direct resources and not enough was being done to support veterans on campus.

The Outreach Center provides events and programming for first generation and veteran student populations, as well as resources on how to be successful at Seattle University, such as how to register for classes, manage homesickness and gain access to veteran benefits.

We sat down with Gretchenrae Campera, ’08, assistant director of success and outreach for Seattle University to learn more about the Outreach Center.
“When I was here, there was nothing like this,” Gretchen Rae said. “I was a first gen student from a military family, so this work is deeply personal. If the Outreach Center had been there for me I would have been more successful. It provides students a place to land with people who understand their experience.”

According to Gretchen Rae, the Outreach Center aligns with Seattle University’s effort to ensure all students are successful. These student populations are important to the Seattle U community, diversifying our student population and providing unique perspectives. The hope is that the services the Outreach Center provides will help make Seattle University more accessible to non-traditional students.

Gretchenrae says they’ve received a lot of questions from the Seattle U community as to why veterans and first generation students are grouped together at the Outreach Center. “The grouping actually makes a lot of sense,” Gretchenrae said, explaining that over 60% of student veterans in the United States are also first generation students. “Both populations experience similar issues, learning to navigate new kinds or relationships and what it means to be a college student.”

The Outreach Center has developed programming such as “First Gen Friday” where first generation students and alumni come together to share their experiences. Other programs connect veterans to their benefits. According to Gretchenrae, community partnerships are important to the outreach center. The center hopes to partner with Seattle University’s alumni. “Both our first gen students and veterans would like the opportunity to get to know alumni and learn about their experience navigating life after college, finding jobs and even applying to grad schools.”

If you would like to get involved with the Outreach Center, you can email them at To learn more about the Outreach Center and their upcoming events, connect with them on Facebook.