SU Voice Alumni Blog

An Alumna Uses Her Education To Implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Practices Across 50 Libraries in King County

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on December 2, 2020 at 2:12 PM PST

A headshot of Dominica MyersDominica Myers, ’16, discusses her new role, what has shaped her personal experiences and professional trajectory and how her Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership (MNPL) from Seattle University has been instrumental in her career.

Your previous and current positions seem to center equity. Why did you choose to pursue these positions and how have you continued to learn and grow from them?

I don’t think my past positions necessarily centered equity. At least not to begin with. Centering equity is what I brought to the position because of who I am and what I stand for. As I made centering equity a priority in my job, the work and the position evolved in terms of leadership and visibility, especially after I graduated from the MNPL program. The equity work was desperately needed and I had a vision for it. I’ve been fortunate to have worked under and learned so much from some of the most dynamic and influential leaders in our region. Lynn Strickland, executive director at Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee (AJAC), Maria Chavez Wilcox, CEO of YWCA Seattle/King/Snohomish County, and Aidan Lang and Christina Scheppelmann, general directors at Seattle Opera. Each of them allowed me to grow my leadership and really stretch myself in my role in their organizations. In my current role with KCLS, I am in a position where centering equity across a large system is literally my job. It’s exciting!

At Seattle U, social justice is central to our mission. Can you talk about your experiences with social justice as it relates to your professional career and service or some other aspect of your work? 

I guess where it started was when I was 16 years old and I had the opportunity to volunteer in the baby room at my neighborhood Childhaven branch. I did that for two years until I was old enough at 18 to be a substitute teacher throughout my undergrad years and for a little while beyond. I worked with kids and families who had experienced horrible traumas and knew it was important work. I just saw it as the right thing to do and I loved it because I loved the kids. Since then, I’ve worked or volunteered in many roles over the years that might be considered ‘social justice work,’ but it never quite feels like I’m doing enough. The amount of injustice in the world can be overwhelming sometimes. Over time, I’ve learned how important it is to understand, address and dismantle the root causes of trauma and oppression, not just offer individual services. It’s where my heart is these days and I feel like I have a lot to discern. And a lot to do.

Tell us about your role as the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for the King County Library System.

The director of diversity, equity and inclusion position, as well as the DEI department, are brand new to the library system and I’ve received quite a warm welcome from staff. There are 50 libraries in 36 cities across King County, and over 1,000 employees. The scope covers a lot of diverse territory, communities and people. My role is to ensure that KCLS has shared language, understanding and practices in support of KCLS’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion consistent across all library system departments and locations. I’m only about a month and a half into the job, so I guess ask me again how it’s going in six months or a year.

How has your Seattle U education helped guide you in your professional journey or informed how you approach your work?

The master’s in Nonprofit Leadership (MNPL) program has been instrumental in my professional career growth. The comprehensive nature of the program really helped me to discover areas of strength that I otherwise may have never recognized or may have never become so influential in my work. At the same time, I deepened my knowledge in areas of the nonprofit world that I was already experienced and familiar with. As an example, I would imagine that some people might assume that as a woman of color and DEI director, the most important piece of my education for my role must have been the social justice class. But it wasn’t.  Social justice was knowledge I brought with me to the program and have continued to acquire over a lifetime. The combination of three classes made all the difference for me professionally: Evaluation, Strategic Planning, and Organizational Change. Those are the three most imperative elements to the work I am charged with accomplishing at KCLS. The foundation, of course, is diversity, equity, and inclusion, but the work is accomplished through the tools of evaluation and strategic planning toward an outcome of transformational organizational change. I would never have been able to connect these dots without the skills, tools and concepts I learned through the MNPL program.

Do you have any advice or resources for other alumni looking to help advance equity and inclusion in their organizations?

There are people and organizations who have already been doing the work for some time, particularly folx and organizations from communities of color. Follow their lead. Listen and learn. Do so with genuine humility and mindfulness. I wish I had a lightening in a bottle answer to this, but the reality is that the work is work, and organizational change happens over time with consistency, intentionality and courage.

Seattle U Keeps Jason Oliver, ’00, Connected to Home

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on December 2, 2020 at 2:12 PM PST

Seattle University is a place of love where I received the same thing my family gave to me—a foundation built on love and support and a compass to guide me through life. - Jason Oliver, ‘00

A headshot of Jason OliverFormer Seattle U student athlete Jason Oliver’s journey began with a search for a new place to bring his game. Landing a spot on the Redhawks’ 1997 NAIA National Championship-winning men’s soccer team is an experience that remains vivid in his mind 23 years later. Intercollegiate athletics and the support of Seattle U’s dedicated and caring coaches provided Oliver a solid foundation, built upon leadership, perseverance and connection and the confidence to use his voice to serve the local community. It also instilled in him a compass that has guided him through a successful career and ultimately led him back to Seattle U where he now serves the university as an active volunteer and donor.

A talented high school soccer player, Oliver walked-on to Indiana University’s top-ranked NCAA DI soccer program as a freshman—and was cut from the final team roster. His hard work impressed the coaches, however, and they helped him connect with coaches at other universities. An interest in exploring the Pacific Northwest, his birthplace, and a strong desire to find a more diverse and inclusive environment than the one he’d experienced as a young black man growing-up in the Midwest motivated Oliver to self-fund a trip to Washington to visit three colleges, one of which was Seattle U.

“I met with Coach Fewing and spent time getting to know some of the players and Seattle U immediately felt like home,” he says. “There was another experience, too, that set Seattle U apart in my mind. I sat in on a class, and afterwards as I was leaving, the professor handed me his business card and said, ‘If you need anything, we’re here for you. Call me.’  That really impressed me, especially coming from a big school where I was literally a number. I knew Seattle U was the place for me.”

Playing soccer for the Redhawks, a team Oliver found to be “competitive, if not more competitive than Indiana,” and where he felt accepted is one of his best student memories. Being a starting player, however, had to be earned.

“That first year was about working hard, preparing and knowing I’d have my chance to contribute,” he explains. That chance came during the NAIA National Championship game. Oliver went in for the final 30 minutes of overtime and got the assist for the game-winning goal! “That experience was a was game-changer for me in terms of understanding the importance of team and unselfish sacrifice,” he recalls.

His soccer interest expanded beyond the playing field when Oliver discovered that few children in the diverse Central Area community surrounding Seattle U were involved in youth soccer. Working with Coach Fewing, he came-up with a plan to launch the Seattle University Youth Soccer Program. This endeavor landed Oliver in the local executive offices of companies including Bank of America, Nike and Pepsi. The soccer program needed sponsorship to purchase water bottles and other equipment and it was Oliver’s job to secure corporate support. Oliver and Fewing recruited the Seattle U men’s team as instructors and Seattle University Youth Soccer became a strong developmental program, registering more than 300 youth by its second year of operation.

“Building the youth soccer program enabled me to use my voice to bridge a gap between Seattle U and the local community,” Oliver says, “and that was a real growth experience. I saw the positive impact that businesses can have on a community, and it inspired me to change my major from pre-med to business. Further, I learned the value of building relationships and connecting people with possibility, and that’s what typifies my career today.”

When he graduated in 2000 with a BA in Business Management, Oliver’s goal was to see how he could build relationships between businesses and the community. He realized this goal through a career in Human Resources. AT&T hired Oliver straight out of college, and he has remained with the company for 20 years, progressing from recruiter to his current role as Vice President of Human Resources, Business Partner for Consumer. The company has moved him from Redmond, WA to Minnesota, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Dallas, where Oliver currently resides with his wife, Andrea, and their sons, Carter (8) and Cole (7).

“AT&T is a place where I’ve been able to grow and have multiple careers within one company, and it’s afforded me a lot of opportunities outside it’s walls” he says. “Through it all, I’ve used my voice to connect people to possibilities.”

Despite being more than 2000 miles from Seattle, Oliver remains connected to Seattle U in multiple ways. He joined the Board of Regents in 2017 at the nomination of Regent Joe Zavaglia, who founded Seattle U’s men’s soccer program and who is a friend and mentor. “A longtime ago I told Joe I’m always going to stay connected to Seattle U,” Oliver says, “so he reached out and nominated me to join the Board of Regents.”

The following year, Oliver was invited onto the Board of Trustees by President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., where he currently serves on the Student Development and Athletic Intercollegiate subcommittees. His responsibilities include providing guidance and support for established program objectives with an eye to the student experience. He was involved in Seattle U’s recent selection of a new President and contributes to decisions impacting the university’s financial wellbeing.

Oliver also stays connected through giving. He supports the men’s soccer program, and recently helped to fund the first scholarship established by Seattle University’s Black Student Union, an organization Oliver was involved with as a student, serving as president for a year.

“While contemplating ways that I can serve the university, I had an opportunity to connect with the president of the Black Student Union and to learn about their scholarship fundraising campaign,” he says. “I wanted to contribute and offered to do so by matching the dollars they were able to raise in a specific period of time. I feel blessed to be a part of this first scholarship campaign and look forward to being more involved with this student organization.”

What inspires Oliver’s involvement with his alma mater? “Two things,” he says. “Of all the places I’ve lived in my life, Seattle is where I’ve felt most at home. So, I yearn to stay connected and that connection is important to me. Second, it’s the beauty of this Jesuit Catholic university that welcomes Baptists like me and people of all religious affiliations. That’s unique.”

Oliver’s active involvement through volunteerism and giving helps Seattle U move toward reaching the Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge goal of engaging 10,000 alumni. His efforts will help to ensure that current and future students have the same purpose-driven education and student development opportunities that he did.

Join Oliver in supporting The President’s Challenge by making a gift to the soccer program or the Black Student Union Scholarship (choose Designation – Other and write “BSU Scholarship” in comments).

Service, Activism and Love: An SU Alumni Story

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on November 4, 2020 at 12:11 PM PST

A wedding photo of Jeanie and Tom RobinsonJeanie (Mallette) Robinson, ’70, ’93, ’05 and Tom Robinson, ’69 met in the student union building, now Hunthausen Hall, in 1968 to discuss finances for the SPURS organization. “As president of SPURS, I requested funding for a club event from Tom, the treasurer of the student body. He approved the request with one of his own: “How about a hot date with the treasurer?” 

This funny anecdote was the start of their relationship. Eighteen months later Tom proposed to Jeanie by pulling her out of a library study session with an engagement ring in his pocket. They ended up getting married exactly two years to the day after their initial meeting. 

It’s not surprising that one of their favorite memories of their time at Seattle University was finding each other. Tom and Jeanie chose to attend Seattle University for different reasons. Jeanie’s main motivation was a desire to move out of the small town of Shelby, Montana and explore the big city. Tom graduated from Seattle Preparatory School in 1964 and spent the following year as a Jesuit Volunteer. “After that, Seattle U with the Jesuits was my first and only choice,” he said. 

While at Seattle U, both Jeanie and Tom spent a majority of their extracurricular time in companion service groups and student government. Jeanie was involved in the SPURS, a women’s service organization, and later became president of the Women Students (AWS). Tom was an active member of Alpha Phi Omega, a service-orientated fraternity, and the treasurer of the student body “My experience at SU with the formal education and involvement in student activities gave me the inspiration and confidence to start some businesses that continue to prosper today,” added Tom. Beyond classes and activities, Jeanie remembers the turmoil of the late 60s. One event especially shaped her senior year experience.

The Vietnam War was waging overseas when National Guard troops shot and killed four student protestors at Kent State University in May of 1970. That event sparked anti-war protest movements across college campuses. “As leaders in student government, we voted to include SU in the protests, starting a march from the library steps, onto I-5 and eventually ending at the Federal Courthouse,” Jeanie recalled. This event was a part of a national week of student-led strikes and is seen as one of the largest protest movements in Washington state. 

Jeanie and Tom talked about how the current unrest in our world parallels the earlier time: “Now more than ever, Seattle U’s mission to help create a just and humane society is vital, not only for the people of the earth but for the earth itself. Seattle U’s concern for the environment is our concern also. The mission of the university is the reason we contribute to Seattle U and continue to be involved."
 
Tom and Jeanie's love of Seattle U hasn't wavered over the last 50 years either. They serve as volunteers for a Campaign for the Uncommon Good (or Jesuit Mission and Student Development Task Force) and have attended numerous Seattle U events, lectures and galas throughout the years. They have supported the university financially and are currently President’s Club and Legacy Society members. 

Jeanie and Tom are excited and proud to support Seattle U’s future. They are both eagerly anticipating attending the virtual 50+ Class reunion on November 14 to reconnect with their SPURS and Alpha Phi Omega friends and help us reach our Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge goal of engaging with 10,000 alumni within the life of the university. Find out how you can get involved with the President’s Challenge and ensure that future students will continue to move forward with purpose and impact our world for the better. 

Paying it forward, changing the world

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on November 4, 2020 at 12:11 PM PST

A profile of Brenda Christensen, ’81Growing up in rural Minnesota, Brenda Christensen, ’81 was eager for adventure. As a high school senior, her prayers were answered in the form of a scholarship from the Girl Scouts to spend the summer in Italy—an experience that sparked her imagination and ingenuity, and paved the way for her time and impact at Seattle U.  
 
Christensen graduated from the Albers School of Business & Economics in 1981 and made her first gift, $20 to support the SU Fund, just three years later. As the years progressed, so did her relationship with the university. “I attended events, volunteered, and stayed in touch with staff and faculty who shared updates and opportunities,” says Christensen. “We had conversations about how I wanted to make an impact, and they made it easy to find connections between my values and the difference I could make.”   
 
Eventually, Christensen helped found the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center, and later—inspired by her Girl Scouts experience—established an endowment to help Albers students access international experiences. “I had so many life-changing opportunities thanks to the support of others, and I wanted to pay that forward.” Recently, Christensen joined Seattle U’s Board of Trustees and was even recognized as 2019’s Alumna of the Year.  
 
She continues to play an active role in the life of the university, supporting initiatives all across campus and even establishing a bequest to extend her impact beyond her lifetime. What motivates Christensen’s continued generosity? “Listen to the ideas that come out of Seattle U,” she says. “They’re bold and fearless, yet real-world ready. Our lives could be so different if more people could access this critical education and take what they learned out into the world.”  
 
While Christensen is now a major donor, she continues to stress the importance of small gifts and first-time donations from alumni. Christensen tells all of the students that she’s helped, “when you get your first big job, make a gift back to the university. Every gift—of any size—matters, and together we can keep the cycle going by inspiring the next generation of students.” 
 
Engaged alums like Christensen make a powerful impact, ensuring every student receives a transformative education that prepares them to lead us toward a more just and humane world. As part of Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge, we’re calling on every alum to do what they can. By giving of your time, talent or treasure, you can help build equitable access to Seattle U and empower today’s students to impact our world for the better. 
 
Now more than ever before, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present unprecedented challenges, Seattle U students need our help to thrive. Learn more about areas to make a difference here.

Text reads:

Infographic Accessibility: 

Cura personalis — 206k raised during SU Gives supported student programs, including in Athletics and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, 656k from the SU Fund strengthened the student experience and upheld SU’s standard of excellence

Access to Education — 158 student scholarship funds supported by SU donors, 154k raised for the Annual Scholarship Fund

Covid-19 Response — 493 students have received grants from the Emergency Needs Fund to date, 100 new Chromebooks purchased for students to access distance learning

Erin Kenway, ’08, Takes Her Passion for Social Justice from the Courtroom to the Big Screen

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on November 2, 2020 at 4:11 PM PST

A photo of a person standing in front of a watch tower outside of a prisonWhile an undergrad at the University of California, Irvine, Erin Kenway met a man who impacted her life’s trajectory. DeWayne McKinney was wrongfully convicted of murder and imprisoned for 19 years before finally being exonerated. He spoke in one of her classes.

“I was so inspired by his story,” Kenway recalls. “For 19 years, DeWayne’s faith and his principles never wavered. He continued to fight without becoming angry or jaded. His story inspired me to become a lawyer so I could help stop the systemic injustices in our country.” 

Kenway was drawn to the Seattle University School of Law for its social justice mission, but also for its outstanding legal writing program.

“I worked for Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a global law firm, for a year after graduating from UC Irvine and learned a lot about the importance of writing and persuasion and articulating ideas,” she says. “You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, you have to be the person who knows how to tell a story in a way that the audience, in this case the jury or the judge, can hear.”

After graduating from Seattle U in 2008, Kenway practiced law for 10 years, primarily representing disadvantaged victims of domestic violence in civil dissolution and child custody cases. She served on several committees for both the Washington State and King County Bar Associations, and co-coached Seattle U law students for the National Moot Court and National Appellate Advocacy Competitions as a volunteer.

Then in 2017, her passion for social justice took an unanticipated turn. Kenway met Katherin Hervey, a former Los Angeles public defender and volunteer prison college instructor, who was working on a documentary film project titled, “The Prison Within.” The film would expose the impact of untreated trauma on individuals and communities through the stories of men incarcerated for murder at San Quentin prison. Hervey had been filming participants of the Victim-Offender Education Group (VOEG), a restorative justice program inside San Quentin. The two women clicked instantly and decided to work together. Kenway joined Hervey as a producer, writer and executive producer on the project.

“We wanted to create a film that would allow a platform for the men inside to share their truth, but in a way that the audience could relate to,” Kenway explains. “Unlike other prison documentaries that exploit filming inside prisons to create a Scared Straight-type story, the VOEG program requires participants to do the hard, painful work of digging deep into their past to discover how the trauma they experienced contributed to their criminality, and to understand the trauma experienced by their victims.”

Our punitive justice system sets everyone up for failure. As said in the film, “hurt people, hurt people.” Restorative justice programs are badly needed in our prisons, but they are scarce.

“Current conversations around 'defunding the police’ by the mainstream media often overlook how much of that funding would be redirected to community programs to help heal the harm caused by the systemic inequities faced in our communities, stop the school-to-prison pipeline, and decrease recidivism rates,” Kenway says.

Premiering at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in January, “The Prison Within” received the Social Justice Award for a documentary film. It is currently available on Amazon and other streaming platforms.

Kenway is now a fulltime independent filmmaker and co-founder of Tarina Productions, with several projects in the works focused on telling human stories and tackling social justice issues.

Every day, alumni like Kenway show us how influential they are in creating a more just and humane world. As an active alumna, she continues to be engaged with Seattle U as an advisor for the law school’s annual Domestic Violence Symposium and as a financial supporter of the law school along with her husband. Kenway’s active involvement through volunteerism and giving helps Seattle U move toward reaching the President’s Challenge goal of engaging 10,000 alumni. Her efforts will help to ensure that current and future students have the same purpose-driven education and experiences that she did.

“We believe in Seattle U School of Law’s social justice mission,” she says. “The faculty does an incredible job creating opportunities for students to serve the community through student-driven legal clinics. They’ve also created a culture in which students learn not how to be great students, but how to be great lawyers and advocates. That’s a strong differentiator.”

Working Together, Building Something New

Posted by The Seattle University on September 30, 2020 at 2:09 PM PDT

Profile photos of Ann McCormick, '67 and Jonathan Choe, '20When Jonathan Choe, ’20, volunteered to interview Ann McCormick, ’67, for an alumni magazine, he had no idea that it would be the start of a meaningful and enduring mentorship. “I went in and did the interview. She gave me her number and said if you want to work with me and see what I am doing, give me a call! That summer, I was looking for things to do and decided to send her an email. She replied and said, come and join me,” said Choe. 

At the time, Choe was pursuing his double major: a degree in Philosophy and a degree in Humanities for Teaching from the Matteo Ricci College. “It was not your traditional internship. We worked as consultants with one of Ann’s business partners, built a website detailing the history of a very old tree in the Bay Area and ran around doing different things. It was just a blast,” said Choe. They kept in touch and worked together on several different projects. “I never want to let go of him,” said McCormick.

The beauty of this relationship was in its reciprocal nature. “I was thrilled to hear from Jonathan in the first place and include him in what I was doing. He had good ideas, a more modern viewpoint,” said McCormick. She appreciated his ability to share innovative viewpoints, the infectious energy he brought to projects, his focus on goals and his skills in programming and data. They continued to work together throughout his junior year at Seattle University. 

At the end of Choe’s senior year, McCormick contacted him with an exciting opportunity. She had a new idea: starting a project-based school in China that would focus on both social-emotional learning and traditional education. This was the start of Six Arts Academy. “A Chinese astrologer friend suggested a good name for the school would be Six Arts. The idea of mastering Six Arts is a 3,000-year-old Zhou dynasty philosophy that incorporated rites, music, archery, chariotry, calligraphy and mathematics. These were arts that all involved very deep focus, similar to Jesuit education,” said McCormick.

Choe had studied the Six Arts philosophy while at Seattle U. “One of my last classes was on virtue ethics, which has origins in Greece and China. It touches on the rules of relationships and what it means to be a noble person. When Ann told me about the Six Arts, I really liked the idea of taking abstract concepts and putting them concretely into practice. It reminded me of Jesuit spirituality. Being a contemplative in action. Contemplating about what it is you need to do and then going out and doing it. We were developing all this insight, now it was time to put it in action,” said Choe.

Ann and Jonathan got to work. They wrote documents on the school’s philosophy, links between the Six Arts and the understanding and foundations of virtue and put them online. They developed courses and started recruiting a staff. “I got to see firsthand how start-ups get off the ground and wrestled between being inspired and optimistic but also having to think about its practicality,” said Choe.  While the funding for Six Arts Academy hasn’t come together yet, Ann continues to work on the project while Jonathan is pursuing teaching high school math in Arizona. “Jonathan will always be a co-founder of Six Arts Academy and the person that stood at my side no matter what,” said McCormick.

“As a mentor, it’s important to immerse your mentee in every experience possible. I always encourage young partners to participate in the decision making at every level,” said McCormack. Jonathan’s experience working alongside Ann expanded his Jesuit values of contemplation and action. “Nothing throughout the process was off limits. That’s the wonderful thing about Ann—she’s living the process of God in all things and learning in all things,” said Choe. 

Jonathan and Ann continue to enrich each other’s lives. Inspired by their own connection, they are encouraging everyone in our alumni community to start a mentoring relationship with a current student. Seattle U students are looking for partners like you to guide them in discovering who they are and where they want to go after graduation.

Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge is calling for 10,000 alumni to join us in ensuring that students continue receiving a Seattle U experience that ignites their potential. By volunteering as a mentor, you can help us reach 10,000 while also helping students to become leaders of purpose and impact. 

Creating Long-Lasting Connections

Posted by Eashudee (Hanna-Marie Lucero), ‘20 on September 30, 2020 at 11:09 AM PDT

A group of 6 people holding a sign that says Indigenous student clubMy name is Eashudee (Hanna-Marie Lucero) and I’m from the Pueblo of Isleta in New Mexico. I graduated from Seattle University in spring 2020 with a BA in Environmental Studies focusing on Urban Sustainability and a minor in biology. While on campus, I was very involved in clubs and different committees (including the Indigenous Student Association, Green Team and Earth Month committee) which allowed me to work with passionate staff, faculty, and peers to educate people on their waste practices while creating community for Indigenous peoples on campus. Being involved gave me the opportunity to network, which eventually led to my work study with the Indigenous Peoples Institute (IPI) on campus. When I graduated, IPI decided to keep me as the temporary administrative assistant which I’m eternally grateful for, as I’m able to give back to people that support me wholeheartedly while I apply to graduate school.  

The Seattle University Alumni Association hosts over 20 different regional chapters, affinity groups, and business alliances. By joining the Sustainability Coalition and starting the Indigenous Alumni group, I’m able to keep working on issues I'm passionate about with the people I met in my undergrad. Staying connected to the SU community is important to me – the work we’re doing on campus doesn’t stop once we graduate. Bettering ourselves, our practices, and our communities to make sure that all voices are heard, valued, and listened to is a continuing process that needs commitment. With the support of the Seattle University Alumni Association, alumni are able to support one another while we work towards creating a more sustainable, just and accepting world.

Being actively involved in the Alumni Association has helped me stay connected to my friends while also meeting new people who I didn’t know as a student. One alumna I recently met reached out to me after an alumni event to offer mentorship advice, which I gladly accepted. I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of this opportunity if I wasn’t involved and connected. The Alumni Association not only helps people stay connected to SU – it allows us to reconnect with the SU community in new ways that we didn’t explore before, which is something that I wasn’t expecting but am grateful for! I am excited to continue to be an active participant in the Alumni Association because of their welcoming, supportive and wonderful staff who work hard to create space for alumni to continue to create community, which I think is something that all alumni should take advantage of.

Eashudee’s involvement in various alumni communities is a great example for alumni to participate in Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge. Find our all the different alumni communities by visiting our website and completing our interest form so we can get you connected to a group today! If you have any specific alumni community questions, please feel free to contact Bianca Galam at galamb@seattleu.edu.

Our Moment for Mission: The President's Challenge

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on September 30, 2020 at 11:09 AM PDT

Our Moment for Mission with a photo of two alumni standing in front of a treeIn the final year of The Campaign for the Uncommon Good and the last year in the tenure of President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., we are embarking on a critical point in our collective history. Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge invites 10,000 alumni to come back to and engage with Seattle U before the end of the school year. Engaged alumni are a vital element to the success of our students and impact the future of our communities.

By showing your support at events, volunteering and donating, alumni help students make real-world connections and provide them the opportunity to explore their passions—igniting their potential. Your involvement in their educational experience shows them that you care and that they are part of a larger, lifelong community. The simple act of sharing your personal journey with a student can have a lasting impact on their personal and professional formation as they forge their own path as a future leader. 
 
Seattle University impacted you. Now is your chance to impact Seattle University. Today, you have the power to ensure that current and future students have the same purpose-driven, passion-fueled education and experiences that you did. Become one of the 10,000 alumni empowering the next generation of leaders for a just and humane world.   
 
Now is our time to bring our shared mission to life! Come back to Seattle U by connecting with alumni and students at events, volunteering as a mentor or classroom speaker or making a donation of any size to expand access to scholarships and resources.   
 
Our moment is now. Let’s build a better future for all.

Watch Our Moment for Mission: The President's Challenge Launch

Watch The President's Challenge with Shasti and DJ

Building A Legacy for the Next Generation

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on September 30, 2020 at 10:09 AM PDT

Profile photos of Jessica Olarti, '20 and Chhavi Mehra, '20Everyone should have access to higher education. Yet, systemic barriers continue to impede many college hopefuls, including first-generation students whose parents or guardians have not received a U.S. bachelor’s degree. Seattle University is committed to empowering first-gen students and providing them with the tools to succeed. Chhavi Mehra, ’20, and Jessica Olarti, ’20, are recent first-gen graduates who, with the help of an SU education, are breaking barriers and leading our alumni community towards a more just and humane world.

When Jessica Olarti entered Seattle U as a freshman, her parents felt like she was finally on a clear-cut path towards a stable career. “A lot of first-generation students have parents that think that getting a college degree is the door to all of these job opportunities,” says Olarti. “They consider it success and the first step out of that cycle of having to work in unstable jobs.”

However, she soon realized that navigating college and gaining work experience is far from clear-cut. It’s a challenging journey—especially for first-gen students. Olarti noticed that she lacked much of the terminology that other students understood. However, with the help of the Outreach Center, Olarti was able to find the answers she needed to excel. “I lived in the Outreach Center. I worked there, and even on days when I wasn’t working, I went there a lot of times to ask for advice from my ‘big brothers and sisters’ on campus,” says Olarti.

For Chhavi Mehra, the process of coming to America for higher education was far from easy. She grew up in India, and while she was excited by the prospect of coming to America, she also struggled with the prospect of leaving her family. She knew that she needed scholarships to afford college due to the high cost of education in the U.S. Despite these barriers, Mehra persisted. “The society I come from is very patriarchal. I can’t imagine going back home and seeing myself married, having kids and starting a family without really going after my dreams,” says Mehra. “And that’s what my mom wanted for me—she wanted me to have the choice to create the life I really wanted for myself.”

After first getting her Associate of Arts in Communication and Media Studies from South Seattle College, Mehra applied to Seattle U. She was excited to be awarded both the Messina Scholarship for transfer students and be a part of the Alfie Scholarship Program. “I was so grateful for these scholarships. They really helped in making my decision to go to Seattle University, because if those scholarships didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have been able to afford my university education. I’m really grateful for that.”

At Seattle U, both Olarti and Mehra were drawn to SU’s focus on social justice.

“I graduated from Albers, so I learned how the world works economically, and because of SU I also learned about social justice issues. I understand the world through different perspectives. It helps me both professionally and socially,” says Olarti.

For Mehra’s capstone project, she worked to create the Project First-Gen podcast, where she interviewed first-gen students and professors at SU and beyond. “Social justice was at the heart of each of my projects at Seattle U, as well as personally and professionally,” says Mehra. “With Project First-Gen, we were able to empower others while also empowering ourselves. It gave people a platform to shine in their own unique way. And for that, it focused on underrepresented populations, namely students of color and first-gen students.”

Both Olarti and Mehra are 2020 graduates. Using the skills and values they honed at Seattle U, they are emerging as leaders for a better future. Once Olarti completes the required course work for her CPA she will be work at the BDO accounting firm. “This is a stable career path that I decided to pursue. Had I not gone to college, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. There's power in knowledge and if someone like me can learn all of these things, then I can give that knowledge to my family and to other people who don’t have the resources that I did.” Mehra is currently working three jobs, including working as an editorial intern for The Borgen Project – a Seattle-based nonprofit that works to fight global poverty. “Again,” says Mehra, “social justice is at the heart of my mission.”

In late October, we will be sending a special Building Legacy Celebration message to first-generation and legacy students recognizing their commitment to education at Seattle University. Whether a student is following in the footsteps of those before them or paving the way for future members of their community to follow, we want to honor and celebrate their dedication to an education of both thought and action. We also invite you to join us in recognizing first-gen students on November 8 as part of First-Generation Celebration Day.

SU Alumni Leading Washington State Elections

Posted by The Seattle University Alumni Association on September 30, 2020 at 10:09 AM PDT

Two side by side headshots of Jon Cantalini and Shasti Conrad

With the election only 35 days away, the countdown has already begun. From tv news to daily swipes and scrolls on social media, the 2020 US election is everywhere. Polls, stats and Democratic or Republican party strategy moves are top of mind as the US launches into one of the most contentious election years in recent history. 

We spoke to Shasti Conrad, ’07, political consultant and chair for the King County Democrats, and Jon Cantalini, ’18, campaign manager for Kim Wyman, about their thoughts on how this election cycle will be different from any other and resources and tips for alumni on getting active as we count down to election day. 

 

Getting Into Politics 

Both Conrad and Cantalini fostered their passion for politics while attending Seattle University. “Seattle University’s focus on social justice and awareness made me want to find ways to make a difference and engage with the community,” said Conrad.  
Cantalini shared similar thoughts on how the mission of SU helped to direct his place in the political sphere. “Everyone thinks of Seattle is a hub for democratic politics, which it is, but I really found that moderate republican sphere. Seattle U made me realize this was a career option. I was able to connect with a lot of alumni that have gone into politics,” said Cantalini. 

The Changing Landscape 

A pivotal election in the middle of a worldwide health crisis, civil unrest and wall-to-wall news coverage is overwhelming. “It feels like this election has monumental importance because it really is going to define who we are as Americans and what we want out of government. People’s lives are at stake,” says Conrad. “There was already a lot going on, and then 2020 brings on a pandemic where 200,000 people have died and clashes between citizens and the police. You realize just how differently people see the world, and everything does feel at stake. The general public feels that importance.” 

Candidates have also had to pivot to meet voters where they are. Instead of door knocking and in-person meetings, many candidates have implemented phone banking, text messaging and on-demand media.  “Everything is pretty much different, that’s the hard part. You have to rethink how to reach voters. We have been adapting and finding new ways to reach out, through social media and their circles of influence. It’s very grassroots, and it’s word of mouth that’s helping people spread the word for political candidates,” said Cantalini.  

Voter Turnout During the Time of Coronavirus 

With the election just weeks away, concerns about the voting process may dissuade some from taking action and voting. But, Cantalini and Conrad both emphasize that the voting process in Washington state is ready. “I think Washington state is in the perfect position for this. We have developed a system that gives voters safety. I think we are going to see very high participation in our election. Washington state is ranked in the top 10 states in the county for participation because it is so easy to vote,” said Cantalini. Conrad further emphasized that Washington’s mail-in voting process has already been embedded into the culture of the state. “When you hear it being debated nationally, it doesn’t work on Washingtonians, it doesn’t work on us. People are comfortable with receiving a ballot at home, filling it out on time, turning it in. We had record turnout for the primary. It tells me that people are more engaged than ever,” said Conrad. 

Getting Informed 

Being an informed voter is one of the ways that you can prepare for November 3. “Don’t base your vote on people’s parties, but examine what people stand for and what they are going to do and how they are going to affect your community,” said Cantalini. 

When asked about resources to learn more about candidates, Conrad said, “There are a number of great candidate guides, for example Fuse Washington and League of Women Voters. For younger generation Z voters, I like to see who the Sunrise Movement is endorsing. Also, we at King County have our set of endorsements on our website. People should check their voter registration on vote.wa.gov.” 

Cantalini’s recommendation is visiting the Secretary of State website. “Secretaries of State are doing a campaign called #TrustedInfo2020, so no matter where you are in the country, your Secretary of State will provide trusted information on how to register to vote, registration and ballot deadlines, and requesting absentee ballots if you’re not in a mail-in state,” he said. 

Getting Active 

Both Conrad and Cantalini emphasized making a plan this election season. “Make sure you know where your local drop boxes are. Make sure you know where your voting center is. With everything happening with USPS nationally, make sure you turn in your ballot early. Make sure you get that postmark in by 8 p.m. on election day,” said Cantalini. Conrad emphasized that “there are lots of ways to get engaged. Your favorite candidates need all the support that they can get. Then, just vote. The absolute best way to get other people to vote is to talk about why you are voting—why it matters to you. We need everyone to vote.”