We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Essence Russ, ’07, to discuss Seattle U’s impact on her career and why she chooses to stay connected. She is featured in the Our Moment for Mission social media series and a part of the leadership team for the SU Eastside Seattle Alumni Chapter.
Russ chose to attend Seattle U as a way to write her own story in a nearby city. With a desire to pursue Communication Studies fueled by her high school experience hosting morning announcements and assemblies, Essence deepened her knowledge of the field throughout her time at Seattle U by hosting a radio show on KSUB and working at Fisher Radio.
How do you think that Seattle U influenced your career path?
The Jesuit values that Seattle University instills in its students are critical in the development of a decent human and young adult. Learning what it looks like to become a servant leader has never left me. I secured my first fulltime position as a result of an internship that I was doing for a Poverty in America course during my last quarter at Seattle University. This position started my career path in the nonprofit sector and showed me that there was another avenue besides corporate America, to me a more rewarding path where I could have a direct impact on those suffering the most in my community. That experience opened the door to the past 13 years of service in the nonprofit sector supporting disadvantaged youth in foster care, youth experiencing homelessness as well as immigrant and refugee families.
Why did you choose to come back and serve on the leadership team of the Eastside Seattle Chapter?
I’ve always wanted to give back to Seattle University by volunteering and giving back through mentoring opportunities. Just in 2020, pre-COVID, I volunteered for the LinkUp Mentoring Event for Seattle University’s School of Arts & Sciences. This event entailed speaking with current students in the School of Arts & Sciences about their paths, my professional choices, offering advice, direction and connecting after the event for continued impact.
Helping to launch and lead the Eastside Seattle Chapter was another opportunity to connect with a larger Seattle University community while giving back to SU in a sustainable way through network building. Alumni communities have a unique ability to build a network of support for alumni across generations and majors. They also allow alumni to renew or strengthen their ties to Seattle U and its mission.
What are your team’s goals for the Eastside Seattle Chapter?
The start to our regional chapter was different! Our very first event was scheduled a month before the quarantine began in 2020. While this continued planning glitch derailed some of our short-term goals, we were really excited with the alumni and family turn-out during that event.
How can alumni actively participate in Our Moment for Mission?
Connecting and volunteering are the two calls to action that I am most passionate about when it comes to Our Moment for Mission, the President’s Challenge. Please consider finding opportunities to stay connected or reconnect with the university and volunteer in the ways that are most meaningful to you.
How do you see giving back to the greater Seattle U community?
Go out into the community and support a small local business. If the owner is an SU alum, bonus! If it’s a Black-owned business, even better!