SU Voice Alumni Blog

Alumni Professionals Wanted!

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on January 5, 2017 at 2:01 PM PST

The value of attending a university is not just the education you receive, but the network of alumni available to you as both a student and after graduation. The SU Bridge Young Alumni Chapter wants to give Seattle University students the opportunity to build valuable connections with alumni before graduation. How are they doing this? One way is the Insider’s Guide to Getting Ahead networking event. In partnership with the Student Alumni Ambassadors, the SU Bridge hosts a night where students and young alumni get a brief overview on networking best practices, then meet with alumni professionals to get answers to their career related questions and to practice their new networking skills in a low-stress environment.  

The SU Bridge has successfully hosted this event for the past three years, but they hope this year to elevate the event and increase the number of alumni professionals. They need your help to be successful.  

We are looking for alumni volunteers to represent a wide variety of industries and fields,” Riley Gaffney, president of the SU Bridge, said. “We get students interested in everything from nursing and business, to marketing and the arts, just to name a few. We are hoping that all students find this a valuable experience, no matter their career goals.”  

Previous alumni professionals have found the opportunity to mentor students fulfilling.  “It feels good giving back to my university and helping a student figure out their professional goals. You know you are making a lasting impact and that’s what being an SU alum is all about.”  

The SU Bridge extends an invitation for all alumni to participate. “Alumni navigating the beginning of their careers and those who are experienced all have something valuable to share.”  

The event is Monday, February 13, from 6-8 p.m. in Seattle University’s Student Center.  

If you are interested in volunteering as a professional at Insider’s Guide fill out this online form. It’s a small time commitment that can provide a big impact on our students and recent alumni.

SU Baseball Set its Sights on the NCAA Tournament

Posted by Caitlin Joyce on January 5, 2017 at 2:01 PM PST

If you’re a supporter of Seattle U athletics, than Seattle U’s baseball team should already be on your radar.  

Seattle U baseball had quite a season in 2016, winning its first regular season WAC conference and head coach, Donny Harrel, was named the WAC Coach of the Year. We sat down with Harrel to reflect on his last eight years with the Redhawks and to get a look at the season ahead.  

Harrel has been with the Redhawks since they transitioned back to Division 1 in 2010. The team has experienced a lot of growth, success and increasing national attention.  

We have gone from 11 wins in our first season back in 2010 to 37 wins last year and the first conference championship in school history. Also, for the first time in our young history, we received votes on the national level as a top 40 program. Even though we did not break into the top 40 - we did receive votes and that is a good feeling that other programs see us being as good as we expect ourselves to be.”  

In the past two years, five Seattle U players have been picked in the Major League Baseball amateur draft, including, Brock Carpenter for the Dodgers, Mike McCann for the Royals, Landon Cray for the Rays, Will Dennis for the Orioles and Brian Olson for the Twins.  

Players who are signed during their junior year, often stick around to complete their education and practice with the Redhawks. Seattle U’s quarter systems makes it possible for the players to attend class before the season starts. Harrel says a benefits of this is that newcomers have the opportunity to practice and build relationships with professional athletes around them who are living their dreams and getting an education. 

For Harrel, the relationships play a big role in the success of the team. “The key for our team is trust and buying into the program. I truly feel our approach is as personal as any program in the country. We develop a strong relationship with the student athletes and their families prior to them coming to Seattle U. This allows both sides to truly know the needs and expectations from all parties. For these reasons - we are very careful of the recruits and people we bring in because they have to fit our culture.” 

What can you expect from the Redhawks this season? “We once again have the immediate goal of winning our conference, but also expect to play in an NCAA regional for the first time in school history. Our goals moving forward are to stay on top and be a national name that people recognize in the baseball world. We also want to be known for a place where students can play high caliber baseball and along the way, get a tremendous education and be well prepared for the real world. Our legacy needs to come from what our players are able to do after Seattle U, not just what we are accomplishing while they are here.” 

Our players are already having a lasting impact on the community outside of their sports careers. Many volunteer with Seattle food banks, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club. “These young men are future leaders of our community. I want our alumni to be proud of what we are doing and will continue to do in the future. All the credit goes to our student athletes who truly believe in making this world a better place. That is SU baseball! 

You can show your support for our Redhawks by coming out to games and cheering for them this season. A season schedule is online, but make sure to mark your calendars for the two matchups between the Redhawks and the Huskies on April 25 and May 9.  

Can’t wait for the season to start? On Friday, January 27, the Seattle U baseball team is hosting Meet the Redhawks, a fundraiser that gives attendees a chance to meet the players, share a meal with them and help raise funds for future projects and facilities. Seattle Mariners Manager Scott Servais will be this year’s guest speaker. You can learn more and get tickets for Meet the Redhawks here. 

We hope to see you supporting Seattle U baseball this season. Go Redhawks!

New Referral Program

Posted by Admissions Office on December 1, 2016 at 11:12 PM PST

 

As alumni of Seattle University, you know the impact of a Seattle University education. You know our students are curious, engaged, and eager to make an impact in their professions and communities. You may also know a future Redhawk who would be a perfect fit for Seattle U.

The Admissions Office is seeking passionate SU alumni to recommend prospective undergraduate first-year or transfer students who you think would thrive in the SU community. If you know a neighbor, friend, or family member who would be a good fit for Seattle University, please let us know!

 

How to refer a prospective student:

- Fill out this form to provide us prospective student contact information.
o We will need the student’s first and last name as well as a valid email address.
o After sharing their information, we would love you to write a few words about why this student would make an excellent addition to the Seattle U community.
o Please refer high-school aged students and older.
- After you submit your referral, the prospective student will receive a congratulatory email for being referred, and an opportunity to provide more information regarding their interests at SU.
- Students who provide additional information will receive a “Future SU Redhawk” sticker, along with more information about the admissions process at SU.
- The Admissions Office will consider the alumni referral as part of our holistic review process.

Thank you for helping to find the next generation of Seattle University alumni. As a reminder, all children, grandchildren, and siblings of SU graduates are considered legacy students and are therefore eligible for a free application. Admitted students are also eligible for a $1,000 McGoldrick Legacy Scholarship.

Thank you for your efforts in continuing to grow our 77,000-strong alumni network, and go Redhawks!

 

The Importance of our International Alumni Community

Posted by Miranda Benson, '17 on December 1, 2016 at 10:12 PM PST

Father Sundborg visits a group of Dubai-area alumni in December 2013.

 

When you think of regions where Seattle University alumni tend to live, there are probably a few  that come to mind: Seattle, San Francisco, Portland, maybe even some East Coast cities like New York or Washington, D.C. While these certainly are some of the most popular regions, there are also some that you probably didn’t think of, like Japan, the Middle East, Thailand and China. Despite international students being a growing part of SU’s campus population, they become alumni that, because of their distance, are often overlooked. Vice President for University Initiatives Jim Hembree, PhD, is working to change that.  

Among other strategies, Jim and President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., have been hosting receptions in the Middle East since 2013. “Fr. Sundborg has been building our relationship with international alumni and has been traveling frequently to the Middle East,” Jim explained. Fr. Sundborg and other university officials have visited the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Thailand and many other countries for meetings, receptions and alumni gatherings. Now, Fr. Sundborg is extending that list to include China and Southeast Asia, home to nearly two-thirds of our international alumni, at a reception in Hong Kong on December 20. Prior to that event, alumni in and near Dubai are invited to a reception on December 12.

Fr. Sundborg’s and Jim’s trips are not just for fun—though they certainly are that. They are part of Seattle U’s larger strategic mission to engage international alumni. “As a Jesuit university that has a diverse perspective, we need to globalize our alumni programs so that our alumni are involved, regardless of where they’re from or where they live. That way, our SU alumni community will really and truly be a global community.”

Not every visit or gathering is an ornate affair, Jim explains, but even the simplest lunch meetings are overflowing with hospitality. “Here, we’re lucky if we can schedule an hour to have a meeting,” Jim noted. “There, you go for lunch, then you go see three or four different sites, then you go into people’s homes. The hospitality of our international alumni is so heartwarming.”

Jim views our international alumni not just as friends and community members, but also as valuable contributors to Seattle U’s alumni network. “Our international alumni are a very accomplished and distinguished group of people,” Jim explained. One example is Dr. Peter Lee, ’63, from Hong Kong who was one of the first international students at Seattle U, as well as the man responsible for introducing Coca Cola to the Chinese market. Dr. Lee recently established SU’s Peter Lee Endowed Lectureship in East Asian Culture and Civilization, which brings to campus experts that explore the impact of East Asian ideologies on modern global issues.

Another key player is Mohamed Alabbar, ’81, founder and chairman of Emaar Properties, one of the largest real estate development companies in the Middle East and the developer of the world’s tallest building,  Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

What Jim values about international alumni is not just their significant accomplishments—it’s how they use their Seattle U experience to better the world around them. “When international students graduate and go back home, they’re changed. So they go back to their home countries and they embody SU’s inclusive values for a diverse global community.”

In an effort to keep our international students engaged as alumni, the Seattle University Alumni Association and the International Student Center are partnering to launch a new International Alumni Chapter. The goal is to engage international students who have stayed in the greater Seattle area after graduating. As the chapter develops, the plan is to extend the chapter into international communities as well. 

Jim says he’s thrilled about what the launch of the new International Alumni Chapter means for this community.  Of what’s to come after that, Jim says, “There’s still so much to explore.”

If you are interested in attending the reception in Dubai or Hong Kong, contact Margaret Fielder at fielderm@seattleu.edu.

Dubai Reception
Monday, December 12, 7:00pm
The Palace Downtown Dubai
RSVP

Hong Kong Reception
Tuesday, December 20, 6:30pm
The Dynasty Club
RSVP

Interested in leading or contributing to the International Alumni Chapter? Contact Peter Graziani at graziani@seattleu.edu.

Point of Light: Uniting Christians and Muslims through Prayer

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, '18 on December 1, 2016 at 10:12 PM PST

Fadi Abouelsaad, ’17, is in his final year of the School of Theology and Ministry’s Transformational Leadership Program and is in the process of becoming a Jesuit. Though not yet ordained Fadi is already an experienced spiritual advisor.

In Fadi’s home country of Egypt, he co-founded “Point of Light,” a 3-day spiritual retreat for Muslims and Christians. This interfaith retreat was born out of a Muslim youth’s desire to attend a Catholic Retreat being led by Fadi. “Mohammed, a Muslim, was interested in attending even after learning the retreat would be based on Christian teachings and stories from the bible and so he was invited to join.”

The response from that retreat was great. The Christian attendees enjoyed having Mohammed there and engaging with him and Mohammed found it to be a wonderful experience himself.  It was clear that this was something worth repeating. Fadi and two spiritual partners moved forward with planning a retreat series for both Muslims and Christians to come together in prayer and spirituality.

Point of Light is a 3-day excursion, sometimes hosted in the desert and other times in a retreat center, but never in a chapel or house of worship. “We decorate the space together. It is like we are building our temple. We use a very neutral room and build together with candles and music to create our sacred space,” Fadi said. This retreat skips the dogma of religions and what each group believes, delving straight into spirituality. “Spiritual life gives opportunity to encounter each other and build together. It is an opportunity for peace building, especially in the Middle East where there is so much religious turmoil.”

“We believe that in every human being and religion there is a light, a universal wisdom, and we want to share this wisdom with each other.” Fadi elaborated, “We have been living with Muslims for centuries and we don’t know them and they don’t know us. We believe that this will lead us to the new humanity where we respect each other and we love each other.”

One of the most meaningful aspects of the retreat is the sense of community and safety that is built. “After the retreat, you realize you don’t know who was Muslim and who was Christian, but you were praying together and this is a wonderful feeling.”  Following the retreats, participants host meals and meditations at their homes. “After you see these people together, it’s impossible to imagine them fighting over religion,” Fadi shared. “We actually have a problem with people wanting to attend each retreat. They keep coming back to this safe place of community where they can share their doubts and questions.”

Some participants admit they have not prayed for 10 years until this retreat. It served as an opportunity for them to reconcile with their faith, with God and with themselves.

Fadi’s vision for Point of Light is to continue his work and reach more people. “My hope is to build bridges between communities and share not only religions, but different cultures.”  Fadi shared that there is a Jesuit Spirituality Center in India that hosts retreats for Hindu, Christians and Muslims. He would love the opportunity to connect with them and learn from the wisdom of their program.

Pilgrimage: The Search for Pope Francis

Posted by School of Theology & Ministry and the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture on December 1, 2016 at 4:12 PM PST

Mark K. Shriver is the author of the best-selling memoir, A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver and president of Save the Children Action Network. For his newest literary work, Shriver went in search for the heart and soul of the real Pope Francis in the slums of Argentina and the halls of the Vatican. Seattle U will host Shriver on December 7 for a discussion of his surprising, informative and moving journey and his new book, Pilgrimage: My Search for the Real Pope Francis.

A down-to-earth and deeply intimate portrait of Pope Francis and his faith, Pilgrimage is based on interviews with the men and women who knew him simply as Jorge Mario Bergoglio. By setting an example of humility and accessibility, Francis breathed new life into the Catholic Church, attracting the admiration of Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In Pilgrimage, Shriver retraces Francis' personal journey, revealing the origins of his open, unpretentious style and explaining how it revitalized Shriver's own faith and renewed his commitment to the Church.

As president of Save the Children Action Network, Shriver leads an effort to mobilize Americans to end preventable maternal, newborn and child deaths globally and to ensure that every child in the U.S. has access to high-quality early childhood education. His career fighting for social justice in advocacy and service organizations, as well as elected office, has focused on advancing the right of every child to a safe and vibrant childhood.

Shriver joined Save the Children in 2003, serving as Senior Vice President for U.S. Programs until 2013. In that capacity, he created and oversaw the agency’s early childhood education, literacy, health and emergency preparedness and response programs in the United States.

In 2015, Shriver was the Seattle University undergraduate commencement speaker.

We hope you will join us for this free event.

Pilgrimage: The Search for Pope Francis
With Mark Shriver
Moderated by Enrique Cerna, KCTS9-Directory of Community Partnerships
December 7, 2016 | 7 p.m.
Pigott Auditorium | Seattle University

This Seattle U 125th Anniversary Event is in partnership with Elliott Bay Bookstore Company, KCTS 9, the School of Theology and Ministry and the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.

A Christmas Message from President Sundborg, S.J.

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, '18 on December 1, 2016 at 4:12 PM PST

Seasons greetings!

As we head into the holiday season, I reflect on the year and all I am grateful for. This year I am especially thankful for the opportunity to celebrate Seattle University’s 125th anniversary with all of you. Because of the generosity and commitment of our alumni community, we have grown into the forward thinking, impactful institution we are today. And it is with the support of our alumni that we will continue to thrive for the next 25 years.

While we look back on the accomplishments of this great institution, we also look to what we have to celebrate in the present. This fall, for the fourth year in a row, Seattle University was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, which recognizes universities across the nation that support exemplary community service programs and partnerships. I am very proud of how our students continue to embody our values of care for the whole person and giving back. While we often find it easy to be charitable during the holiday season, I invite you to discern how you too can live our values and give back long after the Christmas season.

This December, I have the joyful task of connecting with our alumni at Advent Mass on campus December 3rd, in the Bay Area on December 7th and across the world in China and the Middle East later on this month. I am excited to have the opportunity to share the blessings of the season in person with these alumni and to come together as a community to celebrate who we are and what we value.

This holiday season, love and community are two values very much on my mind. My hope is that in this time when it feels like there are so many things that can divide us as a nation and global community, that we come together in unity, peace, love and understanding.  Seattle University will remain a place of support, care and inclusion for our students and alumni. Each of us can do our part to make this world a warmer place this season and always.

Know that you, our alumni, are always in my prayers and I hope that you will include me and the Seattle University community in yours.

I want to extend my warmest wishes to you and your family for a very merry Christmas and joyful, peace-filled holiday season.

With blessings,

Fr. Steve

SU Advantage Networking Night: Being a Leader in a Purposeful Organization

Posted by Miranda Benson, '17 on November 3, 2016 at 11:11 AM PDT

Cheryl Sesnon, MNPL '03

With a fiscally insolvent budget, struggling student enrollment, and only 18 months to turn it around, it seemed that nonprofit Common Meals, which provided meals to homeless shelters, was at its end. But when Cheryl Sesnon, MNPL’03, took on the role of Director, she transformed Common Meals into the wildly successful FareStart, a culinary training program that helps homeless individuals become cooks, caterers and restaurateurs.  Cheryl’s long track record of leading nonprofits from fiscal insolvency to success will be her guide as she hosts the November SU Advantage | Networking Night: Being a Leader in a Purposeful Organization.

You may have heard Cheryl’s name before—perhaps that’s because she received the Alumni Award for Community Service earlier this year. Or maybe it’s because Cheryl was recognized by U.S. Senator Patty Murray with the prestigious Golden Tennis Shoe Award, an honor given to citizens whose high community engagement has positively impacted those around them. Perhaps you’ve heard of Cheryl as the Executive Director for local nonprofit Jubilee Women’s Center, where many local groups (including the Women of SU Alumnae Chapter) volunteer. And of course, you may know Cheryl as one of your old classmates or former professors—after graduating from the Master’s in Nonprofit Leadership program in 2003, Cheryl returned to campus from 2005 to 2011 as an adjunct professor and guest lecturer.

Cheryl received the Seattle University Alumni Award for Community Service in April.

Though Cheryl has certainly worn many hats in the Seattle community, most of her work is related to nonprofit organizations. Of the many she’s served, Cheryl notes that one thing has drawn her to all these different groups: “I have a tendency to go into organizations that are struggling.” Her transformation of Common Meals into FareStart is perhaps the best example of this, but she has also helped revitalize the United Way Homeless Initiative, the Washington Women’s Foundation, Washington CASH, and Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos. The latter organization is something Cheryl is particularly passionate about: Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos trains and empowers leaders of orphanages in Central America. Cheryl assists the organization by leading seminars and lectures for the orphanage directors, sometimes even travelling to Central America to do so.

Right now, Cheryl’s work at Jubilee Women’s Center allows her to use her own experiences to better others. Jubilee helps transform women living in poverty into successful professionals by providing affordable community housing and real-life skill classes, as well as meals, clothing, and other items that they would normally be unable to afford. Cheryl says she connects with the program because she, too, has had difficult time and low self-esteem—but thanks to strong motivation and those who helped her, she has found success and joy. She helps women at Jubilee find that same happiness.

This experience and passion for helping others will drive Cheryl’s SU Advantage presentation. The topic—leading purposeful organizations—is certainly not exclusive to nonprofits. While Cheryl believes it’s important to work for an organization you believe in, she hopes to show that any organization can be impactful with a strong mission and dedication to serving others.

Interested in learning more about how to lead with purpose? Tickets are on sale now—join us:

SU Advantage | Networking Night: Being a Leader in a Purposeful Organization
Hosted by Cheryl Sesnon, MNPL ’03
Thursday, November 17, 2016
6 - 8 p.m. | Sorrento Hotel

Following Cheryl’s presentation, attendees will participate in rounds of structured networking. This is a great opportunity to grow your skills as a leader and build your network.

Tickets available at https://suadvantagenovember2016.eventbrite.com.

Daring Forward: How Seattle U is Changing Its Ways to Welcome Diversity

Posted by Miranda Benson, '17 on November 3, 2016 at 11:11 AM PDT


Seattle University Chief Diversity Officer Natasha Martin

 

Whether you attended Seattle University in the 1960s or the 2010s, you probably had many discussions during your time here about diversity. While the 125th anniversary of SU celebrates our diverse past, it also looks to create a more diverse Seattle U in the future. Leading the movement towards a more inclusive university is Chief Diversity Officer Natasha Martin and the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence.

Natasha is no stranger to topics of diversity. As she explains it, “My life experiences as a black female lawyer turned law professor and someone who deeply cares about these issues informs my work.” Natasha is an associate professor of law here at SU and her professional background lies in employment discrimination law. She’s served twice on the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and on the Advisory Board for the Lutie Lytle Black Female Law Professors Writing Workshop. Her breadth of experience was one of the reason she was named co-chair (along with Dr. Alvin Sturdivant, Associate Vice President for Student Development) of the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. This task force was asked to find out how Seattle U could become more diverse and inclusive, particularly towards women, people of color and other marginalized groups. But how you incorporate diversity into the everyday campus life of a university with over 7,000 students is a challenge—which is where the Campus Climate Survey comes in.

Known around campus as “the big important survey,” the Campus Climate Survey measured just that. It observed the current state of how students, faculty and staff felt about the campus environment, paying particular attention to which groups were and were not welcome. And the timing of the survey was no accident—for the past few years, students at colleges and universities around the country have been increasingly asking for their voices to be heard and considered in major university decisions. “The events on college campuses (as well as our own) are calls for us as institutions of higher learning to think critically about the fullness of the experiences of all of those that are connected to our institution,” Natasha explains. “There is no more important time for SU to engage and address issues of diversity and inclusion head-on.”

Over 2,600 students, faculty and staff took “the big important survey” in winter of 2016, and in the spirit of transparency, its 300-plus pages of results are available to the public (you can read them here).  But what do you do with over 300 pages of hard data?

You turn to experts like Natasha and the Task Force on Diversity and Inclusive Excellence to analyze it. And after months of work, they boiled the survey results down to this: “Seattle University campus climate findings are consistent with those found in higher education institutions across the country… [But] a slightly higher percentage of respondents (28%) indicated that they personally had experienced inclusionary, intimidating, offensive and/or hostile conduct.”

In short, Seattle U students, faculty and staff feel pretty comfortable on our campus—but with 28% of respondents having experienced exclusionary conduct, we still have work to do. Natasha summed up her take: “In many respects, there were no big surprises in the findings, which were consistent with qualitative experiences captured through [the task force’s] work. [But] it seems that we are being challenged to think about what it means to be in community.”

Natasha believes the view of alumni are key to this work. “Your relationship with us doesn’t end upon completing your education… I want to engage alumni because not only does your ‘rearview mirror’ experience provide helpful insight, but your partnership and collaboration will greatly assist us in making Seattle University a truly welcoming environment for all and build sustaining relationships for years to come.”

Armed with the Climate Survey results and a clear picture of who the community includes, Natasha and the task force next needed to ask: how can we become a better community? How can we become more diverse, more tolerant and more welcoming to each other? The task force’s final report proposes an answer with a clear way to measure results. It’s a roadmap for Seattle U in the coming years and at the end is a new goal: for SU to become a place where diversity is taught, welcomed and so ingrained in what we do that it becomes second nature.

The final report’s recommendations are already in motion: Natasha’s appointment to the role of chief diversity officer was a key suggestion of the task force. Natasha is the first to hold this role, but she has high hopes for it: “The point [of my role] is to have point-leadership to focus on capacity-building and organizational infrastructure in order to embed inclusive excellence in all aspects of the SU experience.” And Father Stephen Sundborg, university president, will do whatever it takes to bring her vision to life. “I am committed to making sure she has the resources and the strong support of university leadership needed for this important work,” he told the university community in an email this spring.

Father Steve’s first step? Bringing Natasha onto the Mission Examen committee. The Mission Examen is a thorough review of the university’s mission, particularly in relation to our Jesuit identity, which is being conducted this year in tandem with our 125th anniversary. The examen will look at benchmarks (like the Campus Climate Survey results as well as our community engagement and service) and will create goals for the university’s future. It takes the Jesuit idea of reflection and self-assessment and applies it to the university as a whole.

Natasha is looking forward to her work on the Mission Examen committee and continuing to build the chief diversity officer role. She’s particularly hopeful that alumni will lead the charge in becoming a more welcoming and diverse community. “It’s hard, complex work, for sure, but ‘daring forward’ is the motto for this year,” she explains. “My hope is that together we can lay the groundwork to add new texture to the future of our institution that aims to ensure that diversity and inclusion are what it means to be academically excellent and significantly transformative in our approach to educating the whole person—for a just and humane world.”

 

Interested in getting involved with SU’s movement towards diversity? Natasha welcomes alums who are interested in speaking and working with her. You can contact her at nmartin@seattleu.edu.

 

 

Alumni Spotlight: E.L. Hunter, '08

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, '18 on November 3, 2016 at 11:11 AM PDT

E.L. Hunter, '08

It was Seattle University’s emphasis on social justice and small class sizes that drew E.L. Hunter, ’08, to the Emerald City from California.

Because of Seattle University’s small class sizes, Hunter was able to develop personal relationships with his professors, some continuing to this day. “The faculty really encouraged social justice work. It was a common thread throughout my time at Seattle University. It was something everyone took very seriously and that social justice focus strengthened my interest in it.”

During his time at Seattle U, Hunter was a member of the Triangle Club, was employed by the Lifelong AIDS Alliance as part of their MPowerment Project. As part of MPowerment Project, Hunter worked closely with the LGBTQ community to provide trainings around safe sex and wrote articles and comic strips on health and LGBTQ communities for the Seattle Gay Newspaper.

After graduating from Seattle University, Hunter went to work at the Downtown Emergency Services Center for two years before deciding to continue his education and get his masters at the nation’s largest Catholic university, DePaul University in Chicago.

While getting a masters in Women and Gender Studies, Hunter maintained his passion for social justice and volunteerism as a youth justice organizer for the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance and through involvement with the Transformative Justice Law Project. As a youth justice organizer, Hunter helped schools form Gay Straight Alliance clubs and conducted education training for faculty and staff around LGBTQ youth specific issues.

Hunter’s volunteer work with the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois is especially meaningful to him. The Transformative Justice Law Project is a small grassroots organization that provides free legal aid to low income LGBTQ people, specifically members of the trans community.  Hunter has been a volunteer there for the last five years focusing his efforts on their Name Change Mobilization Project. The project assists gender nonconforming individuals and trans people changing their names legally in Illinois. Volunteers help navigate the paperwork and legal system, while providing a support network for trans people facing intolerance and trans phobia.

According to Hunter, “Most of the volunteers are also trans people. That makes a huge difference when you walk into a courtroom, a scary space, and you see people who look like you. It eases the tension and builds a sense of trust when you have people who have the same shared lived experience as you. It takes away that anxiety and stress.”

Hunter is now preparing to make a career change, incorporating social justice and care for the whole person into his professional life. For five years Hunter worked at DePaul University in Service Learning and Student Development. A year ago, Hunter decided to pursue a career as a Physicians Assistant so that he can better serve the medical needs of the LGBTQ community. “For me as a white trans person, I have privilege around race, class and education. I am interested in using those privileges to affect the needs of my community, specifically by providing primary care to trans people. Medical care is one area that many trans people face a lot of discrimination, lack of sensitivity and lack of knowledge, which can result in negative health outcomes.”

Changing careers and entering the medical field will be a lot of hard work, but the impact Hunter will have for the LGBTQ community makes all of that worth it for Hunter.

For those alumni looking to volunteer their time to help the LGBTQ community, Hunter says, “Transgender issues are a hot topic right now. If folks who are not trans want to provide their support, they can do so by joining those organizations that already exist and are doing impactful work.” Many cities have small organizations making a difference and are looking for interested volunteers who want to get involved.  One local organization is the Gender Justice League.