Investing in First Generation and Veteran Students

Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, MBA '18 on Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 1:06 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 outreachcenter@seattleu.edu. To learn more about the Outreach Center and their upcoming events, connect with them on Facebook.