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

Posted by Miranda Benson, '17 on Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 11:41 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