Spring 2015

With Us


Message from the Dean

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Greetings everyone. I have just returned from a whirlwind 7-day trip to China, accompanied by Associate Dean Kan Liang and Larry Hubbell, Director of the Institute for Public Service. We met with alumnus Dr. Peter L. Lee, ’64, in Hong Kong, and I am pleased to announce that we received a gift from him to establish the Peter L. Lee Endowed Lectureship in East Asian Culture and Civilization. This creates a permanent visiting lecturer series allowing us to invite premier East Asian scholars to campus annually to visit classrooms, meet with faculty, and provide public lectures. We also went to Macau and met with a delegation at the Macau University of Science and Technology to formalize an opportunity for their students to apply for our Master in Public Administration program. We discussed other opportunities for collaboration in the future between our universities and interviewed students for potential fall admission. There was time for just a little sightseeing. One highlight in Macau were the ruins of Sao Paolo College, a Jesuit college and church that were the first home in Asia for Matteo Ricci, S.J.

Now back on campus and with graduation ceremonies just one quarter away, I am reminded of the many pathways our students take and the careers they choose after they make their way through the Core Curriculum and decide on a major. In this issue of our e-letter, you will read about a math student who ended up conducting French-language training for doctors in Africa, a crime analyst who is part of a child abduction response team, and a student whose love of theatre has included working in prisons. They are great examples of the potential that is inherent in the breadth and depth of our Jesuit liberal arts education.

Today we are busy preparing for the installation of Philosophy Professor Jason Wirth on April 17, the opening of our annual “Imagining the World” photography exhibit on May 7, and an evening public event with Congressmen Adam Smith and Dave Reichert on May 11.  I hope you can join us for these special events or one of the many others we have planned for this spring.

I look forward to seeing you on campus soon.

David V. Powers

Philosophy Professor Jason Wirth
Awarded Theiline Pigott McCone Chair in Humanities

Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., will install Philosophy Professor Jason Wirth (above left) as the Theiline Pigott McCone Chair in Humanities on April 17, 2015, at 4 p.m. in Casey Commons. The Theiline Pigott McCone Chair in Humanities, a two-year appointment, is awarded to a member of the College of Arts and Sciences faculty who is an outstanding teacher and scholar in one of the basic humanities disciplines.

Wirth, who received his PhD in Philosophy from the Binghamton University, is an ordained Sōtō Zen priest. He will use his award to further scholarship on the relationship of philosophy and religious life through symposia, conferences, and lectures. He plans to engage more marginal religious traditions to contribute to this dialogue, including Zen practice as well as the local indigenous traditions among the Coast Salish peoples.

Following the installation, Shūdō Brian Schroeder (above right) will present “Practice-Realization: Zen Master Dogen and Original Awakening.” Schroeder, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Religious Studies at Rochester Institute of Technology, is also an ordained Sōtō Zen priest, co-director of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy, and co-editor of the SUNY Press Series in Contemporary Italian Philosophy. A reception immediately follows his presentation.

Alumni Profile:
Megan Yerxa, MACJ '13, CACP '13
Crime Analyst

There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a crime analyst, nor is it like TV. Megan Yerxa, MACJ ‘13, CACP ’13, combines data, does statistical analyses, and looks for emerging patterns to provide valuable information for detectives and officers fighting crime in the field.

Not quite satisfied with her job as a data analyst for a political marketing company, Yerxa found the MA in Criminal Justice (MACJ) program met her needs for a solid program with a great reputation in an interesting field. Night and weekend classes allowed her to continue working full time.

“The first several quarters were a transition,” she said. “I didn’t have criminal justice experience, but the more I went along and soaked up information, the more things started clicking. The faculty were very patient with me.”

The Crime Analysis Certificate Program (CACP) was not yet available when Yerxa started her master’s.  When it was added to the criminal justice offerings, she jumped at the chance to add this skill to her resume. 

Yerxa interned for 6 months with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in its intel group. She gathered and analyzed data for special agents before landing her current job, while still a student, as a crime analyst at the Tacoma Police Department.

No stranger to technology, data crunching, and statistics, she finds the coursework for her crime analysis certificate to be directly applicable. Every day she uses crime mapping, incident reports, and data from 911 calls to produce valuable information for administrators and officers in the field. She enjoys her behind-the-scenes work.

“I see data analysis informing the decision of the command. They have to weigh a lot of different options, particularly officers in the field. Analysis helps them prioritize and use what they have more efficiently,” she emphasized. “When you can get down to the numbers and specifics and segment the problem rather than using a blanket approach, you can be more effective.”

Yerxa is a valuable member of Tacoma’s Child Abduction Response team. As an analyst, she has been trained to use every possible resource to respond to a child abduction. Knowing that the first few hours are critical, she relies on the tools she learned as a student: information-gathering techniques, foundational courses in criminological theory and behavior, and case studies.

“We pull from many different sources to provide information to the detectives and the officers on the street looking for the child,” she said.

Yerxa clearly enjoys her work at Tacoma PD, but the people she works with make it more worthwhile.

“The best part of my day is definitely the people,” she emphasized. “It’s a great staff, and the chief is very forward thinking and data-driven. They are able to utilize what we produce, implement solutions, and make the community a safer place.”

Watch the video:


Student Profile:
Amelia Garcia-Cosgrove '15

She has performed Shakespeare in prisons, with community theaters, and at the Lee Center on campus. Since her acting debut as Hamlet when she was 12, Amelia (Meme) Garcia-Cosgrove has been hooked on Shakespeare and theater.

“I had done 15 plays by the time I got to college,” said Garcia-Cosgrove '15. “Theater for me is not a hobby or a job but a way of life. It makes me a better person.”

When her local community theater on Vashon Island needed a sudden replacement for Hamlet, Garcia-Cosgrove was tapped for the role. She was just 12 years old, and Hamlet was her first play. She acted throughout her middle and high school years and came to Seattle University planning to get her BA in Humanities for Teaching. Within months, she joined the cast of Nora, Ingmar Bergman’s adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, directed by Theatre Professor Rosa Joshi. She soon changed her major to Theatre and later added Women and Gender Studies as a second major.

The daughter of Seattle University alumni, Garcia-Cosgrove grew up speaking both English and Spanish. Two years ago, she spent time in Guatemala and El Salvador where extremely high rates of violence against women persist. Working with the nonprofit Asociacion Generando, she was part of a research team that conducted interviews with victims to help evaluate intervention and prevention services. From that experience, she developed a documentary theater piece, “Now at the Hour of Our Death,” which she presented at the 2014 conference of the National Association for Women in Catholic Higher Education.

In fall 2013, Garcia-Cosgrove moved to Boston for an internship with the Incarcerated Youth at Play program conducted by the Actors’ Shakespeare Project. Having toured with a King Lear production presented at the Monroe Correctional Facility and the Purdy Women’s Correction Facility, Garcia-Cosgrove was no stranger to working in prisons. At the Pelletier Assessment Facility outside Westborough, MA, she coached the prisoner-actors, helping them understand the text, practice their parts, and master complicated verse lines in As You Like It.

“I had been told as a teen that I wasn’t good enough for Shakespeare,” she recalled, “and yet I have now been in nine Shakespeare plays. Many juvenile offenders also have been told they aren’t good enough. Theater has the power to give people a chance to see beyond themselves, especially Shakespeare’s plays. They are based on the most human instincts, and his plays open us up to reflect on our own lives and struggles.”

After spending last summer performing in Twelfth Night with the Merc Playhouse in Twisp (and being evacuated when forest fires threatened the community), she returned to campus to appear in Love’s Labor’s Won, a sequel to Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, written and directed on campus by Scott Kaiser of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Immediately after she performed in Measure for Measure, produced by the Seattle Shakespeare Company.

“I love theater,” she said. “I get to work with people who are always creating. They are unbelievably passionate about what they’re doing, just as I am passionate about what I’m doing.”

Faculty Profile: Amelia Seraphia Derr, Social Work

Professor Amelia Seraphia Derr decided to become a social worker to make a difference in the world, and she is doing just that. She had studied issues of migration as a student but shifted focus slightly after September 11 when she saw the backlash against immigrant and refugee communities. She recalled hate crimes at the North Seattle mosque and local attacks, but her concerns went deeper.

“I realized that they also faced employment and housing discrimination,” she said. “Kids were bullied in the schools. People were being put in detention and deported without charges or access to legal council. I needed to be part of doing something about this.”

She began working at Hate Free Zone Washington, now called OneAmerica, and two years ago joined the Social Work faculty. Last summer, the City of Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs asked her to facilitate the Refugee Women’s Institute.

“The project came about after immigrant and refugee community members expressed their distrust and fear of the police to city officials,” Derr said.

The Refugee Women’s Institute, an 8-week program, brought refugee women and women police officers together to build trust, form relationships, and share information. Derr worked with Nimco Bulale, MPA ’13, who recruited the women from refugee communities. Bulale, who is the youth program director at East African Community Services, helped facilitate the sessions, which included interpreters using seven different languages.

Many refugees don’t speak English or are learning English. At the institute, the women learned how to access government services, how to call 911, and how to reach the city of Seattle’s language bank. They shared their customs and expressed their concerns with the women police officers.  Both groups became valuable resources for their respective communities.

“I was surprised at how close the refugee women and the police officers became,” Derr said. “It is really about accessing services and having mutual trust. Community policing was enhanced by this effort and hopefully can be replicated in other communities where there are fractured police-community relationships.”

In Seattle, 1 in 8 are foreign born, and in the United States, 1 in 4 are either immigrants or children of immigrants. Now back on campus, Derr teaches her students, some who are immigrants and refugees, the skills to work in various communities and with various groups--elders, families and children, foster youth, youth in the juvenile justice system, people with disabilities, immigrants, and refugees. She takes her students to local agencies that work daily with immigrant and refugee communities to hear first-hand the issues and challenges they will face when they become social workers.

“In social work we look not only at individuals but their families, their communities, their neighborhoods, their societies,” Derr said. “I want my students to understand current needs and issues. Most of what’s happening right here in Seattle is happening in communities throughout the country.”

Derr sees social work as a career that is the embodiment of social justice: “We are social justice workers, not just social workers. Social workers create social justice in the community through building relationships, community organizing, policy advocacy, and working for social change. I feel really lucky to be at a university that supports that vision and with students that vision attracts.”

Watch the video:


Alumni Profile:
Jenny Chott Hannibal '96

Conducting training in French for surgeons in Madagascar was not on her radar screen when Jenny Chott Hannibal ’96 decided to major in French and Mathematics. Neither were women in Malawi, Madagascar, and Mauritania who can’t afford the surgeries they need.

Jenny Chott Hannibal came to Seattle University to major in Mathematics because it came easy to her. 

Life-changing event #1: Hannibal decided to participate in the study abroad program in Grenoble led by French Professor Paul Milan. She became fast friends with her home stay French family, traveling with them to Morocco and gaining greater understanding of peoples and cultures.

“I was without my family and having to speak a foreign language day and night,” she said. “Professor Milan’s approach to educating us–when someone invites you to do something you’ve never done before, you should always say yes–was huge for me as a 20-year-old.”

She added French as a major, and a work-study position at Seattle’s Treehouse led to a permanent job with a private, local foundation supporting more than 200 organizations around the world. Hannibal soon found herself translating, planning events, and managing projects at home and abroad. Offered the opportunity to go to Mozambique to report back on a children’s vaccine program, she had much more than a cross-cultural experience.

Life-changing event #2: “You can read about Africa in National Geographic, but when you witness the challenges of healthcare access, it’s life-altering,” she said recently from her home in Ann Arbor, MI. “The logistics of providing health care in the poorest parts of Africa and seeing the poverty there are almost beyond comprehension.”

After returning to Seattle, Hannibal first volunteered for and then was hired by VillageReach, a global healthcare nonprofit focused on bringing “live-saving innovations to scale and sustainability” in rural and low-income areas around the world. She traveled to England for the invitation-only Skoll World Forum annual conference for nonprofits that address the world's most pressing problems. A chance meeting with a fellow delegate led to an online introduction to Seth Cochran, founder of Operation Fistula.

In many countries, poor women with no access to adequate health care develop fistula, a hole, caused by prolonged labor without medical attention. The result is incessant leaking of urine which cracks the skin, causes infections, and smells bad. Limiting fluid intake to lessen the leaking may result in severe dehydration and kidney failure. A woman with fistula is often ostracized by her community or abandoned by her husband and family. A fistula can be surgically repaired, but there are very few doctors who perform the surgery.

Life-changing event #3: Hired by Cochran, Hannibal soon found herself going to camp last July, not a traditional summer camp, but a camp in Madagascar where she trained 14 local surgeons on the nonprofit’s funding and reporting methods for fistula repair. The surgeries, paid by Operation Fistula, are free for the women, who stay at the hospital or health center for 2 weeks after.

“When we talk health centers in these very poor areas, we are looking at buildings with no windows and no doors,” she said. “I actually kicked a chicken out of a room once. They are doing the best they can with the resources they have, but this is charity reimagined. We helped 214 women in one month, and we support 14 local surgeons who continue to repair fistula and change lives.”

Hannibal is back in Ann Arbor and, having completed a Master in Library Science, works part time developing library programs for middle school children while continuing to work for Operation Fistula. She keeps in touch with her Grenoble home stay family and Professor Milan.

“He taught me to open myself up to new experiences,” she said. “These invitations– to meet some guy focused on fistula surgeries –these invitations just happened, and I learned to say yes.”