Summer 2017

Message from the Dean

I am so proud of this year’s newly minted Seattle University alumni – undergraduate and graduate – and look forward to seeing how they move into the world and become part of the shared impact that Seattle University has in communities around the world. Congratulations to each of you.

I am equally proud of our faculty and staff who help our students navigate their individual paths and nurture their talents and passion. Thank you for your devotion, continuing scholarship and commitment to Seattle University’s dedication to educating the whole person, to professional formation, and to empowering leaders for a just and humane world.

I hope you enjoy learning about the accomplishments of our students, alumni and faculty over the past few months in the stories below. They provide just a glimpse into the wide range of achievements by members of the Seattle U community that occur every day.

Have a wonderful summer and we'll see you in the fall.

David V. Powers

Heather Gorton, MACJ ’14, Crime Analyst

“What we investigate here most often is theft or attempted theft when someone has created a scheme to gain more money than they are entitled to from an insurance company,” said Heather Gorton, crime analyst with the Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner.

Gorton is one of two crime analysts in a unit with five detectives and one detective sergeant. In any given year, the unit is responsible for reviewing approximately 1900 questionable claims of insurance fraud in Washington. Since the origination of the unit in 2006, 434 criminal cases have been opened.

Insurance companies operating in Washington are required by law to report suspected insurance fraud. When a report comes into the office, Gorton reviews the report to determine if a crime has been committed. The crime of felony insurance fraud may involve forged documents, identity theft, altered medical records, or lying about damages or losses. 

“Just getting the time of an accident wrong is not a crime unless it was used to defraud the insurance company,” she explained. “The person has to have taken significant steps to perpetuate a lie and committed the act knowingly and with intent.”

Gorton gathers all the necessary documents to prepare a case for felony insurance fraud. These may include bank records, medical records, police reports, and phone records. She collects information about the person’s insurance habits and whether they have any previous instances involving claims for similar losses. She prepares a timeline. She presents the information to detectives who will conduct the criminal investigation and provides ongoing research and support as the case proceeds through the criminal investigation process. Through its investigations and prosecutions, the unit often recuperates lost money, which can range from a few thousand dollars to over a million dollars.

Gorton credits her coursework and experiences in the MACJ program with providing her with the skills and knowledge required for her work. As a student, she participated in research and analysis for various agencies, including the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Mayor’s Office. She analyzed a training course for a project with the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. She conducted a qualitative analysis of input from community meetings to improve communication between the community and the Seattle Police Department. For the Seattle Parks Department, she researched people’s fear of crime in Seattle’s Westlake Park which resulted in significant changes at the park, including adding a children’s play area, art projects, and food trucks.

“The real world experiences afforded to the student are some of the biggest benefits of the program,” she said. “You are a student, but at the same time you are taken seriously, and having those results validated by that agency before you’ve even graduated is very exciting.”

“On an academic level as well as a very practical level, I’ve taken my degree and applied it directly to fighting crime,” she added. “The best part of the job is getting to work one-on-one with the detectives, seeing the resolution of these cases, and getting justice for the victimized company which in turn leads to justice for a victimized community. I am doing something for my community and the people of Washington. Supporting police work is the best way for me to fulfill my desire to work in public service.”

Watch the video:

Celebrating Student Research

The Seattle University Undergraduate Research Journal (SUURJ) made its debut on May 12, 2017. As noted in the inaugural letter from the editors, Molly Clark Hillard, PhD; Emma Foster; Jane Kidder; and Hannah Rips, “What you are reading is the result of over a year of dreaming, planning, and hard work. SUURJ is the joint effort of collaborators and friends—students, faculty, and administration— across the university. For this reason, it has many origin stories, many points of embarkation.”

“I congratulate everyone who participated in this remarkable achievement,” said David Powers, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “I am very proud of our students and faculty. In addition to demonstrating our commitment to excellence in research and writing, SUURJ allows students learn critical skills in online publishing.”

Read more about SUURJ, a joint project of the College of Arts and Sciences, the English Department, the Office of Sponsored Research Programs, and the office of the Provost.

Seattle University Hosts Program on American Literature for International Scholars

This summer, Seattle University will host the Study of the U.S. Institute for Scholars (SUSI) on Contemporary American Literature, a program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  Charles M. Tung, PhD, associate professor of English, who played a key role in bringing this program to the university, will serve as Director of the Institute with Ken Allan, PhD, associate professor of Art and Art History, serving as the Associate Director.

The SUSI program at Seattle University will host 18 scholars and educators, who specialize in U.S. literature and culture from 18 different countries with the aim of deepening participants’ understanding of the history of U.S. society, institutions, culture, and values.  In SUSI seminars, participants will encounter a diverse set of contemporary American authors and artists, different kinds of cultural expression, and a variety of U.S. faculty members who represent a range of disciplinary approaches to literature.

Read more about SUSI here.

Alumni Awards include Arts and Sciences Alums

Seattle University recognized outstanding alumni this spring during Grand Reunion Weekend including Arts and Sciences alumni, Jim Dykeman (University Service) and Carolyn Ronis (Community Service.)

Jim Dykeman was recognized for his dedication and loyalty to Seattle University with the 2017 University Service Alumni Award. A 1961 graduate of Seattle University, Jim’s devotion to his family, friends, community and Seattle University is legend. He is someone who gives freely of his time without the need of recognition.

Carolyn Ronis, '03, '06, JD, is changing the world. For this work, she received the 2017 Seattle University Community Service Award. Carolyn established the International Coalition for the Eradication of Hunger and Abuse (ICEHA). The organization addresses the plight of children caught in areas devastated by war and extreme poverty. Combining safe sanctuary, critically needed basic services and programs to diagnose PTSD and administer emotional healing, Carolyn offers people hope. She believes that the emotional wounds of war must be healed in order to stop the perpetuation of violence from one generation to the next.


Steven Jenkins’s remarkable journey to his degree

On the way to receiving his Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice Steven not only rose to the challenge of playing college soccer with diminished lung capacity due to Cystic Fibrosis, but also a double lung transplant, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and a second lung transplant.

Link to news story.


Alum named president of The National Judicial College

Captain Benes Z. Aldana, ’91, BA Political Science (cum laude), chief trial judge of the U.S. Coast Guard, has been selected as president of the National Judicial College.

Link to news story.

BSW program honors two pioneers in the field of social work

Prestigious undergraduate awards in Bachelors in Social Work renamed in recognition of the late Dr. Madeline L. Lovell and Taylene Watson, MSW.

Link to the news story.

The Immigrant Family Institute

Amelia Seraphia Derr, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work, and MSW student Maria Abdullahi recently worked with a new program in the City of Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

Student creates infographic for 2017 “Count Us In”

Results of annual report on homelessness illustrated by Digital Design senior Mandy Rusch.

Link to the news story.

SU cyclist brings home gold and silver

Graduating senior Heidi Franz celebrates individual and team medals – as the single SU team member! – at the USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships.