Dear Alumni and Friends,
Academic excellence is a core value of Seattle University and a hallmark of Jesuit education. We take particular pride in our faculty and graduates who work for the greater good of others in academic and community roles. In this issue of our e-letter, we focus on our own alumni who have become college teachers themselves; some are new faculty and some have many years of experience. Leigh Ann Gilmer puts a new twist on a successful agricultural model for the fine arts, and another agricultural model, the Urban Farm program, is a distinctive blend of academic and service learning that produces tremendous benefits for the broader community. Our students produced a 3-minute video on this successful program, now in its second year, which is linked in the article.
The College of Arts and Sciences is also about traditions that bring us together as a community, first as students and then as alumni. I encourage you to join us at our annual College of Arts and Sciences at KeyArena men’s basketball game on January 24. Meet fellow alumni and faculty at KeyArena’s Club Live at 5:30 p.m. and enjoy the game against UT-San Antonio at 7 p.m. Join us on campus on the evening of February 19 when we celebrate two outstanding history professors. We will first install Professor Tom Taylor as the Reverend Louis Gaffney, S.J. Chair and Theresa Earenfight as the Theiline Pigott McCone Chair in Humanities, and then be treated to the Al Mann lecture, given by noted medical historian Professor Bridie Andrews.
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I look forward to seeing you soon!
David V. Powers
The Urban Farm, a component of the college’s Environmental Studies program, has distributed almost 15,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks this year. The two-acre farm, located on the site of the King County South Treatment Plant, began operations in early 2011.
Although the project is in an uncommon location for a farm -- adjacent to a major highway in Renton and sandwiched between an RV storage facility and a wastewater treatment plant—it has been an overwhelming success.
Students participate in the Urban Farm as part of regular coursework in sustainable agriculture or as volunteers. At the end of 2011, Wells Fargo gave the project a $100,000 grant to increase production and improve infrastructure. As a result, students planted more than 40 fruit trees, installed irrigation systems, added blueberries to minimize erosion, and increased the number and variety of vegetables. Members of the community, including a team from Wells Fargo, assisted with planting, weeding, and harvesting.
“We doubled the amount of food we produced this year,” said Professor Michael Boyle, project manager. “We made a real difference in the lives of hundreds of families who rely on our food banks.”
The students build on their classroom learning with a hands-on experience that has long-term implications.
“If this project can work here, it can work anywhere,” Boyle added. “Our students can take what they’ve learned and use it wherever they are, whether in urban, suburban, or rural communities.”
Seattle University President Stephen Sundborg, S.J. announced the appointments of History Department Chair Tom Taylor as theReverend Louis Gaffney, S.J. Chair in the College of Arts and Sciences and History Professor Theresa Earenfight as theTheiline Pigott McCone Chair in Humanities. Their installation ceremony will take place on Tuesday, February 19, at 7 p.m. Joining them is Dr. Bridie Andrews, who will give this year’s Al Mann lecture, “Chinese Medicine: Medieval Healing or Modern Biomedicine?"
The Gaffney chair promotes issues germane to the Jesuit mission and identity of the faith that does justice and supports the Jesuit ideal of teaching. As chair, Tom Taylor will address the theme “Jesuit Missionaries: A Historical and Global Perspective.” Because of their missionary calling, extensive travels, and detailed record keeping, Jesuits have become valuable sources for research. Planning is underway for lectures, workshops, and seminars focused on different geographic regions and Jesuit influence directly linked to world history. The chair is made possible by the Jesuit community at Seattle University,
The Pigott McCone Chair is given to an outstanding teacher and scholar in one of the basic humanities disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences. Earenfight will further scholarship on “Health from a Historical Perspective” through symposia, conferences, and lectures. Presenters will include anthropologists who study health care, historians who study the social and political impact of epidemics in the modern world, and literary scholars who study depictions of health and disease in novels and nonfiction works.
Al Mann Lecturer, historian Bridie Andrews teaches Chinese, Japanese, and East Asian history and modern world history at Bentley University. She is internationally known for her scholarship on the history of medicine, particularly Chinese medicine, pharmacy, and pharmacology. Her book, Medicine, Culture, and Modernity in China, is being published by the University of British Columbia Press.
Four graduates recently joined the ranks of college faculty. Jerome Veith ’05, Jason Miller ‘02, and Susan Meyers ‘99 return to the College of Arts and Sciences. Alison Staudinger ’05 is teaching in the Democracy and Justice Program at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay.
Jerome Veith, philosophy and psychology major, returned to the College of Arts and Sciences to teach in the Philosophy Department. Earlier this year, he received his doctorate in philosophy from Boston College where he taught undergraduate students.
Veith, the son of an Air Force pilot and a tour guide, grew up in Germany. He attended German public schools, visited Seattle University as a high school senior, and was accepted into the Honors Program.
“I always knew I wanted to focus on the humanities. I just didn’t know where my studies would lead me,” he said from his office in the Casey building. “I thrived in the Honors Program with its total immersion in a self-contained curriculum."
Fluent in German, Veith gravitated to German philosophers and psychologists. It was Professor James Risser who first introduced Veith to 20th century German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer. With his ability to read texts in the original German, Veith enriched the classroom experience and paved the way for his advanced studies.
Veith received a Fulbright grant last year and conducted research on historical understanding and its significance for the humanities in Freiburg, Germany. He is pleased to be back at Seattle University and back to teaching.
“Every class is different,” he said. “Each student brings a freshness to the course that is challenging and invigorating.”
In addition to his teaching and scholarship, Veith serves on the editorial board of the International Yearbook for Hermeneutic.
Jason Miller, class of 2002, started out as a theater design major, changed his focus after taking a course with anthropology Professor Ted Fortier, and now teaches in the Anthropology program.
After graduation, Miller earned his master’s in anthropology from Western Washington University where he centered his studies on applied and visual anthropology. He went on to teach and manage the multicultural center at Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon. For his doctoral studies in anthropology, he chose the University of South Florida.
“Cultural anthropology today is a broad field,” he said recently. “I’ve always been particularly drawn to applied anthropology because it is more participatory, particularly applied visual anthropology.”
Miller has worked primarily with Native Americans and migrants from Mexico and Honduras. Using his theater background, he develops visual narratives – video and film – that bring insight into cultural issues through storytelling.
Since the origin of modern photography and film in the late 1800s, media have been used as a research tool. Anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, her husband, pioneered ethnographic research with photography and film as their primary tools. With today’s technology, ethnographic research is more accessible than ever.
“Ethnographic films and images engage students,” Miller said, “and they develop greater understanding and appreciation of diversity.”
Miller provides opportunities for students to create their own films and images.
“It is one thing to see an image or a film in class, but it is another for students to collect and produce media themselves,” he said. “Taking the step from media consumer to producer can be very powerful.”
Susan Meyers, ‘99, keeps coming back to Seattle University. On her first visit when she was 16, she accompanied her father to a theology class and met the Honors Program Director, Hamida Bosmajian. Her second visit lasted four years as she completed the Honors Program with a major in English and a minor in Sociology. Now with her MFA and PhD in hand, she has returned to teach English and creative writing as a member of the faculty.
“I always knew I wanted to be a writer,” Meyers said from her office in the Casey Building. “I used to jot down stories on napkins during family dinners.”
While still in high school, Meyers attended the Hedgebrook writing residency program. In college, she wrote about arts and entertainment for the Spectator and published in Fragments, the Arts and Sciences literary magazine. As a sophomore, she got her first taste of teaching while working at the Writing Center.
“I went to Chile after graduation to teach English as a Second Language,” she said. “I was hooked on the experience of being in a new culture and learning another language, experiencing relationships across cultures, and learning the stories of the people I met.”
After receiving her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota, she began doctoral studies at the University of Arizona where she researched education and literacy in rural Mexico.
“Living in rural Mexico was an amazing and humbling experience,” she said. “I learned as much about myself and my own country as I did about Mexican schools. Now, I’m working on sharing this information with U.S. teachers so that we can all understand more about immigrant students—as well as the profound socio-economic ties between the U.S. and Mexico.
Meyers has published in Calyx, Dogwood, Oregon Humanities Journal, Wilderness House Literary Review, Rosebud Literary Magazine, The Minnesota Review, WomenArts Quarterly Journal, Gender and Education, and Community Literacy Journal. She is currently working on a historical novel about her family’s circus, which operated throughout the western United States during the early part of the 20th century, as well as an ethnographic monograph about literacy and migration in the U.S./Mexico context.
After three years teaching and working as the director of writing at Oregon State University, Meyers returned to the English department. She now applies her interests in global and historical studies to courses in creative writing, literature, and composition.
While election season was in full swing, Alison Staudinger, class of 2005, was busy settling into her first year at the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay. The Honors Program graduate had just joined the faculty in Democracy and Justice Studies, an interdisciplinary program encompassing history, political science, sociology, law, and economics.
As an undergraduate Staudinger was immediately challenged by the rigorous environment of the Honors Program. Faculty encouraged her to intern with the U.S. Department of State at the embassy in Prague. Students in her cohort created a safe space for vigorous debate, critical analysis, and lasting friendship. When History Professor David Madsen recommended a course in political theory, she found her niche. Staudinger majored in both political science and English literature with minors in medieval history and philosophy.
After a brief stint in Boston working for a nonprofit grant-making agency focusing on health disparities in women and girls, she headed to the University of Maryland to pursue her doctorate in government and politics.
“I always felt like teaching was what I was supposed to do,” she said.
She joined the ranks of academia as an instructor in the Honors Program class at Loyola Chicago while finishing her dissertation on women, work, and democracy.
Now an assistant professor in Green Bay working with many first-generation college students, she more fully appreciates her experiences at Seattle University.
“My liberal arts education gave me skills to read and think analytically, to walk through an argument and break it down and analyze it,” she said. “I hope to encourage and motivate my students to be fully engaged in society, just as I was encouraged at Seattle University.”
The pig at Pike Place Market may be one of the most photographed art objects in Seattle, but Leigh Ann Gilmer found a different agricultural model to bring attention to the arts.
History was Gilmer’s first love, but art soon became her passion. While in Paris during a three-month stay after graduating from college, she soon found herself visiting one museum after the next.
“I didn’t know much about art before,” she said recently. “A whole new world opened up for me, and I knew that I wanted to get involved in supporting the arts community.”
Gilmer, who grew up in Yuma, returned to Arizona and worked at the Museum of Northern Arizona in its visitor services unit. When Seattle came up after she took a “Where should I live?” quiz online, she bought a one-way ticket to Seattle and landed a job as membership manager at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. She spent almost as much time in the hot shop as she did coordinating membership events and engaging with the community to increase support for the museum. Before long, she joined the Advancement team at Seattle University as assistant director of the annual giving program.
“When I saw that Seattle University had an MFA in Arts Leadership, I jumped at the chance to dig deeper into the world of nonprofit arts organizations,” Gilmer said. Seattle Artthrob became the final project for her degree.
“Investing in careers of artists is often left to wealthy patrons, but I was looking for something different,” she noted. “With community supported agriculture, people invest in local farmers and receive food deliveries in return. What if people did the same with art?”
With Master’s degree in hand, Gilmer began implementing Seattle Artthrob. Like venture capitalists, individual shareholders pay $250 to generate stipends for six local artists selected by a juried panel. In return, the artists produce limited edition works of art that all shareholders receive.
Although a risk-taker by nature, Gilmer credits the cohort model of the MFA for building her confidence as well as her skills to put Seattle Artthrob in place.
“Not only did I gain the skills to work with boards and budgets, but I now have a large network of support – classmates, alumni, and leaders in the arts—to help me,” she said.
Many of us have heard through the media or from friends with children in college about the cost of higher education. We have been bombarded with employment statistics of recent college graduates. Often missing from these stories is what is gained from receiving a liberal arts degree.
Dean Powers is resolved to reinvigorate the conversation around the value of a liberal arts education and better communicate the importance of the learning experience at a place like the College of Arts and Sciences. Joining him in this effort is a group of higher education leaders from across Washington as well as faculty and staff in the college, Seattle University Regents, and the Arts and Sciences Leadership Council.
We invite you to participate and help us move this conversation forward. Send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with “Why I value my liberal arts education” in the title and provide us with the following information:
We will use some of your statements on a new website dedicated to this purpose. We also plan to share these stories with applicants and their families who are asking the tough questions about whether or not to invest in this great undertaking.
A special event that brings this message home is set for April 12, 2013 when Dean Powers will bring the meet with accepted and current students and their parents. Mark your calendars, and join with fellow alumni to share why you value your liberal arts degree. We are convening in Pigott Auditorium from 6 - 8 pm. This effort is being led by the College of Arts and Sciences, along with the Alumni Relations Office, Career Services, and the Admissions Office.