Winter 2017

Message from the Dean

The holidays generate goodwill with the sincere hope that we will grow and prosper in the new year. Thanks to your generosity and the hard work of our students, faculty, and staff, we ended 2016 with more scholarships and more opportunities for students to work directly with faculty on research projects. And thanks to alumni profiled here, we know that we our communities are better today than they were before.

Auburn City Councilmember Claude DaCorsi MPA 2011 is working at the local and state level to find solutions to the region’s affordable housing crisis. At Human Rights First in Washington, DC, Rita Siemion addresses the difficult human rights and national security challenges associated with a post-9/11 world. Master in Psychology alumni Kristin Beck and Jennifer Reisberg meet the demand for psychotherapists with the expertise to work with teens and their parents. We also feature Professor Caitlin Ring Carlson and her student Uyen Le, whose work on the ethics of cause-related marketing is setting a standard for public relations professionals, and freelance journalist Nick McCarvel, who covers issues associated with amateur and professional sports.

We have some outstanding events planned for this winter, including the winter alumni seminars on the Trump presidency, beginning January 18, and a terrific line-up for the annual Search for Meaning Festival on February 25, as well as the January events listed below. Look for more information about our winter-spring schedule of arts, lectures, and events in the calendar coming to your inbox next month.

And again, thank you for all your support. It makes a big difference in our student academic experience.

David Powers,


Winter Series, January - March 2017
The Trump Presidency Confronts the World

PRESENTERS (left to right)

Stephen Bender, PhD, Associate Dean and Professor of Law (Mar. 1)
Catherine Punsalan, PhD, Theology and Religious Studies (Feb. 15)
Thomas Murphy S.J., History Professor (Jan. 18)
Meenakshi Rishi, PhD, Economics Professor (Feb. 1)


Recent Graduate: Nick McCarvel '08, journalist

On a trip to New York City during his junior year at Seattle U, Nick McCarvel walked into the office of Tennis Magazine and asked about an internship. Eight years after graduating with a degree in journalism, McCarvel covers major sporting events of all types on every continent.

McCarvel came to Seattle University specifically for its journalism program and Seattle’s big city allure. Originally from Helena, Montana, he helped lead a student effort to eliminate the sale of bottled water on campus and led retreats though Campus Ministry. A Naef scholar, he joined the ranks of Seattle’s barista community to supplement his grant, a move which proved helpful when he graduated.

After landing an internship at Tennis Magazine between his junior and senior years, McCarvel returned to New York City after graduation. To support himself while seeking a job in journalism, he worked as a barista and in the bookstore run by Housing Works, a nonprofit that provides services for people with AIDS and those who are homeless. His first major byline, a blog post about Venus Williams at Wimbledon for the New York Times, came in 2009, and helped launch his freelance work. 

Since 2012, McCarvel has traveled around the world covering major sporting events, and his credits including USA Today, The Daily Beast, ESPN, and NBC Olympics. His tennis reporting has taken him from New York to Singapore, Melbourne, Paris, London and beyond, while he covered figure skating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, and gymnastics and other sports at the Rio Olympics last summer.

As a freelance journalist, McCarvel has grown his work to include video hosting. At world-class tennis events he helps oversee the event websites and social media, often working with a staff that includes writers, photographers and videographers.

“Everything is immediate at these events, and we do intense preparation in advance – interviewing the athletes, compiling statistics – so that we have a lot of video, audio, and stats on tap as events unfold,” he said.

McCarvel spends much of his time now working for the US Olympic Committee, which manages 30 sports. He most recently covered the New York City Marathon for, covering renowned Paralympic athlete Tatyana McFadden.

“Journalism continues to change as the digital landscape expands, but the skills remain the same,” he added. “Professor Sonora Jha was a guiding light. Thanks to her and the journalism faculty I got the foundation to get me where I am today.”

You can see McCarvel in action here:

Photo by Jimmie 48 Tennis Photography

Alumni Profile: Rita Siemion, Class of 2000, international legal counsel

Homeland security. Drones. Detention centers. Terrorism. For Rita Siemion, International Legal Counsel at Human Rights First, counterterrorism policies should respect both human rights and the rule of law.

Siemion, class of 2000, didn’t know much about Seattle University when she decided to give it a try, just that a good friend was a student and recommended it. It didn’t take long for her to find her place.

“I had been focused on social justice while in high school, and at Seattle U it’s built into the culture,” she said. “It was a great fit.”

Siemion credits the Honors Program curriculum and the close attention paid by Professors Madsen, Fisher, and Bosmajian with helping her get through difficult circumstances and prepare her for law school and eventually her dream job.

“The oral exams were horrible—they put you in the hot seat and expect you to answer questions fired at you from a panel of professors. It forced me to develop skills that I still put to good use every day,” she said recently on a visit to Seattle from her home in Washington, D.C.  “During my freshman year, Dr. Fisher recommended me to work as a writing consultant in the Writing Center. That experience helped me develop the skills needed for legal writing, where you often have to collaborate, accept feedback, and go through several drafts.”

It was Professor Fisher who suggested law school: “He called me into his office after an Honors program paper conference—where he had watched me critique another student’s paper—and I was afraid that I was in trouble. But then he said, in his very scary and famously blunt Dr. Fisher voice, ‘Ms. Siemion, have you considered going to law school? Because you belong there. The last student I had with your critical thinking skills is now at Stanford Law School.’ He really encouraged me to go to law school and gave me a huge boost at a time when I needed it.”

Siemion earned her J.D. from George Washington University School of Law and then her LL.M. in National Security Law with a certificate in Human Rights Law from Georgetown University. She also spent a summer at Oxford University studying international human rights.

Today, Siemion faces the difficult human rights and national security challenges associated with a post-9/11 world.

“We are dealing with one of the most complicated issues of our time,” she emphasized. “The threat of terrorism is real but we can’t lose sight of the importance of human rights as we work to reduce that threat”

At Human Rights First, a nonprofit that accepts no government funding, Siemion focuses on the legal frameworks that govern U.S. counterterrorism operations at home and abroad, including the law of armed conflict and international human rights law.  She works collaboratively with national security experts in Congress as well as at the Department of Defense, State Department, and National Security Council at the White House. 

“The United States has long championed human rights,” she said. “My strong foundation from SU in thinking critically and fighting for social justice has been essential for my work to bring drone strikes in line with international law and to end indefinite detention and military trials occurring at Guantanamo Bay. As Americans, we must strive for policies based on legality, accountability, and justice. Other nations look to the United States for leadership on human rights.”

Faculty-Student Research: Developing Ethical Standards for Breast Cancer Awareness Campaigns

Pink ribbons. Pink shoes. Pink gloves. While athletes, companies, and movie stars use pink to promote products and raise breast cancer awareness, for Communication Professor Caitlin Ring Carlson the claims and hype are personal and often unethical.

Carlson teaches strategic communications, and her research traditionally has been in communications law, policy, ethics, and more recently hate speech in social media. Diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, Carlson became increasingly interested in cause-related marketing associated with breast cancer.

“Pink washing is the term we use for efforts by companies that exploit breast cancer patients or their families by selling products that either harm women or by not being transparent about the total amount of money being donated,” Carlson explained.

Funded by a College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Research Grant, Carlson hired strategic communications student Uyen Le (Lili), class of 2016, to examine the ethics of pink campaigns. While Lili reviewed the literature and research, Carlson examined the campaigns. One example of a lack of transparency is Yoplait.

“Almost a decade ago, they said they would donate 50 cents a lid, and people sent in more than 9 million lids,” Carlson noted, “but they capped their donation at $100,000. That’s the lack of transparency we’re talking about.”

Perhaps most problematic is the number of companies that link breast cancer awareness to products, including beer, alcohol, and fatty foods, that are linked with breast cancer.

“One of the most ironic examples was Avon’s release of six ‘Lipsticks for the Cure,’” she recalled. “The lipsticks contained paraben, and that’s been linked to causing breast cancer.”

Lili, who came from Vietnam to the United States to study and graduated in December, had just finished an ethics course when she began working with Carlson last summer. Putting her classroom knowledge to use in a real-world scenario was enlightening.

“Marketing and public relations in my country isn’t that strong,” she said. “We don’t have the concept of cause-related marketing, but I think we’re getting there. When we develop it, we should be concerned about ethical issues as well, what benefits society, what helps other people—we need to look at how to get a mutual benefit instead of a selfish way of doing this.”

Carlson acknowledges that cause-related marketing has an important place in raising awareness and especially funding, but, she emphasizes, that type of campaign should meet ethical standards. As a result of her research project, she developed a tool set for public relations and marketing professionals that provides a set of best practices for public relations professionals tasked with putting together those campaigns.

“Lili wants to go on to graduate school and having her as co-author on a published paper will go a long way to helping her achieve her goals,” Carlson noted. “We developed this together, and we’re eager to get the best practices out to practitioners.”

Watch the video:

Alumni Profile: Claude DaCorsi, MPA 2011, Auburn City Councilmember

With more than 30 years of experience under his belt, Claude DaCorsi didn’t need a Master’s in Public Administration to advance his career, but it was invaluable when he was elected to the Auburn City Council and appointed to the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Committee.

DaCorsi started working as an architectural draftsman right out of high school. Drafting provided the training ground for him to move into construction management, including developing housing, offices, schools, hospitals, and community centers throughout the western United States. By 1999, he was preserving and improving existing housing stock and constructing new community facilities as the director of capital construction for the King County Housing Authority,

DaCorsi earned his Master in Public Administration from Seattle University in 2011, not for career advancement but because “it was something I needed to do for myself.”

Three years later, DaCorsi ran for a seat on the Auburn City Council: “A lot of things needed to be done to move this city forward, and I felt that with my background with my experience and of course with my education, it was a good fit.”

Auburn faces challenges common to many jurisdictions throughout the country including concerns about infrastructure, public safety and budgeting. One of the most pressing issue is housing.

According to the Puget Sound Regional Council, the region estimates a population increase of 1 million and an additional 850,000 jobs between now and 2040. Auburn expects its population to grow from 75,000 to over 100,000 within the next 10 to 15 years.

“Our industry and businesses can support that growth, but unfortunately the housing situation cannot,” DaCorsi said. “As of right now, there’s not enough buildable land, not enough development going on, that will produce affordable housing fast enough for those people to have a place to live.”

The City of Auburn may explore other opportunities such as public-private partnerships, incentives for builders, and regulations. Unlike some other jurisdictions, Auburn does not have a Business and Occupation tax, which can discourage builders from coming into the area. However, lack of buildable land remains a key factor.

Appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Board in 2016 and named its policy chair, DaCorsi helps develop statewide policies to provide new affordable housing and preserve existing affordable housing stock. The board works closely with the Washington State Department of Commerce to set legislative priorities that are brought to the governor. Because the state does not have the financial resources for an immediate solution, the committee focuses on short-term and long-term solutions for creating a revenue stream for both housing and homeless services.

“I am very optimistic that we can address these issues; nothing is impossible,” DaCorsi emphasized. “If we put our combined wonderful minds together, if we really are intent on solving problems and not intent on creating barriers and obstacles, we may not eliminate but we can certainly put a huge dent into the issue of homelessness. On the affordable housing side, it’s to me almost a no-brainer, being in the construction business for over 40+ years how you can create new housing opportunities for people of all income levels by being just a little more creative than we are today.”

DaCorsi credits his MPA education with preparing him to be an elected official.

“All of the courses we had in the program train you to be a responsible government person,” he said. “It really allows you to understand the inner workings of government, of public service, and especially of public administration. Public administration is so complicated, even in a city like Auburn.”

In addition to his work on the City Council, DaCorsi is a member of the National League of Cities and its Transportation and Infrastructure Services Committee; Associated Washington Cities Federal Legislative Committee; King County Growth Management Planning Council; King County Regional Transit Committee; Affordable Housing Advisory Board (Policy Committee Chair); and Valley Regional Fire Authority Board of Governance. He recently completed a book, Alba Nuova: A New Dawn, The Story of a 19th Century Italian Immigrant, based on his great-grandfather, who immigrated to New York in 1898, and his family.

Watch the video:

Psych Grads Create New Model to Serve Teens and Their Parents 


Master’s in Psychology alumni Kristin Beck and Jennifer Reisberg, class of 2015, created a model of psychotherapy to specifically address issues facing teens and their parents. Beck works directly with parents, while Reisberg meets independently with teens.

We interviewed Kristin Beck (KB) and Jennifer Reisberg (JR) on their specialized psychotherapy practice, Inside Out Therapy Alliance.


Q. What led to your decision to work with teens and their parents?

JR: There are a few therapists in Seattle who specialize in adolescents, but their practices are generally full and tend to have extremely long waiting lists. If you are looking for a therapist for your teenager, you don’t have very many places to turn, and that’s a big part of what pushed us forward to create this practice.

Q. Why a separate approach with parents?

KB: Adolescence is a family event, and parents need psycho-education and support. They want to understand what’s going on with their teen developmentally, how to be supportive through the chaos, and how to take care of themselves so they can effectively parent through this period.

Parents call us because they see their teen struggling, yet they no longer have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening at school or with friendships, and that can feel scary. Parents view our model as a way to help their family make sense of the enormous changes that hit during adolescence, in order to stay connected.

Q. Why a separate approach with teens?

JR:  It is very important for the teenager to feel that they have their own person who they trust. Confidentiality is a huge thing. My work is letting them know that this is their space — they choose what we talk about. I’m interested in understanding their experience, rather than focusing only on controlling behavior or fixing something. That’s the underlying philosophy of our model and therapeutic orientation, and teens seem to respond so well to that because they aren’t with someone who is judging them — they’re with someone who is striving to understand them.

Q. What kinds of problems are the teens facing?

JR: There’s a lot of academic and social pressure. We see teens struggling with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and difficulties in school. Some are over-achievers and others have difficulty dealing with the pressures of teenage life.

Q. How did the MAP program prepare you for your practice?

KB: The existential-phenomenological approach places a premium on looking closely at the lived experience of our clients. Understanding context — what is going on in the home, what is going on developmentally with the child, what is happening in the lives of the parents and siblings, and how the past impacts the present – that’s important. The program trains clinicians take in all of the details.

Q. What is it about the humanistic approach that’s so successful?

JR: Our training emphasized the importance of meeting clients where they are, rather than being a therapist who already has the blueprint and knows how things should be. We do what’s called a phenomenological reduction, bracketing (setting aside) our assumptions, and focusing instead on working with the person sitting in front of us. We try to make sense of what is going on together. We realize the importance of the relationship between therapist and client. I see the relationship itself as a healing tool, a way of modeling to the client a different way of experiencing the world, and a different way of experiencing a relationship with another person.


Jan. 11: Addressing West Coast Homelessness, with Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.  6:20 – 7:40 p.m., Pigott Auditorium, free.

Jan. 18: Winter Alumni Seminar Series “The Trump Presidency Confronts the World” begins. Details and registration here.

Jan. 18: MNPL Annual Celebration, 5:30 p.m., Student Center 160, free.

Jan. 27-28: The 10th annual “Giving Voice to Experience” conference. Professor Robert Mugerauer’s keynote address, “Facing Trauma and Loss with the Resources of the Humanities and the Arts,” is free and open to the public on January 27, Wyckoff Auditorium, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 28: [RE[]CONNECT: Seattle Arts Leadership Conference, with a keynote address by Jane Golden.

Feb. 9: An evening with Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, historian, writer, feminist, and author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

Coming soon: Winter-Spring Arts, Lectures, and Events calendar

Graduate Program Information Sessions

Details and more information here.

Jan. 11: MSW, 6 - 7:30 p.m., Casey 516

Jan. 12: MFA, 6:30 – 8 p.m., JEFF classroom

Jan. 18:  MSW 6 - 7:30 p.m., Casey 516

Jan. 21: All SU Grad Programs Open Houses, 9:30-11:30 a.m., Student Center

Jan. 25:  Nonprofit Leadership, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m., Casey 517,