As a prospective student, Jean-Paul Wallis, ’18, was drawn to Seattle University’s civil engineering degree—a unique program that looks at big infrastructure through the lens of an intimate, small classroom setting. In his time at the College of Science and Engineering (CSE), Wallis found something even more special: tools to advocate for a sustainable future and a better tomorrow.
Inside the classroom, Wallis delved into the complexities underlying modern engineering. Outside the classroom, he worked with the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability (CEJS) as part of a comprehensive internship. Here, he helped CEJS with their annual reporting, fundraising and event coordination. “It was so valuable to be involved in that institutional sphere of sustainability and environmental justice,” said Wallis. “I learned so much to supplement my classwork. And, it was really unique working in the Bullitt Center, which housed CEJS at the time. It’s a zero-net-energy and zero-net-water facility and one of the most energy and resource efficient commercial buildings in Seattle. It was a great setting for a budding engineer to learn about sustainable infrastructure.”
After graduating from Seattle U in 2018, Wallis went on to complete a masters program at University of California, Berkeley before passing his professional engineering license exam. Now a project manager at Pacific Gas and Electric Company, he thanks his exceptional Seattle U education for laying the foundations of his career. He still sees it as a personal mission to push the practices he first explored at CSE and CEJS, including renewable energy, electricity storage and green tech.
On February 25, 2021, Seattle University hosted its fifth annual online giving day, Seattle U Gives. Inspired by the excitement and enthusiasm of the campaign, Wallis felt that it was the right time and place to make his first gift to his alma mater in support of CEJS. He hopes his donation will help to maintain the internship program that was so formative to his student experience and to empower the Center to make Seattle U more sustainable, equitable and just.
Wallis was one of nearly 3,000 donors who stepped up to make 2021 the most successful Seattle U Gives ever, raising over $575,000 for a myriad of causes across campus. “It’s really special when you have one day where you can add everyone’s dollars together and see the large impact small contributions can make,” says Wallis. “Not every alum is going to donate, but a sizeable number did—and if you multiply that number by even $10 or $20 each, suddenly you have a sum that can do so much more. Add challenge dollars to that, and it’s even more impressive what we can do as a community. I also appreciated the opportunity to give directly to CEJS as part of this campaign.”
Alumni donors like Wallis were critical to making the day a terrific success, unlocking over $215,000 in challenge funds including The President’s Club Our Moment for Mission Challenge. This was the first-ever challenge sponsored by the President’s Club, funded by members who wanted to motivate alumni to meet President Emeritus Fr. Sundborg’s monumental “Our Moment for Mission” call for 10,000 alumni to engage with the university during the last year of his presidency. Generous members pooled together $15,200 that would be donated to the SU Fund if 500 alumni gave during Seattle U Gives. Wallis and 820 fellow alumni—a whopping 62% increase from 2020—responded, smashing the challenge out of the park and setting a historic precedent for Seattle U Gives.
Reflecting on his impact, Wallis shared, “Being part of that driving force behind the good that you want to see is so important and rewarding. Things can always improve, and we can always lead tomorrow better than we would today.”
Wallis, and all of the alumni who contributed to and championed last year’s Seattle U Gives and the Our Moment for Mission initiative, have transformed Seattle U—providing our students with thousands of new volunteers and mentors, strengthening hundreds of programs and Redhawk experiences, and ensuring that the university will continue providing a transformative, purpose-driven and passion-fuelled education for generations to come.