Donor Impact Stories

Computing Across Disciplines

We feel it every day—the infusion of technology in our lives and in our world. We make in-store purchases with chip-embedded plastic cards; we buy everything from airline tickets to groceries online in the comfort of our homes; we watch movies, send mail and listen to music on our phones. What’s next?

“The role of technology in our lives is only going to grow,” says Roshanak Roshandel, PhD, chair of the Computer Science Department in the College of Science & Engineering. “There is no doubt that in the future every profession, from law to business to education and beyond, will involve elements of computing and computational thinking. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to be a programmer or software developer, but we need to understand how computing technology impacts our lives and influences our decisions.”

Students are heeding the call for professionals trained in computer science with an eye to career opportunities that lie ahead as Seattle continues to grow as a technology hub. Over the past four years, Seattle U’s computer science department has had the fastest growth on campus, doubling in size. The rigorous Bachelor of Science in Computer Science (BSCS) degree program prepares students for careers in software engineering or for graduate study in computer science.

But what about those students who enjoy aspects of computing but don’t necessarily envision themselves on a software engineering career path? What about those who are interested in technology and want to understand it better, but also have other areas of interest and passion?

An Alternative Path

The computer science department offers an alternative option for these students, or for any student who wants to acquire computing and analytical skills for a different career path: the Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science (BACS) degree. This option provides students with a sound foundation in computing, while enabling them to pursue their interest and passion in another discipline. The outcome is greater flexibility in determining an area of application for their computing skills, be it arts, humanities, education or social sciences.

The BACS degree reduces the number of required calculus, science and computer science courses to allow students to pursue an “application area” outside computer science. Students can minor in the application area, go for a double major, or with the help of their faculty advisor craft a customized pathway that supports their broad career interests.

BACS graduates often have broad skillsets beyond software development and enter the job market well-qualified for a wide range of careers in the tech industry; front-end developer, User Experience (UX) designer, program manager and business analyst are just a few positions that may be of interest. These positions typically require research, communication and analytical abilities, and interactions with a range of stakeholders from management to customers and developers.


Seattle U’s BACS program is similar to what may be known as a “CS+X” program at other universities. Dr. Roshandel explains that the Computer Science Department will be working on identifying natural combinations, such as CS + Biology, CS + Linguistics or CS + Music, and then work with the other departments to formalize CS+X pathways.

“The BACS degree is the right vehicle for exploring these partnerships,” she says, “and I do foresee a formalized CS+X program in Seattle U’s future. Presently, however, our BACS degree is a customized pathway to CS+X.'

Real-World Experiences

During their senior year, all Computer Science students complete a year-long industry-sponsored capstone project. Students from the BSCS and BACS programs are intentionally teamed together to collaboratively design and develop software to solve real problems for local companies or non-profits. A combination of technical and communication skills plus teamwork and leadership is required to successfully deliver to their sponsors. The diversity of the teams reflects the diversity of roles graduates will face in their professional lives and prepares them to navigate the challenges and opportunities of their chosen career.

 “Computer science is about critical thinking and problem solving,” says Dr. Roshandel.  “These skills, along with technical knowledge, communication and teamwork prepare our students for the real world. The capstone experience is an indispensable component of our undergraduate curriculum.”

CSI: Stepping-Up Innovative Collaboration

The new Center for Science & Innovation (CSI), a Campaign Pillar, will inspire more collaboration and “meeting of minds” across disciplines. Along with project rooms, graduate research/project space, a classroom and the new home of the Center for Community Engagement, the building’s first floor will house a large Maker Space that is available to the entire university.

Just what is a Maker Space? Simply put, it’s a place where people with interests in arts, technology, engineering or business can gather to work on projects while sharing knowledge, ideas and tools. It’s a space for innovation, design and creativity.

Situated behind glass walls, the CSI Maker Space will be visible to anyone who passes through the CSI’s first floor. High-visibility is intended to inspire students in non-STEM disciplines to consider computing, and the path available to them through the BACS degree.

“Our hope is that the Maker Space will offer natural opportunities for students from a variety of disciplines to gain exposure to computing,” Dr. Roshandel explains. “Computer Science is about solving real world problems that are in every domain and every discipline. By offering a space to support innovation and collaboration, we may also be able to broaden student interest in studying computer science and hopefully bring more diversity to the computer science program.”

The College of Science and Engineering is working with the Center for Community Engagement, which serves as the main entry point for Seattle U students, faculty and staff who want to engage with the local community, to define intentional programs that enable STEM students to work with local organizations. This will create natural interdisciplinary collaborative opportunities for students from all parts of campus.

“Graduates of the STEM programs at Seattle University, embody their Jesuit education and are interested in making the world more just and humane,” adds Dr. Roshandel “They do this by analyzing problems, and designing and building solutions. The new Center for Science and Innovation, with the Maker Space and the Center for Community Engagement provides a perfect playground for Seattle U students from all disciplines to come together, collaborate, innovate, and positively impact the world.”


Cultivating the Stuff That Humanitarians Are Made Of
Clapp Scholars

Seattle University offers a number of global immersion experiences providing students the opportunity to engage with a variety of cultures, societies and people. These eye-opening encounters can have a transformational impact on students’ world view and desire to engage in humanitarian service.

For Clapp Scholars, global immersion is a priority. The Clapp Humanitarian Scholarship program, established by Bill and Paula Clapp, supports academically successful sophomores who show leadership potential and a commitment to international humanitarian service. A cohort of four scholars is selected each year. Each student receives a $10,000 scholarship award, renewable through his or her graduation year contingent on academic progress and service activities. By lowering the overall cost of tuition, the donors intend their scholarships to help students continue their education at Seattle U. They also hope their gift will provide students enough financial flexibility to pursue their goals for international service and to travel abroad when opportunities arise. To date, the Clapp Scholars have traveled twice to Nicaragua and once to Cuba.

“The world needs humanitarians who will go out and make a difference,” says Bill Clapp. “Paula and I want to help students who are intent on making a mark for themselves in the world and on making a mark on others around the world to complete their education. It’s our primary inspiration in establishing the scholarship fund.”

Scholar Stories

Anna Pickett and Aidan Avery are Clapp Scholars, one with an inherent drive to empower marginalized populations; the other drawn to humanitarian service through the pursuit of an unrelated passion. Each exemplifies what the Clapp Scholarship is all about – demonstrated interest in global humanitarian issues, the desire and willingness to engage with and serve others, and dedication to scholarship, critical thinking and sharing knowledge.

Anna, ’17, was a member of the first Clapp Scholarship cohort (2014-2015). A double major in Spanish and Humanities for Leadership, her deep passion for disability rights and perception stems from personal experience. Anna was born a bilateral upper extremity amputee, which means she has no hands.

“Growing up,” she explains, “I felt I had to choose between being as able as possible, so as not to make others uncomfortable, or to accept being disabled. The people closest to me didn’t see my disability, though it’s part of who I am, and others saw only my disability. Neither option fully fits my experience. I want to weave these disparate perceptions together to bring more nuance to the way disability is perceived.”

As members of the inaugural Clapp cohort, Anna and her fellow scholars had the opportunity to work with their program advisor to define and shape the Clapp Scholarship experience. They wrote mission and values statements for the program, and determined that each academic year the scholars would identify and study a developing country and meet on campus several times for discussion. In summer, the scholars would travel to the focus country to engage in planned academic experiences and cultural events and to connect with the people there. In July 2015, the cohort traveled to Nicaragua with their advisor and participated in a tree-planting service project.

Aidan,’18, is a member of the second Clapp cohort. As a high school student in Missoula, Montana, he was drawn to filmmaking. His interest in travel and other cultures was inspired by a high school service trip to the impoverished village of Ekumfi Atakwa in Ghana, organized by the non-profit organization, It Takes A Village.

After graduating high school, Aidan attended film school in Chicago. While there, he decided to film a documentary about Ekumfi Atakwa.

“It’s a weird juxtaposition for Americans who have so much and who can be so cynical to go to a place like Ekumfi Atakwa where people have so little, and yet are so happy, welcoming and kind,” Aidan explains. “I wanted to share the feelings I experienced during our time there with anyone interested in viewing the film.”

During three weeks of filming in Ghana, the project’s focus segued to the impact a water shortage was having on the daily lives of the villagers. One small foot-pumped well had to maintain the entire village and subsistence crops. Aidan chose to tell the story through the eyes of a village elder.

The completed short documentary, titled "Abdulai,” premiered in Missoula, filling two theaters. It was also shown at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, at the Peace on Earth Film Festival in Chicago and at the Ethnographer Film Festival in Paris.

“The film wasn’t as humanitarian in focus as it would be if I’d done it now,” Aidan reflects. “But it did have an impact. The following year, It Takes A Village built a new well in Ekumfi Atakwa. Whether or not the inspiration for the well derived from the film, an issue that we raised in the film was addressed. And I feel good about that.”

Aidan enrolled at Seattle U in January 2015. He chose to pursue a philosophy degree – something that would inform his art. He applied for and received a Clapp Humanitarian Scholarship for the 2015-2016 academic year. That summer the first and second cohorts traveled together to Nicaragua. They met with professors at the University of Central America to learn more about the country, its system of government and the Nicaraguan people.

“The travel that we do as Clapp Scholars is intended to educate us about how people in developing countries deal with the struggles they face, whether or not outside aid is available,” says Aidan. “It’s not voluntourism.”

Following the 2016 trip to Nicaragua with Aidan and the other scholars, Anna remained in the country to embark on a 10-week advocacy internship at Corazon Contento, a Nicaraguan organization for children and adults with disabilities. In that role, she traveled to universities, non-profit organizations and high schools, and also met with parents of disabled children to speak about disability inclusion and society’s responsibility to accommodate disabled people so they can participate in society as equals. Nicaragua did have a law mandating public accommodation for people with disabilities, but the law was not implemented correctly and advocates were needed to bring change. This policy issue would later become the focus of Anna’s Fulbright grant application.

A third cohort of Clapp Scholars was added in the 2016-2017 academic year. Together, the three cohorts, now totaling 12 scholars, selected Cuba as their focus country and made plans to travel there in June 2017. They were interested in the unique opportunity the trip would provide to critically evaluate U.S.-Cuban relations from the Cuban perspective.

“On the 4th of July, we talked with Cuban women about their experience of the Revolution, and afterwards visited the Museum of the Revolution,” says Anna. “We saw things that were very critical of the U.S., but it’s helpful to understand how the U.S. has negatively impacted Cuba. We can learn from our mistakes.”

“We also spent a day talking to Cuban doctors and medical professionals and learned how Cubans access medical care and what the financial side of the industry looks like,” Aidan adds. “One scholar was interested in race relations, so we met with someone who owns an Afro-Cuban Museum and learned about race relations in Cuba.”

Humanitarian Hearts for the World

Anna graduated from Seattle U in 2017, and returned to Nicaragua as a Fulbright Scholar. She worked most directly with the University of Central America and Corazon Contento, but also with a number of other organizations. Half of her time was spent on policy analysis, researching the perceptions and treatment of people with disabilities, and the other half was spent planning workshops and a media campaign to raise awareness of disability and empower disabled children to be role models for the next generation.

In late April 2018, peaceful protests in Nicaragua turned violent due to increased censorship and government repression, and Anna had to be evacuated along with the family members of embassy staff and the other Fulbright grantees. She hopes to be able to return, continue her research and support her friends and colleagues in rebuilding and reimagining a more just Nicaragua. Anna sees law school in her future, and wants to continue her advocacy work for people with disabilities around the world.

Aidan graduated from Seattle U in the winter of 2018. He is preparing to move to Turkey, where he has secured summer employment at a hotel and restaurant on the Mediterranean Sea. Afterwards, he hopes to teach English in the public school system in France. He has thoughts of earning a master’s degree in creative writing down the road, and telling more stories through his art.

Asked how being a Clapp Scholar has added value to their lives, Aidan says, “The travel experiences have been huge learning opportunities. I’ve become more globally aware and my interest in other cultures has grown. This will have an enduring impact on my career path. Additionally, being around the other scholars and faculty has been inspiring – everyone is always doing something so inspiring! It’s self-reinforcing to be part of a group of people like this. You begin to see yourself as an inspired person who wants to be of service to others.”

According to Anna, “From the moment I received the Clapp Scholarship, everything started to fall into place for me. I met some of my closest friends through the Clapp program, I got a Fulbright grant due to my experiences as a Clapp Scholar, and I’ve gained the self-confidence to pursue my professional humanitarian goals as an advocate with and for people with disabilities.”  

While the Clapp Humanitarian Scholarship Program continues to make a lasting impact on the hearts of student humanitarians, it’s simultaneously impacting the hearts of two veteran humanitarians.

“Our lives are much richer having created this program, getting to know young people and hearing their stories,” says Paula.

“It’s like planting seeds, isn’t it?” Bill adds. “Our scholars will all go their own way. We hope they’ll each take what they’ve learned here, and go out and make the world a better place.


Scholarships Are a Critical Bridge for Students Who Want to Stay in School

For many families with students pursuing a college education today, a gap between the high cost of tuition and available resources can shatter dreams. At Seattle University, the majority of students and families are unable to fully fund the cost of attendance. While 87 percent of Seattle U undergrads receive financial aid, the ability to finance any remaining differential can impact a student’s educational opportunity.

New student recruitment and student retention are both directly impacted by the affordability gap. Data shows there to be a significant disparity in the retention of Seattle U students with high unmet need versus the overall class retention rate. This is especially so in the crucial transition between the first and second year.

Bridging the Gap

Student scholarships play a critical role in helping to bridge the financial chasm that stands between many students and their dream of a college education. Seattle U offers both merit scholarships and need-based aid to assist students in bridging the gap, but students are also expected to do their part. For some, their part is only covered by loans and working one or more jobs while in school.

“To me the issue isn’t just about funding—it’s about getting students to a place where they can do their best academically because they aren’t constantly worried about their financial situation,” says Jeff Scofield, director of Student Financial Services. “We can change a student’s entire academic experience if we can resolve some of their financial issues.”

Building the Bridge

Bridge Scholarships, such as the Seattle University Opportunity Grant, can go a long way toward helping deserving students complete their education here. Marika Yaplee, ’17, is a case in point.

Because Marika’s family had limited financial resources to contribute toward her education, it was up to her. She earned a competitive Campion Merit Scholarship, took out loans and worked several jobs. Her freshman year was a success as she ranked at the top of her class with a science-heavy course load. However, when the time came to return for her sophomore year, Marika faced a $6,000 affordability gap that she was unable to pay. She planned to drop out and continue her education at a public institution.

Fortunately, Seattle U was able to step in with a bridge scholarship that enabled Marika to stay in school. She still had to work more than one job to do her part, but she had the determination to succeed and maintained a high GPA while working toward her goal of becoming a pediatric occupational therapist.

Seattle U annually awards upward of $5.5M in private scholarships to undergraduates, but unmet need continues to surpass available scholarship dollars.

The Campaign for Seattle University aspires to raise $100 million for student scholarships. These new funds will provide supplemental means to help mitigate students’ remaining unmet need and support new and existing scholarships that provide access to education, celebrate academic success and help with recruitment.

Student scholarships truly do change lives. More than funding a student today, our donors are funding the education that will empower our next generation of leaders.


Putting the Science in STEM

CSI: Designed to empower tomorrow’s researchers today

When undergraduates enter a research lab at Seattle University and work shoulder-to-shoulder with a faculty member exploring unanswered research questions, they go from seeing the teacher as an expert to feeling more like peers. That’s when the magic happens. Their confidence grows and they start to see themselves as scientists.

Carolyn Stenbak, PhD, Associate Professor, Biology, Seattle University 

Seattle University is in the business of developing future scientists who are ready to hit the lab running. While science undergrads at larger universities are “paying their dues” washing glassware in the laboratory, Seattle U students are in the lab from day one doing real, inquiry-based bench research alongside a faculty mentor–work equivalent to that of first-year graduate students. Together students and mentor identify questions with answers unknown, research those questions, test ideas, grapple with confusing results and try to make sense of what they’ve learned.

“Real, meaningful research experience is one of the most important things a science student can have on his or her resume when applying to graduate programs,” says Associate Professor of Biology Carolyn Stenbak. “This is one of the top things selection committees are looking for in PhD candidates.”

Combined with its mission to educate the whole person, Seattle U’s focus on undergraduate research is a true differentiator that puts science graduates a step ahead on their career paths. The new Center for Science and Innovation (CSI) will take that experience to the next level.

Future Focused

The CSI will provide STEM students and faculty, as well as students across campus, with 105,000 square feet of state-of-the-art classroom and laboratory facilities. It will be a place where students gain the knowledge, skills and experience demanded by top graduate schools across the nation and by leading science and technology companies.

“The success we’ve experienced with undergraduate research to date has occurred despite some challenges with our current infrastructure,” Stenbak explains. “The research labs in the Bannan Center for Science & Engineering are quite small, so students are doing research in isolated pockets. They’re not able to easily interact and build a sense of community, which can be very powerful as students develop into scientists.” 

Currently, research lab spaces can accommodate up to three faculty members who are each working with one or more students, and often additional faculty members are squeezed in. The aging infrastructure is occasionally unable to support the electrical or mechanical needs of research equipment. The new Center for Science and Innovation will address these issues and enrich the overall research experience.

“One of the really exciting aspects of CSI is the plan for larger, shared research labs where students and faculty can enhance that sense of community,” says Stenbak.

The Center for Science and Innovation’s large, multi-investigator laboratories will emulate those encountered in top biotech firms and graduate schools, enabling students and faculty to perform in-depth research on several projects in a shared space. Students can collaborate across disciplines with peers and faculty mentors.

“Looking to the future, big problems the world faces will require creative, innovative and technical solutions,” Stenbak continues. “Bolstered by the new CSI, Seattle U undergraduate students will prepare to be leaders in their professions. But beyond the scientific knowledge, our grads will be able to frame their expertise in a humanistic context necessary to solve those big problems. They will use their passion and skill to accomplish the greatest good.”

When students enter the CSI building they will not only see the variety of research activities happening, but will also see students just like themselves succeeding in the research labs. Female science students will see Seattle U’s women faculty succeeding in their profession every day. This transparency will help all students to visualize having similar success.

Carolyn Stenbak, PhD