Donor Impact Stories

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