Campus Community / People of SU

Investing in the Mission

May 29, 2019

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Story by Debbie Black, University Advancement

Seattle University is dedicated to educating the whole person, to professional formation, and to empowering leaders for a just and humane world.

These familiar words, a statement of our Jesuit Catholic mission, are embraced by Seattle U faculty and staff. Some of us interpret this mission specifically in the way we engage students and facilitate their development. But our mission extends beyond that; it speaks to faculty and staff as well, to our own professional formation and development as leaders. In 2001, the university established the Endowed Mission Fund for Faculty and Staff Development in the Jesuit Catholic Mission of Seattle University, to support us in experiencing and demonstrating our mission. Have you heard about it?

Inspired by President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., the Endowed Mission Fund (EMF) encourages personal and professional development for leadership in mission through programs, projects, scholarship and training related to the Jesuit Catholic mission of Seattle University. Fully funded by the university upon its creation, the endowment generates approximately $50,000 to $60,000 annually. Over the past 17 years, 3,000 grants have been made to Seattle U faculty and staff totaling $1,250,000. Grant awards typically range from $1,000 to $5,000, and are available to individual and group applicants. Applications are available in late January for the following academic year, and the application period closes in late February. The Endowed Mission Fund is administered by the Center for Jesuit Education.

“Personal and professional growth and development in our Jesuit Catholic mission can take place in a number of ways,” says Joe Orlando, executive director, Center for Jesuit Education. “Endowed Mission Fund grant applicants must demonstrate the link between their proposed program, project or training and our mission.”

According to Orlando, grant proposals tend to fall within three categories: Trainings and Workshops, Mission-related Retreats and Immersions, and Scholarship and Research. Many creative project proposals have been submitted within each of these categories, as well in the area of service. Only faculty and staff are eligible for grant funding, though some funded projects have also touched the lives of students.

Following are a few programs/projects that have been funded in the past. While each has a different focus, all exemplify the university mission.

International Service

Professionals Without Borders (PWOB) is a nonprofit organization established and operated by Seattle University Facilities staff. Its mission is to empower Seattle U students to lead and contribute to sustainable domestic and international service projects that help people in need. Staff, faculty and alumni volunteers train students in servant leadership while together working to provide access to clean water, healthcare, fresh food and shelter, ultimately supporting the university’s mission to create a more just and humane world.

PWOB applied for and received an Endowed Mission Fund grant for academic year 2017-2018 to renovate the Chikuni Mission Hospital Ward in Gwembe, Zambia, which is run by the Sisters of Charity. The project included cleaning, patching and painting the ward’s walls and ceiling, removing and replacing floor tiles and creating a plumbed indoor bathroom. The volunteers also did renovation work at the Chikuni Mukanzubo Cultural School. Seattle U staff, faculty and four students participated in the project.

The EMF grant was used to supplement funds PWOB raised through its annual auction. It covered direct project costs, and subsidized the costs of airfare, ground transportation, food and lodging for staff and faculty volunteers.

“We were continually developing an understanding of the poverty and hardships the locals have in their daily lives, while at the same time experiencing a humble and happy people,” says Cal Ihler, director of Operations and Maintenance for Facilities Services and project leader for Team Zambia. “We quickly learned to emulate one of the most beautiful local customs. While walking the dirt streets, most locals will cover their heart with their hand in a silent greeting to those they pass along the way.”


Amelia Seraphia Derr, MSW, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of social work in the College of Arts and Sciences. Her research focuses on the intersection of the migration process with social, health and city service systems and how that point of intersection can be used for enacting social justice. In other words, how service providers and city governments can influence the context of reception for immigrants and refugees, specifically making it more just.

Derr (left) received an Endowed Mission Fund grant to attend a month-long summer program at Oxford in 2017.

“Each summer, Oxford University’s Refugee Study Centre runs a program that brings together around 70 selected professionals working on issues of migration from many sectors; international NGO workers, policy advisors to heads-of-state, immigrants and refugees themselves and a handful of academics,” Derr says. “Participants examine current migration issues and develop best practices. I participated in the program during the height of the migration crisis when there were many drowning deaths among refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Together, practitioners, academics and migrants addressed ways in which the practitioner community should respond to emerging needs in that climate.”

Since returning to Seattle, Derr has used her learnings from Oxford to connect Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs with international efforts to respond to the migration crisis. She is currently writing about immigration best practices for dissemination through her scholarship, and developing, delivering, and documenting programs run through the Seattle Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs to be used as a model by other cities.


The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) Faculty and Staff of Color Retreat was born out of the recognition that opportunities for employees of particular identity groups to come together and find community are invaluable to their feeling of connection and empowerment at Seattle U, and ultimately to their retention.

“What retreat participants have been asking for is relationship,” says OMA Assistant Director Michelle Kim, who helps plan and facilitate the retreat. “The Faculty and Staff of Color Retreat gives folks the opportunity to see one another, to feel valued and to express their passions and frustrations. All of this is necessary to building an identity as a person, a professional and a leader.”

OMA has received ongoing support from the Endowed Mission Fund to continue this retreat, which Kim says would not be possible without it. “We’re doing exactly what the EMF is all about,” she adds, “encouraging personal and professional development for leadership in mission.”

The retreat is held at the Dumas Bay Centre in Federal Way each February. Connection is the underlying theme of each retreat, and is paired with a different topic each year, such as vulnerability or rejuvenation. External vendors are invited in to provide onsite instruction ranging from yoga and meditation to art.

“We allocate time for reflection, structured and facilitated discussion, self-expression, creativity and unstructured conversation, all aimed at relaxation and empowerment,” Kim explains. “There is also time for retreatants to practice their own spirituality.”

Many participants have been at Seattle U for less than a year, though the retreat is open to all staff and faculty of color. Veteran retreatants return to give back to a community of people they identify with, pouring into others what they have received.

“We empower, uplift and support one another to be the best professor, researcher, staff member and leader we can be,” Kim says.

Sharing Impact

Grant recipients are required to provide a written report about the impact of their funded project or experience by the end of the academic year for which the funds were awarded. They are also encouraged to find creative avenues to share their story with the university. This might include a presentation at the divisional level or at university events.

“All of us have creative ideas about how we’d like to discover more about this Jesuit educational tradition that we’re part of and grow our experience and understanding in a way that’s relevant to what we do,” says Orlando. “The Endowed Mission Fund can assist faculty and staff in finding an innovative growth opportunity that connects them and makes them feel more personally engaged with Seattle University’s mission.”

For more information on the Endowed Mission Fund, visit