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Campus Community / People of SU
Written by Lincoln Vander Veen
February 16, 2021
Many elected officials bios follow this path: Graduate from a four-year university, enter graduate or law school quickly thereafter and then launch a run for office as a talented and enterprising politician ready to put his or her stamp in a world they may have never experienced firsthand. Someone with the requisite knowledge and desire for public service, perhaps, but not necessarily someone with the compassion, selflessness and thirst for knowledge that follows lived experience.
Representative Debra Entenman, ’03, is not a prototypical elected official. She is a non-traditional student and lawmaker, an elected official helping knock down barriers for lifelong learners. Before transferring to Seattle U, Entenman attended Highline Community College while working full-time and raising a family.
“I want everyone in the legislature to think of their constituents as lifelong learners," explains Entenman, a proud mother and grandmother. “Whenever you want to increase your education, the paths should exist to pull it off. Education is a continuum. A non-traditional student just means a student didn't take the traditional path.” And maybe traditional isn’t so traditional anymore—that is to say, public policymakers would do well to think creatively about how best to support all constituents, such as a 40-year old cashier who wants to become an accountant or the mid-career professional looking to return to school.
And so Entenman, now in her third year in the state legislature, provides an invaluable perspective while sponsoring legislation to, for instance, allow community and technical schools to issue high school diplomas or to create a grant program for community college students in emergency financial circumstances. And supporting lifelong learners and students as a member of the College & Workforce Development Committee is not the limit for Entenman.
The 47th District, which includes Auburn and areas of south King County, has enormous transportation challenges and opportunities. Good thing, then, that Entenman is a member of the Transportation Committee representing her constituents who commute on SR-167 or Highway 18. As a member of the Civil Rights & Judiciary Committee, she’s leading thoughtfully on issues including police use of force and the prosecutions that may ensue.
“My interdenominational upbringing taught me that life is about service and learning and that was exemplified by Seattle U,” she says. “Seattle U helped to foster and grow my foundation of service and faith. I don't necessarily need to talk about my faith, I need to live it.”
And with that in mind, serving in the legislature has not quite quenched Entenman’s thirst for service.
“I’m going back to school again to teach,” she explains.
While she recognizes it won’t be easy to pursue that passion while still writing laws and representing her district, all that matters is she knows she can do it.
This profile of Representative Entenman is the third in a four-part series about Redhawks in the legislature. Next up: Senator Rebecca Saldaña, ’99, 37th Legislative District.
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