People of SU

Alumni Spotlight: Mary Ann Goto, ‘79

Written by Tina Potterf

May 3, 2023

A photo featuring alumna Mary Ann Goto

Image credit: Yosef Kalinko

A Q&A with this year’s University Service Award recipient.

Q. What drew you to Seattle University to study Sociology?  

“Since high school, I had a calling to go into counseling and social work. I had tried being a peer counselor in high school and liked it.  A recruiter from SU spoke to a small group of us at my high school, and I was impressed with his description of the small campus size and the fact that it was a Jesuit institution. Being raised Catholic in a small, rural community in Hawaii, I felt safe venturing off to the mainland knowing my surroundings would be similar to home.”

Q. Looking back at your time as an undergraduate, what were your favorite classes and professors?

“I very much enjoyed my classes in the Sociology Department, particularly Ethnic Studies taught by Dr. Robert Larsen. It was a graduate level course, but I loved it. Father James P. Goodwin was my academic advisor and was most supportive my whole four years as an undergrad. I enjoyed the comradery in our socials among the ‘Sosh majors.’

“Senor Clarence Abello made learning Espanol so fun. He was so animated. I also learned so much from Professor Val Laigo in art class. Singing in the University Choir was very enjoyable, especially when we got to go on a concert tour through California. I learned the most practical tools in Social Work classes from Professor Henrietta Tolson.”

Q. When you graduated from Seattle U, what path did you take professionally? Did you get involved with the Asian Counseling and Referral Services then or later on? 

“In the early years after graduation I held jobs that required strong writing skills such as paralegal work. I eventually was able to combine counseling skills with my legal background when I secured a position as a career counselor in a law school (University of San Diego). I enjoyed working with students so much that I did that for eight years and received my Master’s of Education in Counseling. Over the next two decades I worked for a number of nonprofit organizations in the field of fund development. I found that the counseling tools I gained from my education and work experience were exactly what was needed as a development professional—listening skills, developing trust, engaging individuals, learning what motivates a person. My background in social work, counseling and development all culminated in my present position with Asian Counseling and Referral Service. I love working with individuals (both co-workers and donors) who are passionate about providing human services and striving for social justice.”

Q. You have been recognized as a key leader in Seattle University’s Filipino Alumni Chapter, celebrating not only the Filipino community at the university but also in the city. Tell me about your work and support of this group and why it’s so important to you.

“It wasn’t until I attended Seattle University and met fellow Filipino-American student activists that I developed an appreciation for Filipino-American history and causes. My she-ro and role model has been Dr. Dorothy Cordova, an SU alumna and matriarch of an SU Legacy Family (three generations of SU graduates). ‘Auntie Dorothy,’ as she is affectionately called, founded the National Filipino American Historical Society (FANHS) and her dedication to developing its archives over the past 40 years has been an inspiration. My involvement with FANHS and the SU Filipino Alumni Chapter has nurtured my appreciation for my own Fil-Am legacy. I reflect on the fact that my paternal grandparents immigrated from Cebu, Philippines, in 1910 and here I am today. It’s true when they say, ‘We are our ancestors’ greatest dreams.’”

Q. Additionally, you are one of our most engaged alums, regularly serving as an ambassador and making connections between the university and community members. What compels you to stay active?

“Seattle University’s mission to strive for a just and humane world aligns with my own values. SU programs, panel presentations and seminars educate and bring to light many social justice issues still relevant today. I find it fulfilling to be involved, whether it’s by serving on the Arts and Sciences Leadership Council, serving as a resource for current students or volunteering at alumni events. On many occasions my volunteer work in the community intersects with SU resources and I enjoy being that liaison.”

Q. What does it mean to you to be honored with the University Service Award? 

“I have a magnet on my fridge that says, ‘The Universe will align itself to your song.’ This award is testament to that. To be recognized for doing what inspires you and fulfills your soul is everything.”

Q. What advice do you have for alums who may not have been engaged with the university since graduating but want to start getting involved and reconnecting? Where to start? 

“An easy way to get reacquainted is to follow SU’s social media pages to see what activities are out there. If something interests you, reach out to that particular department or to the Alumni Engagement Office and they can assist in connecting you. There may be a committee that could use your expertise, or a student seeking a mentor or a speaker that would be of interest to you. Additionally, I can tell you firsthand that meeting up with old college friends will bring out something in you that you may have forgotten. It will remind you of your initial outlook on things and your core values."

Q. What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

“I love live theater performances, especially regional theater—musicals, symphony performances, plays, local bands. Dr. Louis Christensen’s Fine Arts class must have rubbed off on me! I especially love when the arts uplift a social justice message.”

Q. Anything else you’d like to add?

“If you did not go into your chosen field of work immediately after graduation, don’t beat yourself up. It may sound corny to ‘follow your heart,’ but truly, continue to do what you enjoy and find fulfilling, even if it’s volunteer work for now. ‘The Universe will align itself to your song.’”

This is an extended version of a story that originally appeared in the spring edition of Seattle University Magazine, out now.