People of SU

Reflective Leadership

Written by Mike Thee

October 13, 2015

students walk through campus on a rainy day

SGSU President Mallory Barnes-Ohlson is drawing on Jesuit principles to improve the student experience.

Politics have always interested Mallory Barnes-Ohlson.

When she was six years old she told her father she wanted to be president of the United States. A few years later, she sent a card and $40 from her piggy bank to then-presidential candidate John Kerry. "I told him I had a friend who was working on electric cars and told him I wanted him to continue working on saving the environment."

More recently, she has interned with two elected officials. The summer before she enrolled at SU, she worked for Rep. John Garamendi, who represents Barnes-Ohlson's hometown of Davis, Calif, and this past summer, she served as an intern in Washington Sen. Patty Murray's office.

Barnes-Ohlson, '16, is an elected official herself. As a freshman, she was class representative in Student Government of Seattle University (SGSU). As a sophomore, she was Executive Vice President. Last spring she was elected president.

Before laying out specific initiatives on which SGSU will be focusing in the year ahead, Barnes-Ohlson describes the guiding philosophy that she and the other officers are espousing. Part of this has to do with "trying to bring information to students and meet them where they're at."

Along these lines, SGSU is exploring what they might do to help students meet the challenge of finding affordable housing in the neighborhood. Campus safety is another area SGSU will be focusing on. As is sexual misconduct-"I want to see if there's anything we can do to better support survivors. This isn't an isolated issue. It's happening on other campuses, and if it's happening elsewhere, it's happening here. So (we need to be) more proactive about that and see if we can make the system of reporting a little bit less exhausting for survivors to go through." 

Barnes-Ohlson emphasizes the importance of Ignatian reflection in SGSU's work. "What we've talked about as a group is embodying this very Jesuit notion of being contemplative in action-so thinking about things before we start acting upon them has been really a driving goal we have in shaping how we approach all our other ideas." 

The Jesuit ethos has long resonated with Barnes-Ohlson. "I was raised non-religious and I still don't identify with any religion but for some reason Jesuit education really drew me, so I started looking at Jesuit schools, particularly those with a liberal arts twist." 

Looking to venture out of California, Barnes-Ohlson decided Seattle U was the place for her. 

"It's been a really, really phenomenal experience. Of course there are the ups and downs of college-the homework, the finals, the late nights-but there's also the community and the things that you get to learn about yourself. Having the opportunity to learn inside and outside the classroom has helped me grow a lot." 

Among other highlights of her SU experience so far, Barnes-Ohlson, speaks of the traditions and activities on campus and the opportunity to study abroad last year in Siena, Italy. "It was really amazing. I miss it a lot." 

So what's next for the sociology major and economics minor? 

"I want to go to law school," she says. "I took a class freshman year and we watched a documentary called 'After Innocence.' It's about the Innocence Project" (which represents people who are wrongfully convicted). "I was just really inspired by the work they were doing and it got me thinking that I wanted to be a lawyer." 

Criminal defense law won't be completely new to Barnes-Ohlson. In her high school English class, she was part of a legal team that represented Hamlet . They got him off on three of four charges.