When Tsehay Abebe, ’13, arrived at Seattle University, it was the first time she been outside her hometown in Ethiopia. Four years later, she graduated from the College of Science and Engineering with a 3.95 GPA, a bachelor’s degree in cellular & molecular biology and a four-year scholarship to one of the nation’s top medical schools, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Abebe showed an aptitude for research as an undergraduate, landing a coveted research position at the Pacific Northwest Diabetes Research Institute, one of the region’s top research laboratories. There, her studies of beta cell repair involved groundbreaking molecular genetics work.
“Growing up, I was exposed to people who didn’t have access to health care,” Abebe says. “I have always wanted to be a doctor and I chose cell and molecular biology because I am interested in exploring the mechanisms of how the body works. I’m interested in research that has clinical applications and can be used to improve health for everybody.”
Though still a junior, Braden Wild, ‘18, is already running his own company—a “special purpose corporation”—and that company is making it financially feasible for small coffee growers in Nicaragua to produce organic, fair trade coffee. SU student research opportunities and an internship in finance at The Boeing Company have inspired and supported him along the way.
As a freshman, Wild traveled to Nicaragua with student researchers and Seattle University professors Sue Jackels, PhD (College of Science and Engineering) and Quan Le, PhD (Albers School of Business and Economics). There, the Albers dual-degree student in business and economics learned that farmers had little financial incentive to grow organic coffee beans when they were reaping just 20 to 30 percent of the profits. In response, he created Café Ambiental coffee, sold at the Seattle U Campus Store. Those farmers now enjoy 65- to 70-percent returns, enough to support sustainable cultivation.
Café Ambiental, which involves four paid interns and two dozen students from Albers, will expand sales to other university campuses in 2017. Wild envisions a future working in global coffee and hopes for Café Ambiental to continue beyond his graduation.
Professor Henry Louie of the College of Science and Engineering engages students in electrical and computer engineering projects that literally light the world.
Recently, Professor Louie—a 2015-16 Fulbright—led a student team to Zambia where they installed a solar powered energy kiosk that provided the town’s first electricity. A past project in which a senior team designed a microgrid system to harness wind and solar power in rural Kenya won a $25,000 national grand prize in electrical engineering. In both these projects, Professor Louie and his students brought electricity to areas that had previously gone without.
Professor Louie says these projects are “transformative” for students who “come back to Seattle with a broader perspective.”
Rianne Spath, ’17, who was part of the Zambia team, agreed. “It’s an experience I would never be able to get at any other university. It increases my global experience and makes you feel good on the inside.”
Sue Oliver, director of Seattle University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, is leading a team of faculty and students, in partnership with JPMorgan Chase, to help strengthen local small businesses whose futures are threatened by gentrification.
The program works with small businesses in Seattle’s Central Area that are confronting lost retail space, rising rents, shifting markets and new construction forcing them to close or move. Many of the minority-, women-, and immigrant-owned businesses represent the social, ethic, and economic fabric of the community.
JPMorgan Chase has contributed $500,000 to the effort and is providing professional mentors to work with SU student interns. The faculty-student-corporate teams provide business coaching to help clients build their own capacity with a goal of producing customized strategic plans that address all aspects of a successful business from marketing to raising capital.
“Together we’re building upon their existing strengths, resources and capabilities,” Oliver says.
Improving Academic Achievement for Low-Income Youth
Before entering college, Seattle native Naod Sebhat, ’19, knew quite a bit about the Seattle University Youth Initiative. SUYI is a campus and community partnership in which faculty and students help to improve academic achievement for youth in the neighborhood bordering the university.
While still in high school, Sebhat participated in a project through Seattle U’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) where local high school students documented the history and redevelopment of the Yesler Terrace housing project in Seattle’s Central District through photography and video.
Now an environmental science major, Sebhat continues his community service as a SUYI volunteer at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School. He is one of more than 1,500 SU students who participate annually in the effort that targets a diverse community where more than 30 languages are spoken. Through SUYI, students like Sebhat gain perspectives, skills and experiences that shape their futures as change makers.
Then a Seattle U nursing student, Rebecca Conte Okelo, ’07 RN, ’15 LEMBA, was forever changed by a junior year service trip to Ghana where she witnessed advanced-stage AIDS patients being denied routine medical care. “I was just devastated by what I had seen,” Okelo recalls. “I came back and had no idea what I could do about it.”
What she did was found a health clinic there to help children and adults living with HIV and AIDS. In nearly a decade since, her clinic has grown to become Med25, a multifunctional health center, nursery, vocational school and orphanage. The clinic has helped thousands of patients and has plans to expand into regions and countries.
“This large care center has literally changed the face of HIV and AIDS in the community,” Okelo says.
Okelo credits the role her Seattle U education had in helping shape what has become her life’s work. “Seattle U has absolutely been the catalyst in what Med25 has become.”
Top 10 in the West
for more than a dozen years
—U.S. News & World Report: Best Colleges 2017
#1 Private University in the NW
—The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education College, 2017 College Rankings