The patio of Edelman’s high-rise office offers sweeping views of Seattle. Phoebe Kim, ’18, often found inspiration here in the summer of 2017 when she was a Prism Scholar at Edelman, a communications marketing firm. By summer’s end, Kim had set her sights beyond that horizon to South Korea, where her mom was born and the rest of her family lives, with a vision to address global injustice through marketing.
It was not the life she had once imagined. Kim came to Seattle University on a music scholarship but had to change course when injury cut her violin career short. She was wading into a new major in communications when she applied for the Edelman internship, which the company established to attract underrepresented minorities to the field.
Though Kim was an intern in the university marketing communications department, she felt she lacked the experience to compete for the internship and almost didn’t apply. Fortunately, a professor urged her on and guided her through the process. Ultimately, Kim was one of two interns selected from 80 applicants across the country for the program’s inaugural year. What she calls the “opportunity of a lifetime” left her emboldened to make a difference through her new profession.
“Here at Edelman I see a connection with social justice. Those issues are only getting more important and coming more to the forefront in the world,” she says. “What a perfect time to put my skills to use.”
Once shy, Kim says Seattle U’s mission to educate the whole person was instrumental in forming the self-assured professional she is becoming. “How I carry myself and how I’ve changed is because of that piece of the mission,” she says. “Being genuine has really shaped who I am.”
Alan Yu, ’17, considers himself lucky to have been offered a job on Microsoft’s high-profile Azure SQL Database team right out of college. But tenacity had much more to do with it than luck. After transferring to Seattle U for its computer science program, Yu set out to join the region’s world-renowned technology sector only to discover that he would have to pay his dues.
Seeking his first internship, Yu applied to 100 companies. Over a five-month period, he was rejected by 93 of his prospects. Interviews proved to be another learning curve. But instead of getting discouraged, he sought feedback and made adjustments along the way. It worked.
Weyerhaeuser hired him as a software developer intern. The experience raised Yu’s profile so that his next search went much more quickly: 50 applications yielding 20 interviews. By November, Yu had lined up an internship at Microsoft for the following summer. That led to two permanent job offers from the company, nearly a year before graduation.
“You’re going to have a lot of failures in life,” Yu says. “Being able to enjoy the learning process helped set the tone for the rest of my years at Seattle University and eventually transitioning to the rest of my professional career.”
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.”
Professor Meenakshi Rishi is mentoring the next generation of global citizens as the director of Seattle University’s International Development Internship Program (IDIP). This one-of-its-kind program in the nation connects juniors and seniors to NGO projects in developing countries worldwide.
Rishi has facilitated student connections to projects involving global sustainability, public health, computer coding, microfinance, community development, refugee women and structural engineering for earthquake readiness, among many others. She oversees about eight to 10 students a year in internships to Asia, Africa and Latin America. In addition to on-site work, the 20-credit program requires coursework, developing a research question and a reflection component.
IDIP graduates have gone on to graduate schools, secure Fulbright grants, publish research papers and assume leadership positions in organizations. “No matter where they land, they acknowledge the impact of their IDIP placement in their growth as whole persons,” Rishi says.
“Our students are not just thinking about a just and humane world,” she says. “They are thinking about being an active participant in the operation of a just and humane world.”
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.”
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, 2018 College Rankings