Living the Dream Job

(as originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of etc magazine.)

We know you’ve got dreams that have been brewing inside of you for as long as you can remember. Maybe you know exactly what you want to do after college. Maybe you have no idea. Here’s a look at 20 Seattle Pacific University alums who are thriving in the work world. We hope it will give you an idea of what your own awesome occupation might be.

Staff Biologist, Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium
Kadie Burrone '08, Biology Major

Wrestling tiger cubs, filing elephant nails, and feeding reindeer are all in a normal day’s work for Kadie Burrone. She started by researching deer alongside two different professors while at Seattle Pacific University. Their recommenda-tions helped land her an internship at Wildlife Safari in Oregon, which turned into her first zookeeper job. Now Kadie works with Asian elephants, clouded leopards, muskoxen, and reindeer at the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma and says that she can’t have a bad day. “The animals crack you up,” she adds. “They’re characters.”

Policy Analysts & Advocacy Coordinators, Mennonite Central Committee, Haiti
Robert ’07 “Wawa” and Kristen Chege, Political Science Majors 

Not everyone can say they’ve witnessed a revolution, but Robert “Wawa” and Kristen Chege can — they were working as advocates in Egypt during the Arab Spring, the recent pro-democracy movement in northern Africa. “We learned about the value of community, the fortitude of a people determined to make change, and the important role that government plays, for good and for bad,” Kristen says. Now the Cheges live in Haiti, where they serve as a voice for local groups aiming to improve living conditions. The Cheges believe their education and experience has allowed them to become “the bridge” for a vulnerable population.

Hammond B-3 Organ Player for Allen Stone
Greg Ehrlich ’06, Business Administration Major

Greg Ehrlich is no stranger to sleep deprivation. He used to play in four Seattle bands 20-30 hours a week in addition to his full time job in corporate sales. Now he’s toured worldwide with Allen Stone, playing 72 shows in 80 days and sleeping in a different bed every night. He met the rising soul singer through a fellow member of Concert Choir at SPU, and first played for Allen at the High Dive three years ago. “It’s been a fun road,” Greg says. In 2011, after the band’s TV debut on Conan, Greg had to decide between the band and his full time job. “I didn’t hesitate,” Greg says. “The dream was always music.”

Manager of Series Development, MTV
Dan Caster ’05, Communication Major

When Dan Caster took a class his freshman year at SPU called, “How MTV’s "The Real World" Changes Our Culture,” he had no idea he would become a TV big wig. But he did, and believe it or not, this year Dan just cast the next season of "The Real World: Portland" as manager of series development at MTV. Every day, as he’s receiving pitches for new shows and shaping concepts into small screen hits, Dan draws on the leadership skills he gained planning campus retreats, residence hall variety shows, and as student body president. “I learned a ton at SPU, and I wouldn’t be in this job today if not for all my rich experiences on campus.”

Nurse at the VA Puget Sound Medical Center
Zanie McMillan ’10, Nursing Major

Friends and family always ask Zanie McMillan about strange bumps on their skin or persistent coughs. “Oh, my gosh,” she laughs. “You would think I had my M.D.” While Zanie is not a doctor, she does have some expertise. She’s a nurse in the intensive care unit at the VA Medical Center in Seattle. “Lives are at stake every day,” she says, explaining that she likes the challenge of devising a plan to help patients survive. While her sights are set on becoming a nurse anesthetist, she enjoys her current position. And it’s also nice that she can save her friends a co-pay.

Information Technology Domain Architect at Boeing
Chad Meis ’11, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering Majors

Chad Meis has always been interested in aerospace. So when he was offered a job at Boeing last June after earning his master’s in electrical engineering at Cornell University, he headed straight back to Seattle. Chad works in the IT department, but his focus is on project management. “My passion is leadership,” he says, “which is one of the skills the SPU Engineering Department helped develop in me.” Plus, Chad’s father and sister work at Boeing, his grandpa formerly worked there, and his brother, a current SPU student, recently completed an internship at the company. “I guess you could say it’s a big part of the family.”

Doctors in Residence, Oklahoma University Medical Center
Rachael Hiebert ’07, English Major, and Jared Hiebert ’07, Biochemistry Major, Both on the Premed Track

Rachael and Jared Hiebert met as students at SPU, and after attending medical school at Loma Linda University, the Hieberts are now resident physicians in Oklahoma City: Jared’s specialty is otorhinolaryngology (head and neck sur-gery), Rachael’s is pediatrics. A typical day for the go-getters includes a 5 a.m. wakeup call plus 12 hours of learning on the job from attending docs in the hospital. Then they give goodnight kisses to their spunky 3-year-old son, Isaac, who recently declared he’s proud of his mom for going “to the hospital to fix kids.” Medicine is cool, but they say parenthood is the best gig in town.

Blogger, Jewelry Designer, Curator for Pinterest
Moorea Seal ’09, Studio Art Major

Moorea Seal is a Jane-of-all-trades. The art major turned jewelry designer was recently named a “Designer to Watch” by Seattle Magazine. She runs a successful blog through which she markets her jewelry. And she gets paid by companies to “pin” products on Pinterest (she has a whopping 850,000 followers). All of this work keeps Moorea busy. “I rarely get a full day off,” she says. The payoff is that she wakes up and goes to sleep whenever she wants, and she can work anywhere, whether that’s in her Seattle studio or in an airplane on the way to a blogger convention. “It’s so much fun,” she says. “I’m paving my own path, using blogging as a way to build a business.”

Pediatric Clinical Dietitian, Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center
Tina Hayashi ’12, Food and Nutrition Major

As a pediatric clinical dietitian (say that 10 times fast!), Tina Hayashi helps families nourish their kids well. She collaborates with doctors, pharmacists, and nursing staff to make sure every young patient in her SoCal hospital unit receives the nutrition they need. Whether it’s through spaghetti and meatballs with a side of broccoli, or through unconventional options like tube feeding and IV nutrition, she plans it all so kids can get back to the business of being kids. SPU’s nutrition faculty encouraged Tina to pursue her big dreams: “They provided me with so much wisdom — so much so that I try to stop by when visiting Seattle.”

Freelance Soccer Reporter and Soccer Coach
Liviu Bird ’12, Communication Major

Liviu Bird eats, sleeps, and breathes soccer. Of course, that’s not so different from when he was an SPU student and a goalkeeper for the soccer team — “the most fun I’ve ever had,” he says. Now, it’s as a coach for Edmonds Community College and Lakeside School and a freelance reporter for outlets like the New York Times soccer blog and American Soccer Now. Though at first he took up coaching to fund his “writing habit,” he says he enjoys helping players put strategy into action. “I like being around the game,” he adds. We’ll say.

Band Members, Founders of Arts Aftercare, and Worship Leaders at Cross Sound Church on Bainbridge Island
Grace Romjue’05, Theology Major; and Curtis Romjue ’03, Latin American Studies Major

Grace and Curtis Romjue have spent the last decade using the arts to fight human trafficking. They started the nonprofit band, Jubilee, in 2004, and are justice advocates for International Justice Mission. They’ve recently founded Arts Aftercare, an organization that exists to bring “beauty and healing through the arts” to human trafficking survivors at local and international safe homes. “Speaking about the unspeakable is not always an appropriate medium for expression,” says Carlene Brown, assistant professor of music and one of 17 experts on their advisory board. “I am so impressed with the care they are taking on this project.”

Assistant Designer for REI Women’s and Children’s Sportswear
Neenah Maier ’11, Clothing and Textiles Major

After meeting Neenah Maier through SPU’s Mentor Program, Rachel Asimakopoulos, a design manager at REI wanted to “find a way to get her on my team.” She hired Neenah for an internship and then finally as an assistant designer this January. Now Neenah spends her work days “corralling squirmy toddlers” for fit sessions, and analyzing the colors of buttons, snaps, and zippers under a light box. “Most people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into even the smallest details of clothing,” she says. “I find it fascinating.”

Crisis Counselor for Colorado Fire Victims
Erin Walrath ’08, Psychology Major

It was a nightmare scenario in June 2012: More than 32,000 people forced from their homes in Colorado Springs, and hundreds of those homes destroyed. Erin Walrath is uniquely equipped to help victims of the most destructive wildfire in the state’s history put their lives back together. After graduation from SPU, she earned a master’s degree in international disaster psychology from the University of Denver so that she can work with those least able to cope with natural and manmade disaster, such as refugees, children, and the poor. “This career path was designed for me,” says Erin, who despite experiencing people’s pain, has seen a great deal that gives her hope.

Lab Assistant at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Mark Tom ’12, Physiology Major

One of cancer’s worst enemies is Mark Tom. He started working at the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center as an intern, which he got with the help of his SPU faculty advisor. He enjoyed the experience so much that he applied for a permanent position after graduation. Mark explains his work like this: “Our lab creates the Jason Bourne of T-cells which can actively work together to kill tumors.” Mark eventually wants to go to medical school. “Working at the Center has prepared me well to be a more competent physician.”

Reading Intervention Teacher at the Lummi Nation School
Yolanda Vogel ’11, Elementary Education Certification with a Family Consumer Sciences Major

As a reading intervention teacher, Yolanda Vogel works with kindergarteners through eighth graders at a tribal school in Northwestern Washington. She tells her student how smart and valuable they are, about her faith in God, and about less serious matters. One day a second grader asked her what was on her chin. Yolanda explained that it was a pimple and would go away eventually. “All the second graders were in wonder,” she laughs. The next day, the second graders repeatedly told her, “Miss Vogel, it’s still there!” “These children are constantly on my mind and I love to remember the funny moments and pray for their futures.”

John Keatley ’03, Business Administration

John Keatley likes to thank Sarah Palin for catapulting his career. He photographed the politician for the cover of her best-selling book during a period where his business was still starting out. “I got that job out of nowhere,” John says. Since then, he’s shot portraits of Bill Gates, Andy Samberg, Annie Lebowitz, and more recently Seattle’s own Mack-lemore (currently on the charts with “Thrift Shop”). His weirdest shoot involved burying the founder of the “I Can Has Cheezburger” website up to his neck in kitty litter and surrounding him with cats – which he was allergic to. John also gets to travel around the world to places like Dubai, Liberia, and Barcelona, and he has begun taking on more humanitarian-focused assignments. “I want to be able to use my gifts to make a difference.”

Program Analyst at Amazon
Cameron Lowell ’11, Accounting and Business Administration Majors

Barks could erupt at work, but Cameron Lowell does not work at a dog park or a pet store. He works at Amazon, where he is allowed to bring Bandit the Pomeranian and Dolly the Shih-Tzu. As a program analyst, Cameron evaluates the process of earning, billing, and collecting from Amazon’s vendors. He likes being at a company that’s both stable and growing. Amazon’s revenues were $13 billion higher last year than the previous year. “We’re always coming up with new solutions,” Cameron says. “It keeps me on my toes.” And we’re guessing that his furry office mates do as well.

Posted: Monday, January 01, 0001