Academic Achievement

Winning Social Venture Plan Competition

Three students won SPU’s Social Venture Plan Competition.

Music therapy program garners acclaim

SPU’s music therapy program — the only such program in Washington state — was named one of the 20 best music therapy bachelor programs in the U.S. by TheBestSchools.org. In addition to steering the program toward national prominence, program director Carlene Brown will serve as the lead consultant for bringing music therapy to Taiwan. The associate professor of music presented at the 2017 International Symposium of Rural Health and Innovative Long-Term Care Services in Puli, Taiwan. She also lectured on music therapy and pain management to faculty and students at the National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine in Taipei, and gave a presentation about music therapy at the National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu, Taiwan.

Physics researcher named national fellow

Rachel Scherr, a senior research scientist in SPU’s physics department, was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society. She was selected for the honor by fellow physicists for her foundational research on energy learning and representations, her application of video analysis methods to study physics classrooms, and her leadership in the physics education research community. APS has more than 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the U.S. and worldwide.

Three theology faculty credentialed by denominations

The SPU School of Theology celebrated three new “reverends” within its faculty. Bo Lim, associate professor of Old Testament and university chaplain, was ordained by the Evangelical Covenant Church. Shannon Smythe, assistant professor of theological studies, was ordained as a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Assistant Professor of Wesleyan Studies Matt Sigler was commissioned as a probationary elder in the United Methodist Church.

DNP cohort begins

SPU launched its doctor of nursing practice degree program last fall with an inaugural cohort of 19 students, exceeding enrollment goals. The students — predominantly female, average age 33, with two to five years’ nursing experience — are pursuing doctorates as family or adult/gerontology nurse practitioners or as clinical nurse specialists.

New continuing education business courses offered

SPU’s School of Business, Government, and Economics launched several new continuing education professional certificate courses in Autumn 2017. Most require two quarters of night classes and have no prerequisites. Topics include digital marketing, project management, Lean Six Sigma, supply chain management, analytics, cybersecurity, and entrepreneurship.

School of Theology professor Frank Spina honored for 45 years of service

Beloved by generations of students and colleagues, Professor of Old Testament Frank Spina marked 45 years of teaching at SPU this year. Known for his wonderful sense of humor both in the classroom and in faculty meetings, Frank was honored as the SPU Professor of the Year in 2000. For decades, the ordained Episcopal priest has been an admired speaker, regularly teaching in churches around the Pacific Northwest and lecturing in various institutions around the country, including Roberts Wesleyan University, Spring Arbor College, the University of Portland, and Western Evangelical Seminary. His scholarly work focuses on theological readings of Old Testament narratives, as exemplified by his acclaimed book The Faith of the Outsider: Exclusion and Inclusion in the Biblical Story.

Seattle Pacific Art Center hosts social justice exhibit

As the 2017–18 academic year began, the Seattle Pacific Art Center opened a graphic design show, Observe | Make | State, which brought together posters, charts, and other graphic-design reproductions from four influential individuals: W.E.B. Du Bois, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Garland Kirkpatrick, and Emory Douglas. Spanning 100 years of work, they all addressed issues of social justice. “SPU is looking for ways to have diverse, inclusive, equitable conversations, because our community cares so much about reconciliation,” says Karen Gutowsky-Zimmerman, professor of art–visual communication. “It’s essential we have places and spaces that foster these kinds of conversations.” The art center’s exhibit this autumn highlights ways graphic design has been used to promote and hasten social change. Visitors were invited to take part as well. By including a makerspace with paint and other tools, the show offered visitors a way to respond to what they’d seen by adding their own art about the topic.

Social Justice met art at a fall campus design exhibit

State poet laureate holds campus poetry workshop

“Finding home” was the theme of a January workshop led by Washington state Poet Laureate Claudia Castro Luna with Seattle Pacific students and residents of Tent City 3 (hosted on campus through the winter). The workshop was part of the SPU Library’s Creative Conversations series to share scholarly and creative works in progress. Exploring the concept of home, Castro Luna led the attendees through exercises where they recalled specific details — from cooking smells to the size of furniture — that made up their early experiences of home. Using poems from Gregory Orr and Emily Dickinson as examples, participants evoked their memories of home, some of which became prose or poetry. “Having such a high-profile visitor energized this community of both the housed and the homeless,” says event host and poet Mischa Willett, an instructor in SPU’s Writing Program. “It helped broaden our concept of home, which could be a person or even a meal.”  

Seattle Pacific Art Center presents lectures on faith and art

The Seattle Pacific Art Center hosted Cameron Anderson, executive director of Christians in the Visual Arts, for a series of lectures on art and faith in February. The visit was sponsored by the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Drawing from his recent book, The Faithful Artist: A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts, Anderson led a discussion for the SPU community on the relationship between evangelicalism and art. Anderson, who has a master of fine arts in painting and drawing and has served as the national director of Graduate and Faculty Ministries for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, also gave two lectures. In one, he talked about how Christians should pursue relationships with one another and their natural environment to combat the consumption, anxiety, and fear encouraged by technology. In the second, he explored the divide between the evangelical church and the world of contemporary artists, ending with a call for Christian artists to look for common ground with their faith traditions and pursue reconciliation in their artwork. 

Encouraging student entrepreneurs

A student project to turn farm waste into fuel and revenue won the $5,000 grand prize at SPU’s 12th annual Social Venture Plan Competition in April. The winning team, Itheno, comprised junior Cheyenne Thornton and seniors Kristina Brennan and Naomi Miller, who proposed a process for rice farmers to turn waste into energy. Farmers in Dakshin Dinajpur, India, commonly burn rice stubble in their fields before planting the next crop. The team developed a chemical process to turn that waste into bioethanol and fertilizer. Farmers would pay a fee to have stubble removed and would receive bioethanol for household and farm use in return. Fertilizer and excess fuel would be sold for profit. Each spring, the Center for Applied Learning in SPU’s School of Business, Government, and Economics offers the contest, which encourages students from all majors to develop entrepreneurial projects that can make a difference in the world. 

Students win “best original score” in film competition

A group of SPU music students won best original score for Home Invasion, their team’s entry last fall in Seattle’s 48-Hour Horror Film Project. Part of a worldwide timed filmmaking competition, each team was randomly assigned a specific horror film genre just before the contest began. The short film was written, filmed, edited, and given a soundtrack all within 48 hours. Taylor Merisko served as the zombie film’s composer and mixing engineer, with assistance from fellow student Aileen Lani Saboff. Hunter Rath was the audio engineer and cellist. Violinist Evan Daley and trumpeter Colin Chandler rounded out the ensemble. Merisko says use of SPU’s Nickerson Studios was key: “Without access to such a state-of-the-art studio and equipment, I do not believe the project would have come together as well as it did.” 

Speech and debate team wins honors

SPU’s speech and debate team won awards at the Fred Scheller Invitational at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, in January. Coached by Assistant Professor of Political Science Bradley Murg, SPU students competed against teams from 23 colleges and universities during the three-day tournament. Seniors Madison Luther and Luke Harrison won the novice division; Harrison was honored as top speaker and Luther took second speaker. Senior Alex Donka and his sister, sophomore Rachel Donka, won five of their first six rounds, ranking third overall, before being eliminated in the quarterfinal round. 

SPU launches four new majors in 2018–19

To better equip students for a changing market, SPU will offer four new majors and three new minors beginning autumn 2018. Some existing majors will also see changes. New degrees include: bachelor of arts in social justice and cultural studies (with four tracks: pre-law human rights and policy; art for social change; mediation, peace, and conflict resolution; and advanced cultural studies); bachelor of arts in life science; bachelor of science in mechanical engineering; and bachelor of arts in criminal justice.


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