As I write this missive, we find ourselves well into the Lenten Season — and the well is deep. I continue to be grateful for our exemplary musical performances, theatre productions, poetry readings, team debates, art gallery openings, portfolio shows, the Richard Sohn Speaker Series on film studies, Arts and Humanities Colloquium speakers, and our new First Friday Discussion Series on social justice issues. But all this activity — so visible and audible on the surface — rests supported, nourished by deep, still waters. I rejoice in how deep and abiding we are as a unit: faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Lent reminds us of our mortality and our need to live into and draw from the well of God’s love and discern the will of the Spirit in all we do. In the midst of our activity, we set aside time in Lent for solitude, silence, prayer, and listening to God. In our work and service we still wait, ready to dance to the music of new life at Easter.
– Debra Sequeira, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences – Division of Arts and Humanities
A Physician for All Seasons
Corrie McDaniel in India 2017.
Corrie McDaniel knew by fifth grade that she wanted medicine for a career. But as she grew older, she felt the grip of another passion as well: classical studies. In high school, she fell under the spell of the Latin language and Latin history.
“I had my whole life ahead to focus on science,” says Dr. McDaniel, a pediatric hospitalist who does pediatric research and clinical medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Harborview Medical Center, and Everett’s Providence Hospital. How did she resolve the two passions in college? She majored in the classics and minored in chemistry and biology at Seattle Pacific University.
“My studies in the humanities rounded my experience and ultimately made me a better physician,” says McDaniel, a 2005 Seattle Pacific graduate. “My capstone project my senior year was on ancient Greece and the role of the female physician.” Occasionally, she still reads texts in Latin or Greek. “Some of my favorite works of literature remain ones that I first discovered at SPU, works like The Aeneid and Ovid’s The Metamorphoses.”
As if those two passions were not enough for college, McDaniel pursued a third. “I was an SPU Falcon gymnast all four years,” she says. “I competed in all-around my first three years, and after an injury, competed in beam and floor my senior year.” She received All-American honors all four seasons.
But it was the call of medicine that spoke loudest, specifically the uniqueness of pediatrics. “Your patients often cannot tell you what is wrong with them,” says McDaniel. “Pediatrics combines problem-solving with mystery.” And because children are highly intuitive when working with a doctor, she finds that it takes intentionality to build rapport with them. In the end, she admires the children’s fierceness and determination to be well.
Though she splits her time between the three hospitals, McDaniel, a graduate of Midwestern University’s Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, is actually on a University of Washington professorship track and employed by UW. “Much of my time is spent teaching and working with medical students and residents,” she notes. “My research focuses on improving clinical outcomes for children hospitalized at community hospitals.”
A well-rounded physician such as McDaniel is no fluke. Her determination and the careful planning of her education trajectory, coupled with SPU’s strengths in science and the humanities, led to a strong, positive outcome.
The Department of Languages, Cultures, and Linguistics, which helped McDaniel excel in classical studies, is collaborating with University Archives to utilize an existing artifact collection and to build a new ancient coin collection. SPU students will gain hands-on experience with ancient objects in support of classical studies and the Museum Studies program.
Music Therapy Major Lands Internship in Spain
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that senior Ruth Rodriguez found hard to pass up. “I thought for sure my application would be rejected,” she says, “but I went with my gut.”
Is Rodriguez ever glad she did. She was chosen for a music therapy internship in Barcelona, Spain, and will be working with Melissa Brotons, president of the World Federation for Music Therapy and head of the graduate music therapy department at Escola Superior de Musica de Catalunya. It is Seattle Pacific University’s first international placement in fulfillment of a degree in music therapy.
For a minimum of six months starting in September, Rodriquez will work with hospitalized children, which she says is her dream job. She hopes one day to be a board-certified music therapist and pursue a master’s degree in music therapy and a doctorate in music theory. She’d like to become a professor and teach those subjects herself.
“It’s incredibly important to pass along what you’ve learned and I want to be a part of the growth within the music therapy field,” she says. “Music is one of the very few things that activates the entire brain. Advocacy for music therapy is important to me.”
So is world travel. Her parents are from Mexico and the family has been to Mexico many times. Rodriguez was 18 when she traveled to Greece and Italy. She fell in love with Florence and returned there to study abroad last summer. “I took beginning and intermediate Italian language classes and stayed with a host family,” she says. She hopes to live in Europe one day.
Musically, Rodriguez is proficient on guitar, piano, and percussion, and has been singing classically since age 14. She plays ukulele and some trumpet.
A life of music for enjoyment and as therapy lies ahead of her. Particularly, her heart goes out not only to hospitalized children, but also to those on the autism spectrum. And being close to her mother and father, she says, “I’m passionate about immigrant and refugee families.”
Find out more about the first and only music therapy program in Washington state.
These Cameras Capture a New Way of Seeing
Photographer Kayley Driggers captures sometimes blurred relationships.
What is it like to be a Muslim woman living in the West? What can be learned from the often ambiguous emotional relationships between people?
The camera knows.
“It doesn’t matter if it was a planned photo shoot or one of the 4,000 images on my phone,” says senior digital media and photography major Kayley Driggers, “I have a deep appreciation for all photographs.”
Her senior project captures two individuals on one of the happiest days of their lives: their wedding day. One of the images she chose to include is abstract, “peculiar and ambiguous,” in which the couple clings to one another, vulnerable or hurting. “I want viewers to think back to their own personal experiences in relationship. Relationships are essential to human life and can be beautiful and wonderful, yet challenging and complicated.”
The complication for photographer and senior Karina Richardson is not fully capturing the confidence, pride, and honesty of three Muslim women living in Seattle.
“The raw conversations around gender, identity, Islam, politics, and culture I’ve had with them are the magical part of the process for me,” says the global development studies and digital media/photography double major.
Photographer Karin Richardson captures a Muslim woman’s strength and beauty.
In 2016, Richardson lived in Amman, Jordan, studying Arabic, Islam, and conflict in the Middle East. Upon her return to Seattle, she wanted to capture diverse voices in the community, particularly engaging with Islamic communities through the lives of Muslim women. She learned a greater sensitivity and hopes one day to return to the Middle East, continue photographing women in the region, and eventually publish a book of her photos of Muslim women in the U.S.
After she graduates, Driggers would like to freelance as a wedding photographer and mentor others wanting to grow their photography businesses. “Photography is a perfect fit for me,” she says. "I’ve always struggled with using my words to express my thoughts, ideas, and feelings. Creating through imagery brings so much clarity to my life.”
Assistant Professor of Art Zack Bent is co-creator of the digital media/photography major. “Our program is a visual laboratory where students can create and engage with images in ways that bring their intellectual and spiritual interests to life.”
History Professor Looks Forward and Back
When history professor Don Holsinger arrived at Seattle Pacific University in 1990, Saddam Hussein had just invaded Kuwait. Twenty-eight years later, as Holsinger prepares to retire at the end of this academic year, Saddam is gone but the face of conflict has broadened. History is relentless with change.
What has not changed is the deep need for cross-cultural understanding and historical perspective. “I teach my students to see themselves in the stream of time,” Holsinger says. “That resonates with their sense of vocation, identity, and Christian faith commitment.” He believes the theology underlying academic study and student life makes studying at Seattle Pacific unique.
“The fact that we’re open to students of all faith traditions and no faith tradition lends such an exciting mix of perspectives to our studies,” says Holsinger, who begins the teaching of his history classes with the Good Samaritan story. “To ‘live Samaritan’ is to care for strangers. History isn’t so much looking at the past but developing a perspective on the future.”
That emphasis on service involves many SPU students. Holsinger is a proponent of world travel, taking a student mission team to East Africa, joining a Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation to the Middle East, and participating in a coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities delegation to China. He takes students to places such as the Sahara Desert vicariously through slides. They discover that the Sahara is not just an empty expanse of sand and rock, but shelters thriving human communities such as the one that he studied for his dissertation.
This year when President Trump made disparaging remarks about Africa and Haiti, Holsinger saw it as a teaching moment. He gave extra credit to those who delved into the politics and history of the African and Haitian people. And to his great satisfaction, most of his students seized the opportunity.
In retirement, the father of three and grandfather of six hopes to do more travel, complete four writing projects he’s started, and again pick up the guitar that has languished too long. It’s time to take more time to do what he has so long professed to his students. He rejoices that SPU students today have “a smorgasbord” of study abroad options before them, and how often did he tell them that they couldn’t go wrong by learning another language? He vividly recalls his own study of Arabic, and the “whole new world” that personally opened before him.
History Major Places Himself in Jeopardy!
Ryan Fenster on set of “Jeopardy!”
On the first day of a four-day winning streak on TV’s popular “Jeopardy!” game show, Ryan Fenster, Class of 2016, netted enough money to pay for grad school. By the end of day four, he had bested eight competitors. His reign ended there with championship winnings totaling more than $91,000.
“SPU taught me that we all have purpose,” says the Seattle Pacific University history alum. “You’ll know when you’re on the right track.” Long accomplished at history, he soaked in the stories, the lives of fascinating people, “and the ways in which everything connects.” The study of history crosses many disciplines and has made Fenster something of a generalist -- the ideal contestant for “Jeopardy!”
His grandparents urged him to try out for the show in 2017. “The worst I could do was third place,” he says and the third prize of $1,000 would at least cover the cost of roundtrip airfare from Seattle to Los Angeles, plus the cost of a hotel. He took the online “Jeopardy!” quiz in June, was called for an interview in July, and started taping on November 7, his birthday. The shows aired early in 2018 and qualified Fenster for the “Jeopardy!” Tournament of Champions later this year.
He says the TV win streak was fun, surreal, something of a blur, and “the wildest thing I’ve ever done.” Grad school will begin next year at the University of Iceland and the University of Oslo in a joint Viking and Medieval Norse Studies program. Shaped by 50 percent Norwegian heritage and a passion for archeology, Fenster says the program is tuition-free thanks to Icelandic and Norwegian government education subsidies. Part of his TV winnings will go to cover travel and living expenses for two years.
The ultimate goal is a professorship. “Who knows?” says Fenster, “perhaps one day SPU will have an opening for a medievalist.” If it does, he hopes to be the first one to buzz in.
Professor’s New Book Advances Faith Exploration
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Matthew Benton is a co-editor of the April release from Oxford University Press titled Knowledge, Belief, and God: New Insights in Religious Epistemology.
In addition to his expertise in the subject of the book, Benton is also an authority on the philosophy of language, the philosophy of religion, and logic. His published articles include “Knowledge and Evidence You Should Have Had,” “Believing on Authority,” and the forthcoming “Lying, Accuracy, and Credence.”
Before coming to SPU in 2016, Benton earned a doctorate in philosophy from Rutgers University, and was a postdoctoral research fellow in philosophy at the University of Oxford (as part of the New Insights and Directions in Religious Epistemology project) and at Notre Dame (as part of the Hope and Optimism: Conceptual and Empirical Investigations project).
“Philosophy covers issues that are wide-ranging but also very deep,” says Benton, “and these aspects can make it feel very intimidating, especially to first-time students. Nevertheless, exposure to its questions, arguments, and answers can be exhilarating. As one of my students told me after class last year, ‘This course really makes my head hurt, but I kind of like it!’”
Theatre Education Happens Off Stage and On
Natalie Gress in Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor.
Senior Natalie Gress loves what she does.
She performs with Dinner Detective, a national murder mystery dinner theatre. It’s paid, she gets hot three-course meals, and she gets to act alongside friend and Seattle Pacific University alumnus Jason Hill ‘17 and other local artists.
As well, Gress has worn many hats with Greenstage, Seattle's longest running Shakespeare company. For their “Shakespeare in the Park,” she has been an actor, summer camp director, tour manager, set designer, technical director, and recently she accepted the position of managing director. “I love the art of bringing free theatre to the community,” she says, agreeing with her artistic director that what the company does is nothing less than to provide “food for the soul.”
And her pursuit of a Seattle Pacific theatre education major means that her student-teaching this year is at Seattle’s Garfield High School, where diversity and appreciation for the arts are central. She is shared by two mentoring teachers and says the work is its own reward.
“I have the honor to support and advocate for the students and their brilliant ideas and unique voices,” says Gress. “I am constantly astounded by their talents and am grateful for how they’ve challenged me. These students are the best teachers I could have asked for.”
For Gress, SPU’s location and the reputation of its theatre education program have been the greatest strengths for making inroads into the theatre community. Theatre studies at SPU are communal, collaborative, and close. The wearing of many hats is not only encouraged, but is considered essential to a well-rounded education.
“I continue to support the SPU Theatre Department by working as an electrician, attending the shows, and helping with student projects,” says Gress. “I also frequently attend and support the theatre work of SPU alumni. Without their love and support, I wouldn’t have made it this far.”
Theatre SPAM Awards: 30 Years of Memories and Madness
What’s pink, comes in cans, gets “thrown” into email trash, triggers chanting from Monty Python fans, and turns 30 years old at SPU this year?
If you have experience with Seattle Pacific University’s Theatre Department, you know that the answer is “SPAM,” the Seattle Pacific Artistic Merit awards.
The SPAM awards started small. In 1988, student actors and technicians spiced up their end-of-season picnic at Discovery Park with an impromptu awards ceremony. The trophies? Actual cans of SPAM. This wasn’t about honoring the theatre program’s best, but rather the performances best forgotten — those accidents, oft-repeated misstatements, and hall-of-shame stories that make people laugh until they cry.
Nothing binds a community like a legacy of in-jokes, and these tongue-in-cheek shenanigans have evolved into an extravagant mainstage ceremony: A spectacle of “formal and fancy,” from the ridiculous (duct-tape dresses) to the bizarre (a feathered bird-man on stilts), in which thespians might be “honored” as “The Most Unsuitable Couple” or “Most Likely to Be Lost.”
Cyd Kurtz '03 won the "Where Are They Now?" award for her performance in Seattle Pacific’s 2001 production of The Elephant Man as Mrs. Kendall, who, Kurtz explains, "simply fades out of the picture."
But it isn’t all frivolity. Presenters honor crew members with overdue applause, announce scholarship winners, reveal next year’s season, and give each graduating senior a token of affection: a bent nail to wear with graduation regalia.
Preceding 2018’s SPAM in McKinley Hall — June 2, 7:30 p.m. — alumni are invited to “meat” the current cast and crew at a reception, and to assist in retelling the program’s history by adding their own anecdotes. “We’re focusing this year on our past, present, and future together as SPU’s theatre community,” says SPAM authority Sarah Mosher ‘02, SPU’s costume designer and costume shop manager.
Can curious onlookers come? Mosher cautions the uninitiated: “It’s a chance for our theatre community to perform not for an audience but for ourselves. And it’s ... a little strange.”
Honoring the Defenders of Freedom
The SPU Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Drum Corps play each year for the Memorial Day Commemorative Service Concert at Evergreen Washelli Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery.
"It helps our students understand the tremendous sacrifice made to ensure our freedoms," says Kim Gilnett, marketing associate for the Arts. It is also inspiring to older veterans and their families to see students honoring with such passion those who served.
As many as 1,400 people attend what has become one of the larger civic Memorial Day concerts of its kind outside of Arlington National Cemetery.
Spring Events Calendar
April 19–21, 26–28, 2018
Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare*
E.E. Bach Theatre
May 11, 2018
Symphonic Wind Ensemble Concert
First Free Methodist Church
May 15, 2018
First Free Methodist Church
May 22, 2018
May 24, 2018
Symphony Orchestra Concert
First Free Methodist Church
May 29, 2018
E.E. Bach Theatre
May 30, 2018
Memorial Day Commemorative Service Concert
1:30 p.m., Evergreen-Washelli Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery
Theatre performances and all concerts begin 7:30 p.m.
* Tickets required. Call Box Office, 206-281-2959