Lu Named a First Recipient of the Achievement Scholarship

Ellen Lu

By Sharon Hartnett, Assistant Professor of Education, Seattle Pacific University


Born in Beijing, China — and a budding pianist by age 3 — SPU junior Ellen Lu has received one of the first Seattle Pacific University Transfer Merit Achievement Scholar Awards.


Lu is the first woman, and the first generation, of her family to receive a college education. She transferred to Seattle Pacific from Seattle Central Community College beginning the 2009–10 academic year, having already proven herself an accomplished student. Carrying the required 3.7 grade-point average, Lu qualified for a financial-aid package that will fully fund her tuition for the last two years of study — essentially, the rest of her undergraduate degree.


The new Transfer Merit Achievement Scholar Award is a scholarship awarded based on a student’s proven academic excellence. It was crafted by Frank Kline, professor of education, Sharon Hartnett, assistant professor of education, and Max Hunter, teaching fellow from the John Perkins Center at SPU. Also pivotal were Seattle Central Community College’s Lisa Saunders, program manager for teacher training programs, and Tony Ogilvie, executive dean for continuing and professional education. Their efforts culminated in Spring 2009 when both schools entered into a premier cooperative agreement for the purposes of assisting transfer students from SCCC to SPU in the area of teacher education.


The long journey to SPU


Lu was raised by her grandparents in Beijing until she was 6 years old. When she and her family emigrated to the United States, she spoke no English, and the elementary school in which she was enrolled had no English-as-a-second language program. Furthermore, as a child of Asian ethnicity, she spoke little in school or at home. “My brother and I had a lot of fear,” she says. “We did not want to speak out loud.” Lu was the only one in her class who looked like her, so she took the opportunity to bond with the only African-American child in the class who also felt alone. “There was no ESL program where I went to school, and no teachers who were really qualified to deal with kids from this particular background and situation,” she says.”I was forced to learn English on my own with minimal guidance and suffered terrible grades for an entire school year.”


Now fluent in English, Chinese, and in conversational French, Lu says she is thankful for this opportunity brought to her by receiving the award so she can pursue a career in elementary education. Happy to be freed from what she calls the “expected roles for Asian women” such as medicine, business, or accounting, she is enjoying her coursework.


Lu says she looks forward to getting into SPU’s new integrated studies major for elementary education candidates and is excited to get into an elementary classroom. “I hope to someday bring my experience to the table when I enter my future classroom as a teacher,” says Lu, adding that she plans to teach English as a second language. “I can help children cope with some of the difficulties of language learning, as well as plain adjusting to life in a new place!” She also hopes to bring a piano into the classroom as well.


While SPU has worked hard across campus to provide minority-culture students with opportunities to mix with others, form relationships, and be involved in service and worship, these students still find transitioning is always a process. Lu’s adjustment has been softened by the number of faculty and staff who have encouraged and followed up with her.


They introduced her to key people on campus in the Multi-Ethnic Programs, Student Financial Services, and the School of Education advisor, Marie Baldwin. “They took my interest in this school seriously,” says Lu, adding that the biggest surprise so far has been the high standards and expectations of professors as well as the amount of work assigned. But she is also amazed that she can meet with professors and form a relationship with them. Also good for Lu is the faith-based culture. She feels secure in getting to know her peers are also working hard to make their futures bright.


Professor Sharon HartnettSharon Hartnett, Ph.D., is the chair of undergraduate and post-baccalaureate teacher education at Seattle Pacific University. The assistant professor of education has been at SPU since 2000.


This is the John Perkins Center video Learn more about The John Perkins Center by watching the video This is the John Perkins Center on iTunesU.