Incoming SPU Freshmen Go on a CityQuest

SPU students on CityQuest By Owen Sallee, Coordinator for Urban Involvement


More than 700 new Seattle Pacific University students and 100 returning student leaders spent Saturday, September 27, engaged in service with 35 community organizations around Seattle during the John Perkins Center’s CityQuest event.


Serving the Community

CityQuest began at the beginning of Autumn Quarter 1991 as a program called “Into the Streets.” Since its beginning, the event’s mission has been to encourage new students to value community involvement and to build unity within the incoming class.


CityQuest projects have been varied, with work groups removing invasive plants from local parks, sorting materials at Seattle schools’ Science Materials Center, conversing with English-language learners at a church’s language school, and many other projects.


This year’s CityQuest took a new step toward service engagement, seeking to push community involvement deeper into the fabric of the university and provide additional opportunities for reflection, ongoing connections, and academic content.


Teaming Up With Professors

During SPU’s Orientation/Welcome Week, incoming freshmen were organized into “UPod” cohort groups, which have become their University Seminar class during Autumn Quarter. (University Seminars are the first course incoming freshmen take in SPU's Common Curriculum, which is part of the liberal arts requirements all SPU students must take before graduating.)


This year, in an effort to more directly connect community involvement and academic coursework, University Seminar faculty were invited to help select the site at which their students would serve, and to accompany their students on the day of CityQuest. More than 15 professors agreed to the idea and joined their students on the Saturday before classes began. After the project, the groups were already planning a return visit to their partner organization later in Autumn Quarter.

Engaging the Culture Holistically

When you figure the math, roughly 300 new students will participate in an ongoing partnership with a Seattle-area nonprofit organization, with opportunities for faculty-led discussion, application of course content and a hands-on way to participate in God’s work in the world because of CityQuest 2008.


CityQuest served as an introduction to Seattle for students new to the city. For others, the event highlighted SPU’s desire to “engage the culture, change the world” through practical, hands-on engagement. The event also framed community engagement in holistic, respectful ways.


Participants learned from community leaders, and they participated in projects identified by organizations in the community. Understanding that those in the community are more aware of their community’s needs and are best equipped to lead change, the John Perkins Center continues to promote the practice of listening to community.


Through CityQuest, new students served the self-identified needs of communities and learned about Seattle’s neighborhoods through the eyes of its residents. CityQuest also served as an introduction to the student programs of the Perkins Center, encouraging students to pursue more in-depth community engagement during their time at SPU through Latreia service days, Urban Involvement programs, or SPRINT short-term mission trips.


The SPU campus continues to challenge students and the community with the question: “Can a University change the world?” Beginning with the hands-on learning experience of CityQuest and continuing through the programs, teaching and encouragement of the John Perkins Center, students have the potential to do exactly that in respectful, helpful, and community-developing ways.


Owen SalleeOwen Sallee is coordinator for Urban Involvement and the Latreia programs at SPU.

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.