Life After SPU


Originally published in the Spring issue of etc magazine.

Big Dreams Realized in Baltimore
As a high schooler, Michael Hasegawa-Yun knew he wanted to help people in the health care field, he just wasn’t sure how exactly. SPU, he knew, not only had a strong history of students being accepted to medical school, but it also had a respected nursing program.

Michael found himself looking forward to the small class sizes at Seattle Pacific: “I thought if I had small classes, I would get to know my professors and they could help me succeed.” In the nursing school at SPU, Michael found that personal touch he sought. “I have to give credit to the nursing faculty,” he recalls. “They’re all really loving — they want you to succeed.” Attending SPU did more than prepare him for a career in health care. University Foundations courses about the Christian faith emphasized “knowing yourself and being able to exemplify your gifts as an individual,” Michael says. “I feel SPU fostered my gifts for helping people. That’s how I came to nursing; I like helping people through tough times.”

Approaching graduation, Michael and his fellow soon-to-be nurses started applying for jobs. When he came across a job in the pediatric burn unit at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, he felt intimidated and thought, “It’s Johns Hopkins — one of the most prestigious hospitals in the world.” Johns Hopkins didn’t think it was too good for Michael. He got the job.

The work isn’t easy. Michael spends his days providing aid and comfort to young children who have, in some cases, sustained burns over half of their bodies. But for a man with a heart for service, it’s a dream fulfilled.
To the next generations of Falcons, Michael has this advice: “Dream big. It sounds really corny, but I never, in a million years, thought I would be here and working for Johns Hopkins.”

The Security of a Nation
Rosa Covarrubias wants to work in national security to protect the public from anyone who might cause harm. That’s why she’s currently earning a master’s degree in international peace and conflict resolution at American University in Washington, D.C. Less than a year ago, she was preparing herself for the rigors of graduate work in the Political Science Department at SPU.

Rosa arrived at SPU from Yakima, Washington. A small-town woman, she was looking for an intimate campus and a Christian community. She found her spot at Seattle Pacific. Rosa originally planned to major in psychology, but at the end of her freshman year, she took an 8 a.m. political science course. A time that early might have scared some students off the major entirely, but the class captivated Rosa.

From that point on, she was committed to taking harder courses and learning everything she could about politics and sociology. She even studied in Latin America for a semester. “All students are remarkable, of course, but she was an amazing young woman,” Associate Professor of Political Science and Geography Ruth Ediger recalls. “I could tell she had the academic ability to do graduate school.” Ediger says that in addition to taking all the required classes to fulfill two majors, and taking classes in both English and Spanish while studying in Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Belize, Rosa took challenging classes outside her area of study.

Rosa says all her work is paying off now in graduate school. “SPU does a really good job of offering a lot of different kinds of political science classes — it was very much like graduate-level work,” she says. “When I came to grad school I felt prepared.” If all continues to go well, Rosa will graduate with a master’s from American University in 2013. She doesn’t know what she’ll be doing next. “My concentration in international security is counterterrorism.”
Thanks to people such as Rosa, the rest of us can sleep a little easier.

Networkin’ to Work
It wasn’t a quick journey, but Allen Klein’s road to the halls of Seattle’s most famous software company started with a simple power strip. During his junior year, Allen Klein and a team of fellow business students entered SPU’s Social Venture Plan Competition. They created a business plan for a company called Idyll Energy Solutions. Their main product was a power strip that would turn on or off based on motion detection, helping save power on appliances when homes or businesses remained empty.

After winning at Seattle Pacific, Allen and his teammates took their business plan on the road, entering other business competitions, including one at the University of Washington. While there, Allen pitched his business plan to a Microsoft marketer named John Gagnon. Gagnon, whose wife attended SPU, went to the campus that same year to speak with students about online marketing. Allen was there and reintroduced himself. Gagnon says that Allen’s confidence made him stand out. “At first I thought he was an MBA student,” Gagnon remembers. Gagnon became a mentor to Allen.

In the midst of Allen’s duties as student body president, the two met for coffee about once a month for the rest of Allen’s time at SPU. As he neared graduation, Allen began to feel the crunch of the economic climate, applying for more than 200 jobs. “I took an unintentional six or seven months off,” he says. Then he got a call from Gagnon. “It was a total miracle,” Allen reflects.

Gagnon says having a personal connection with someone is essential in a competitive job market. “At any large company you usually end up getting a lot of really great candidates in the door. If someone’s going to take a chance on someone else, knowing that person is key.”

Allen works for Exsilio, a marketing consulting company. He spends his days on contract with Microsoft helping the software giant get top placement in the search engines you use to scan the Internet. It might have started with a power strip, but Allen’s trip from small-town Eagle, Idaho, to the offices of one of the most well-known software companies in the world really came through classic business networking. “That networking came about through going outside the classroom to learn,” he says.

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012