Dean’s welcome — and farewell
All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
These words from Octavia E. Butler in her book, Parable of the Sower, summarize my feelings going into my last spring as dean and my last quarter at SPU. I could add a phrase or two from Ecclesiastes for good measure: For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…. And little did I know that COVID-19 would change everything.
Arts and Humanities will be in capable hands next year under the leadership of interim dean, Rebekah Rice, as a search is conducted for a permanent replacement. During my term as dean, I have heard or read about what great leaders do. Although I cannot remember all the sources of such sage advice, I will leave you with words that have meant the most to me and my style of community building leadership as dean:
- If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together
- Meet colleagues where they are; focus on their strengths
- Be good at what you do
- Know when to lead from the front, to lead from the side, and to lead from behind
- Be trustworthy
- Be likable
- Pray often for your colleagues
- Have a deep knowledge of faculty and institutional history
- Have a deep understanding of communication and intergroup dynamics
- Share information openly and candidly; be brutally realistic about current problems, but endlessly optimistic about future possibilities
- Keep your Department Chairs informed; communicate often and meet at their offices
- Self-care is essential; keep a circle of trusted friends near
Being a dean requires an immense amount of relationship-centered work. The nature of that work will change: negotiating, collaborating across departments, mentoring, counseling, brainstorming, etc. But the big picture is this: You are just the leader in a middle-management position. Your success is absolutely and fundamentally linked to and determined by the colleagues you work with each day.
I have been blessed to work with amazing colleagues over all thirty-seven of my years at SPU. They never fail to inspire and impress me with their dedication to their work and to our students. The Arts and Humanities are strong and at the heart of a liberal arts education. I have been changed; I have fostered change. The only lasting truth is Change.
Debra Sequeira, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences – Division of Arts and Humanities
Communication alumna raises support for homelessness in Seattle amid coronavirus outbreak
When Kat Wynn ’17 started her dream job as communications development manager at New Horizons, a nonprofit serving youth affected by homelessness in Seattle, she knew she had a challenge ahead of her. As part of development, she works with a three-person team to run marketing, social media, and fundraising efforts of the organization
What she didn’t expect was the major challenges the COVID-19 outbreak would bring. “We had to rethink our services entirely since everything — from the shelter space to meals — is so high-touch,” said Wynn. “At the same time, spaces like ours are needed more than ever, since the public places those experiencing homeless often go to for basic hygiene like coffee shops and libraries are closed.”
But COVID-19 affected more than the shelter’s services. New Horizon’s main fundraising event — a donor dinner and auction scheduled for mid-April — was cancelled, along with other in-person fundraising efforts. Wynn and her team scrambled to create new ways to raise the funds needed virtually, at a time when many potential donors were facing financial uncertainty due to the outbreak.
In record time, Wynn and her team developed Operation Light the Way, a marketing campaign complete with email, web outreach, and social media. The campaign easily surpassed their goal of raising $275,000, bringing in more than $300,000. “I’m amazed at what we accomplished,” she said, “and I’m thankful to our community that came out to support our work. In response to a crisis, people wanted to help and do something!”
As a double major in communications and political science, Wynn first intended on pursuing a career as a journalist. “I wanted to be like Lois Lane, with a byline in a newspaper, telling stories and exposing the truth,” she said. She served as news editor at the Falcon. “At the Falcon, and with my professors, I learned the best ways to tell other people's stories and elevate their voices. I learned to ask the hard questions and refined my writing voice.”
Wynn’s classes with Professor of Journalism Peg Achtermann opened her mind to social media having uses beyond just person. “She challenged us, ‘How can we use social media to better everyone else, to tell stories in new and interesting ways?’ That was so impactful for my career: Being able to think about telling a story with the written word, in a video, audio clip, animation. It opened me up to trying different things in new ways.”
Right after graduating, Wynn began working as social media manager at marketing consulting company Lenati in Seattle, bringing skills she honed as social media manager for SPU’s athletics teams.
About one year later, Achtermann, also a New Horizons board member, heard the organization was looking for a communications manager. She thought of Wynn immediately and connected her with New Horizons’ executive director. “I had never thought of non-profit communications,” said Wynn. “But this was a way to elevate the voice of an important cause” She jumped at the chance.
Wynn is excited about the future at New Horizon. “We're innovating and moving quickly, trying new things and meeting needs as they come up, because that's the zone we're in now. I love this city, and it's a great way to give back.”
Article on leading art site positions SPU as a center for research on painter Charles Ethan Porter
In 2016, a painting of petunias in a vase and a painting of a bowl of golden onions made their new home at Seattle Pacific University’s Ames Library. Four years later, in December 2019, these rare paintings and commentary by SPU’s Professor of Art Katie Kresser were featured on Hypoallergenic, one of the nation’s leading art websites. Two SPU photography majors also contributed images to the Hyperallergic story.
The paintings are by Charles Ethan Porter, an artist with incredible skill who made great strides in the art world with his still life painting that highlights the enchantment and beauty in the most ordinary objects. He is recognized as the only historical black painter to specialize in still life and the first African American to study at the prestigious National Academy of Design in New York. Tragically, he died in relative obscurity in 1923, eventually trading many of his beautiful paintings for food or shelter. The two paintings now housed at SPU — “Still Life with Petunias” and “Still Life with Onions” — were a gift to Porter’s friend who housed him for a time. They eventually passed to William Sacherek and Lilo Lamerdin, who in turn donated them to the University.
Porter’s work has become an important part of SPU’s undergraduate art curriculum. Every year, Kresser takes classes of students to the library to view and discuss these paintings, where she also tells Porter’s story. In addition, several art history students have conducted in-depth research on the paintings. Kresser also incorporated the paintings into the 2019 Day of Common Learning so students from across campus could learn about Porter’s work.
The paintings fit with SPU’s mission toward diversity and reconciliation. “SPU is committed to reconciliation of all kinds, and particularly to the reconciliation of communities that share a sad and broken history,” said Kresser. “That’s one reason why SPU hosts the John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development, named for Dr. Perkins, the great civil rights leader. SPU’s Charles Ethan Porter paintings, masterpieces by an overlooked African-American artist, are a visible witness to this University commitment. They were donated and publicly dedicated with that purpose in mind.
“On top of that, Porter’s works are simply a joy to experience. They are easily some of the most beautiful, skillful, and sophisticated artwork we have on campus!”
Hyperallergic is based in New York City and features stories by top-tier arts journalists and scholars, and, according to Kresser, is one of the top sources for visual arts news on the web. “In fact, it’s my favorite arts-news site on the web today,” said Kresser. “I hope our exposure in Hyperallergic will help readers worldwide appreciate the exquisite work of Charles Ethan Porter and generate more opportunities for our students, too.”
“This has positioned SPU as a center for research on this little-known artist,” she added.
Seattle Pacific theatre establishes new processes to equip students for today’s changing theatre world
Last year, Seattle Pacific’s nationally recognized theatre program made some exciting new changes to its curriculum, production line-up, and process of choosing plays and musicals to bring to campus.
Whereas faculty members have taken turns in the past choosing productions, last year the theatre department established a committee to choose the upcoming season of performances. This committee includes a theatre faculty member, a non-theatre faculty or staff member, SPU theatre alumni, two current theatre students, and a non-SPU theatre professional currently working in the industry.
“The committee invites us to consider things that are outside of our own experience and expertise,” said Assistant Professor of Theatre Candace Vance, who, when she researched how other schools choose productions, found the majority rely on individual faculty or department heads to choose.
“You could end up limited to what the faculty want to do or are interested in,” said Vance. Students would therefore often choose their college based on the faculty’s areas of expertise but, according to Vance, that doesn’t work as well today. “The current theatre world is rapidly changing and productions have a much greater level of diversity and styles. Our students need to be well-versed and adaptable across genres and styles as they enter the job market.” The committee also seeks better representation of female playwrights, playwrights of color, and different styles of writing and acting in future production line-ups.
Within a student’s four years in the theatre program, they will have the opportunity to take part in at least two Shakespeare plays and musicals (the most-needed styles for employability) and works by the playwrights who are standard in today’s theatre repertoire. But students will also experience a much larger breadth of work from American drama and modern works, as well as non-European contemporary works (many schools only feature Western European and American productions).
The first season selected by the committee, the most recent 2019–20 season, kicked off with Men on Boats by Jaclyn Backhaus, a 2015 play based on the 1869 expedition to chart the course of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Urinetown: The Musical, the Broadway-style musical component of the season, tackled themes of legal system, bureaucracy, and social responsibility in satirical comedy musical form.
Although cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Spring Quarter 2020 was to feature Shakespeare’s Cymbeline and Arlene Hutton’s The Shakers of Mount Lebanon Will Hold a Peace Conference This Month. Hutton was commissioned by a group of colleges (including SPU) to write a play around the theme of religious tolerance between the world’s three religions. SPU was slated as one of the schools to premiere the new work.
Looking ahead, Vance is also committed to bringing in diverse talent and teaching expertise. The department invites at least one guest director per year to work with students, contracts many different guest lighting and design artists, and secures student-teaching positions throughout Seattle for theatre education majors.
“It's an exciting time in our department,” said Vance. “We've always put out successful graduates. In the last seven years, we've seen the percentage go way up of people who go straight into the professional world as theatre artists or into grad school for MFA. Their work is phenomenal. At many of big Seattle area high schools, it's SPU theatre education graduates who are running the departments.
Vance gets a close look at students’ growth, as she sets up mock interviews and auditions for students before they leave SPU. “As our program gets more specific and industry standardized, it’s exciting to see that already paying off for our students,” she said.
A new take on history
Seattle Pacific’s History Department developed a new curriculum to revive interest in history, draw students to major in a shrinking discipline, and highlight history’s relevance to contemporary students and problems. The new curriculum launches in autumn 2020.
Assistant Professors of History Rebecca Hughes and Alissa Walter, along with Associate Professor of History Zhiguo Ye, solicited input from history students, history alumni, and other history faculty to design the curriculum.
Since 2008, the number of history majors has declined by 30% nationwide.* SPU had 54 history majors in 2008; by this year that number dropped to 29. Walter says women are increasingly underrepresented among history majors nationally, which is why new course offerings will intentionally address issues of gender and justice.
“We want our new curriculum to be attentive to issues of race and marginalized populations. We want to be a department where students of color feel they belong and where classes reflect the history of all different people groups.”
The curriculum offers 13 never-before-taught courses designed to help students understand their own context and explore the way current events shape their understanding of history. It also emphasizes practical skills and career relevance by requiring students to take courses on historical methods and study history thematically rather than chronologically. Read the full story on SPU Stories.
This article originally appeared in the autumn 2019 issue of Response magazine.
Journalism alumna goes deep and shines light on stories that go untold
Manola Secaira ’18 laughs when she remembers her first time going to the Falcon newsroom as a freshman. “I was so nervous I walked around the whole building once before go inside!” But within that first day, she said she immediately found an encouraging community in which to grow as a journalist. Today, she works as a staff reporter at Crosscut, a Seattle-based independent news site featuring in-depth stories and news analysis.
“Writing is very vulnerable thing, especially when you're just starting. But to succeed, you have to be comfortable having your writing read and edited and criticized by other people. My time at SPU gave me confidence to write, apply to internships, and go from there.”
Secaira also credits SPU’s Seattle location for her professional success. “New York City is often referred to as the place to be for journalists, but there are so many publications there, I think I would have gotten lost in the mix. Seattle has a thriving but tight-knight journalism scene. Once you’re connected, you’re well-connected.”
According to Secaira, the mission of Crosscut is to go deeper into current issues than other news sources might. “We try to peel back the surface and look at the implications of what’s happening,” she said. Secaira began work at Crosscut right after graduating, beginning as a reporting fellow in a six-month position. She was then hired on as a full-time staff reporter focusing on urban growth and the impacts of changes in the Seattle region and beyond.
At Crosscut, Secaira covers current happenings and breaking news, but is also able to work on longer projects, going in-depth and uncovering stories and events that might otherwise be missed. “I can really sit with stories and go where they take me,” she said.
For one of Secaira’s biggest projects, a series on food security in Washington state, she interviewed, tracked trends, researched, and reported for a year. As part of the series, she traveled with a photographer to four different Washington communities, interviewing individuals, and learning about accessibility challenges within the food supply system. “One of the people I interviewed, Gina, shared how different her experience getting groceries is because she uses a wheelchair,” said Secaira. “That’s not a story I’ve heard broadcasted, but it is important.”
For another story, Secaira interviewed immigrants to Washington state who came from farming backgrounds in other countries, but faced extreme obstacles in securing land to farm in Washington. One of her sources, a woman from Kenya, was unable to access land to farm for a decade, before finding a place in Washington. “She invited us into her life and described how it’s important for people with farming backgrounds to continue farming, not just for sustenance, but because it’s culturally fulfilling and valuable to them,” said Secaira.
“That’s what really attracted me to journalism,” she continued. “I get to talk with people that I wouldn’t otherwise. This expands my worldview. Hopefully my learning translates into the stories I’m writing so others can experience that too.”
Seven Deadly Sins Performance
On January 31, the sanctuary of First Free Methodist Church, across the street from SPU’s campus, hummed with the sounds of American jazz pioneer Joseph Daley’s seminal work The Seven Deadly Sins.
“It’s a heavy work,” Daley said, “written, conceived, and driven by the Wade Schuman paintings and the whole concept of the seven deadly sins.” His 2011 CD of the same name received international acclaim from journalists and musicians.
A nationally recognized composer, teacher, and musician, Daley is regarded as one of America’s jazz leaders and served as the Seattle Pacific 2020 Schoenhals Visiting Artist. During the week leading up to the concert, Daley mentored and worked directly with SPU students on their own works, a sampling of which opened the Seven Deadly Sins event. Daley also presented a lecture on integrating his faith into his music and creative process.
Each year, the Schoenhals Visiting Artist Series brings a significant Christian musical artist of national caliber to SPU’s campus to perform for SPU and the greater Seattle community, and to work with students. It is made possible by the Lawrence R. and Ruth E. Schoenhals Christian Lectureship in the Fine and Performing Arts Endowment, with the purpose of promoting “the integration of the fine arts and the Christian Faith by bringing to campus outstanding Christian artists and scholars who have achieved stature in their respective fields without compromising either their artistic integrity or their Christian commitment.”
You can contribute to making spectacular events and invaluable learning opportunities like this possible for Seattle Pacific and our students. Support the arts at Seattle Pacific University.
Poets and published authors: SPU’s authors get creative
Last fall, Seattle Pacific University poets took the stage at Hugo House, a center for writing workshops and readings in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. Jennifer Maier, professor of English and writer-in-residence; Mischa Willett, instructor of education, English, and writing; and Scott Cairns, professor of English and director of the MFA in Creative Writing, shared work that Hugo House said expressed “a sense of the intangible within the visible world.”
The past two years have also seen the publications of many SPU alumni and faculty books and exciting additions to the MFA program. Read the full story on SPU Stories.
This article originally appeared in the autumn 2019 issue of Response magazine.
Professor of English April Middeljans teaches a wide range of courses in literature, writing, and methodologies in the English and Cultural Studies department. But her special teaching and research interests include interdisciplinary approaches to issues of race, gender, religion, and technology in twentieth-century American literature and culture. Recently, Middeljans published an article on the 1930s novel The Surrounded by Native American author and anthropologist D’Arcy McNickle, examining our typical assumptions about the process of colonization, cultural adaptation, and the Jesuit philosophy of “inculturation,” which requires missionaries to adapt to the societies they are serving.
What does Middeljans love about teaching at SPU? “If you are a ‘student of the world’ who wants to learn as much as you can about everything, SPU is a great place to be,” she said. “There is a lot of cross-fertilization of disciplinary knowledge; you can easily chat with philosophers, psychologists, mathematicians, or musicians in the halls or on your lunch break. And SPU faculty and staff are deeply committed to students’ intellectual growth and well-being. There is a massive effort right now to find the best ways to shepherd our students through this crisis.”
During this past winter quarter, Middeljans taught a course of the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. She transitioned the course to an online format in the last few weeks of the course due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but both Middeljans and her students rose to the challenge. “My students held a very insightful and substantive discussion board session about compensational justice in The Chronicles of Narnia and Walden Media’s marketing of the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The groups assigned to lead the discussion raised excellent questions, and all the responses from the rest of the class were extremely thoughtful and interactive with one another. Their performance made me feel pretty superfluous, which is every teacher’s cherished goal.”
During this past spring quarter, Middeljans taught a course on narrative theory (how people shape stories and how stories shape people), connecting coursework to current events. In one exercise, students learned to apply the course concepts to the many conflicting narratives surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. For their final exam essays, several students chose to write about how contesting narratives shape public responses to the Black Lives Matter protests.
“I think our students are much more equipped, adaptive, and resilient than even they know,” said Middeljans.
Andrew Ryder has taught theatre at SPU for twenty years, and also served as the chair of the Theatre Department since 2013. But beginning on July 1, 2019, he began his new position as Seattle Pacific’s director of general education.
As director of general education, Ryder ensures the consistency and assessment of the various parts of SPU’s general education curriculum, collaborating with faculty and staff across all departments on campus. He oversees the planning and staffing of the University Colloquium courses and provides leadership for some specialized programs, including the Writing Program, the Honors Program, and Ascent Scholars. “The most exciting part of this role for me, after working within a single department for nearly 20 years, is the opportunity to interact with faculty, staff, and students from across the whole University,” he said.
And this informs Ryder’s goal for general education at SPU: connecting with the whole University. “It is not my job to re-envision general education, but I do want to lead us toward a clear sense of ownership of general education by everyone on campus, not just a few departments or schools. I hope we can identify and support some common aspirations, characteristics, and skills which we work to help students develop across the curriculum. That way, whether students complete general education here, or transfer a big chunk of it in, they are getting an education that is consistently challenging, supportive, and holistic.”
In addition to his work as professor and theatre chair, Ryder has served on several university curriculum committees, where he has provided vision, managed resources, and led faculty, staff, and students. He has also directed over twenty plays and is credited with numerous publications, presentations, and awards. Recently, Ryder was awarded a competitive position in the 2019–20 CCCU Scholars Retreat, providing him with twelve weeks of support over the winter and spring quarters as he wrote a play.
“I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to provide broader leadership at SPU,” he said.
Online senior art exhibitions
The 2020 graduating class of Seattle Pacific art and design students produced incredible, professional-level work, much of which has already secured them jobs in the industry. Sadly, in-person exhibitions of the students’ work were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak. However, you can still witness their incredible talent, skill, and creativity, and learn more about the student artists, below.
SPAC Gallery Online (all majors)
Studio Arts: waking/sleeping
Visual Communications: Off the grid
Online music performances
While the SPU concerts and musical events schedule for the spring were cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, you can still enjoy the skill and beautiful sounds of the Seattle Pacific Music Department from the comfort of your home. Listen to the performances highlighted below from our 2020 Winter Quarter.
Schoenhals Visiting Artist | Joe Daley: “Seven Deadly Sins”
Click here to stream
Wind Ensemble Concert
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Gospel Choir and Worship Band Vespers
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Percussion Ensemble Concert
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Chamber, Concert, and Treble Choirs Concert
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