Global Learning and Engagement
Global learning and engagement is a critical component of a Seattle Pacific University education. Founded as a school for training missionaries and situated in the world-class urban hub of Seattle, SPU is positioned for global engagement and impact. With that foundation and context, the School of Business, Government and Economics aspires to help bring healing and hope to the world through the confluence of its majors in accounting, business, economics, global development, information systems, and political science.
We live in an interconnected, interdependent world where space has contracted. How do we respond to a world of suffering, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and unequal access to health services and economic opportunity? How do we even ask the right questions?
This issue of Shareholders offers some exciting examples of how SBGE faculty, students, and alums have recently engaged our new “neighbors” to ask questions and to respond to what we learn. From helping the Iranian community in the Puget Sound area find their voice, to life-changing study abroad trips, to cross-disciplinary, and global research collaboration, to traveling around the world to help end human trafficking, you will find the stories here. I hope you will be as inspired as I have been.
Ross Stewart, Dean
Featured Alumni: Eric Ebrahimi, Class of 1980
Eric Ebrahimi is the CFO of Business Impact Northwest, a nonprofit economic development organization.
As a young man, Ebrahimi moved to the United States from Abadan, Iran, to attend school. He was drawn to SPU’s small class sizes, quality teaching, and positive reputation. After graduating from SPU, he worked for a couple of years in Iran for Pepsi Cola as the finance manager, then returned to the United States. Since then he’s served as controller for several organizations, including Catholic Community Services, Seattle BioMed Institute, and Washington State Housing Finance Commission.
During his time as a student at SPU, the Iranian Revolution erupted. Though he was anxious and heartbroken over the events in his homeland, on campus he felt safe and at home. He comments that people “surrounded me with their arms.” He also found role models, including Dean Joe Hope and Professor Howard Mount, who inspired him to excellence. Eric initially just wanted to get a degree and return to Iran to serve his people, but the war dashed that hope, so he has spent the last years not only working for a living, but also working to help the Iranian community in Seattle, and facilitating understanding between that community and the broader Seattle community.
What was your childhood like? Do you have any particular memories or significant events from your childhood or early youth that ended up shaping your later life?
I had an interesting childhood. My father owned and operated a small grocery store. But he was an entrepreneurial man and, eventually, his business evolved into an export/import business. At that time, I was maybe 13 years old. Because of the increasing travel demanded by his business, he asked me to take over the grocery store. So, in a sense, I became a man — taking responsibility for the store but also, to a large extent, for my eight brothers and sisters who were younger than I.
With the “shrinking” of the world and emphasis on global learning, what do you think needs to happen in higher education to prepare students to offer their best in a life of service?
The higher education systems should require students to participate in internships and extracurricular activities that go beyond career aspirations. For example, mandatory study abroad and required community service hours would provide students with a better understanding of how organizations behave in different cultures and environments. Effective communication is key and, without exposure to this new global economy, students face a steep transition into the “real world” upon graduation. In today’s world, technologies enable us to work with a variety of people and cultures. We need to keep in mind that, in today’s global economy, “geography belongs to history.”
As you know, our school has recently expanded to include government (political science and global development studies) and has a new mission statement: “Deeply grounded in Christian faith and values, we develop leaders who advance human flourishing through service in business, government, and civil society.” What do you see as the possibilities of this constellation of business, government, and economics as we shape tomorrow’s leaders?
Your school is going in the right direction. Students whose backgrounds are shaped by religious faith and values typically become selfless individuals. This mission statement can pave the path in developing leaders who selflessly serve their communities and industries. They can make good long-term decisions despite the short-term, results-oriented expectations of modern society.
How does your faith journey intertwine with your childhood and early adult experiences?
I came to the United States at 23 years old so, for two-thirds of my life, I’ve been in the environment of the Christian faith and American people. And that has had a significant impact on my life and my perspective. In the middle of my career I served Catholic Community Services as controller for four years. During that time, I learned something: we’re all people regardless of our ethnicities or religious background. We can work just fine together as human beings for a good cause — to serve humankind. These two entities, SPU and Catholic Community Services, really shaped my worldview and career path.
You have developed many connections in the Iranian community in Seattle. Tell us a bit about the opportunities you see in these connections.
I’ve been involved with four or five different Iranian organizations here in Seattle, including serving as event organizer, fundraiser, and grant writer for some, and have naturally made many connections over the past 40 years. I have always been very aware that the Iranian community is a silent community in Seattle. I want to help the Iranian community in the Puget Sound area have a strong and cohesive voice.
As a kind of informal spokesperson for the Iranian community in Seattle, what would you like to share with the readers of our newsletter?
Please don’t form your opinions about Iranians from the general media. We are not related to ISIS or hard-liners, whatsoever. Iranians love America and American people. We want to be accepted as American Iranians. Please look at us positively. As a way of portraying this positive image, each year and for the past 10 years, Iranian American Community Alliance has organized The Iranian Festival to showcase and demonstrate the Iranian American community’s best performance and cultural values. This year the festival is going to be held on August 13, at Seattle Center.
If you could have a one-on-one conversation with each SBGE alum, how might you encourage him or her to be an ambassador for global impact?
In today’s world there is a lot of hate, a lot of personal agendas, and many companies that set out to make a profit at any cost. I think it’s important to take some time and remember the things that shaped us as students and reflect on what our ambitions were before we started life in the “real world.” If I could do one thing differently in my life, I would have begun earlier to share the value of kindness to all people with those around me in order to create a more peaceful and compassionate world. This practice would strengthen our faith-based values, and help align our behavior with those same values. That is the key to becoming effective ambassadors of change.
Global Impact Through Study Abroad
During the 2015–16 academic year, 46 students from SBGE studied abroad in Italy, Korea, Spain, England, Austria, Germany, Chile, Czech Republic, China, Belize, France, Morocco, South Africa, Philippines, and Hungary.
Lindsey Haynes (senior)
“I lived with a host family and it was an incredible opportunity to engage with the Austrian culture. Studying abroad really opened my eyes to how big and beautiful the world is, inspiring a newfound passion to travel.”
Aaron Carlson (senior)
“We read about economic and political thought, experienced historical locations firsthand in Oxford and London, and received lectures by world-renowned professors at Oxford University. This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that enhanced my knowledge of the global impact of the Industrial Revolution and the free market in the United Kingdom.”
Erin Haas (senior)
“I think I speak on behalf of everyone in our group when I say that you leave a study abroad experience with a greater sense of self-confidence and courage. All of those limits that I put on myself before? Most of them were pointless.”
Assistant Professor of Economics Geri Mason Led Liberty and the Free Market in England
In mid-June, Dr. Geri Mason took a group of students to Washington, D.C., for two days, before taking the group to Oxford and London to learn about Adam Smith, the history of the Industrial Revolution, the Victorians, and modern capitalism. They met with members of Parliament, and engaged with social entrepreneurs and ministry leaders. They also visited historic Manchester, the Bank of England, museums of the Industrial Revolution, and other sights of London. See the video to “join in” the trip!
Professor of Marketing Gary Karns and Professor of Accounting Ross Stewart Led CHINDIA Trip
Last December, 23 of our MA in Management-Social & Sustainable Management students went to Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi, and Bangalore.
They gained insights about these important contexts for business and social/sustainability issues affecting human flourishing. They visited mainstream, global businesses and several small, social enterprises that are doing inspiring work to provide products and employment for improved flourishing. They gained important cultural competencies though engaging with other students, walking on the Great Wall, seeing the Taj Mahal (and other World Heritage sites), and experiencing life in these fascinating cultures and cities. One of the students organized taking “expandable” children’s shoes to a school in India.
This trip occurs each year as part of the degree program. View some short videos here.
This coming academic year, SGBE is organizing three of SPU’s 16 faculty-led study abroad programs, with a total of 45 SPU students signed up to go just on these trips:
- China, co-led by Associate Professor of Economics Doug Downing and Assistant Professor of History Zhiguo Ye
- Europe, led by Professor of Management Randy Franz
- New Zealand, led by Dean and Professor of Accounting Ross Stewart
Hosting Overseas Visitors
Over the course of this academic year, SBGE has been privileged to host representatives from:
- Paris School of Business
- Japan Study Abroad Foundation
- Consulate General of the Republic of Korea
- Heilongjiang International University (China)
- Hoseo University (Korea)
Faculty Members Engaging Globally
Every year, many of our faculty members travel internationally (as well as within the U.S.) to present research and collaborate for the common good with businesses, NGOs, schools, and other educators and researchers. See where our faculty and staff have traveled in the interactive map below.
Graduate Student Connections in Kenya
Each year during Winter Quarter the MAM-SSM cohort conducts a “live case”: They don’t just read about the case, but also bring the principles of the organization into the classroom to discuss and give a real-life situation that demands management attention.
For this purpose, they have chosen to connect with Women’s Enterprises International, in Kenya. The students enjoy interacting with Theresa Norris, founder and CEO, her husband, George, and the managing director, Jordan Ramsay. Each MAM-SSM cohort has received a different assignment from WEI, based on the current situation and particular questions the organization is trying to work through. The students work in groups as management consultants to do research and present their analysis and conclusions during a mock board meeting with Theresa, George, and Jordan.
Honoring Standout Students
We are very proud of Summer Downs, who was chosen as the recipient of the prestigious President’s Citation. The Seattle Pacific University President’s Citation honor is given each year to a graduating senior who exemplifies the mission and vision of this University, and is among those students with the highest academic standing in his or her class.
During four busy years of study and service, Summer achieved a 3.99 GPA, and earned a degree in Global Development Studies. She is the winner of Alpha Kappa Sigma 2016, and the recipient of the Wes Lingren Endowment Award for academic excellence. Summer was also selected as this year’s senior class “Person of Promise” and honored at the 2016 Talent Show.
According to Emerita Professor of Geography Kathleen Braden, Summer has been “absolutely a first-rate student, and a true leader for social justice issues on our campus and internationally.”
For her senior capstone seminar paper, Summer took on a difficult topic: the unfortunate tradition of “Bacha Bazi” (male child prostitution) in Afghanistan. Dr. Braden says that Summer researched it “with cultural sensitivity, as well as attention to human rights issues — a tough balancing act.”
Whitney Broetje, director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, says, “Summer has already given her life to fighting human trafficking. She has traveled the world working with nonprofits to end sex trafficking. Recently she has been to Thailand and Ghana, and she is leaving soon for another trip. This young woman is incredible.”
Summer has been an activist and a leader in the anti-trafficking movement on campus. She worked as a business manager for the Urban Involvement team from 2013–14; served as the president of the Set Free club, which raises awareness about and fights human trafficking in Seattle and around the world; and also served on the ASSP Refugee Committee.
With Seattle Pacific’s John Perkins Center, Summer participated in a SPRINT trip to Rwanda in the summer of 2013. In 2014 she worked in the Kurdistan region of Iraq as an intern with the Preemptive Love Coalition, a nonprofit that helps save Iraqi women who were trafficked by ISIS, and she single-handedly raised $5,000 in one month.
Read about how Summer continues to make a difference globally through TK Threads.
Other Notable Student Awards and Achievements
- SBGE Undergraduate Writing Award went to Jonathan Roberts for his paper “The New Chinatown: Housing Placement and Labor Market Outcomes of Syrian Refugees.” This honor includes a cash prize of $1,000.
- Woodrow Wilson Political Science Student of the Year Award, Andrew Robert Bell
- Distinguished Global Development Studies Award, Summer Danielle Downs
- Distinguished General Track Award, Jaren Dawn Walker
- Distinguished General Track Award, Kaeo-Pu’uwai Ke’aloha-Lindsey
- Distinguished International Affairs Award, Samuel Caleb Stumberg
- Distinguished Law and Public Policy Award, Kelsey Hanna Tuohy
- Distinguished Law and Public Policy Award, Briana Celeste Chui
- Madeleine Albright Achievement Award, Teresa Christine Harmon
On May 19, the School of Business, Government, and Economics honored our top students by inducting them into our two honor societies.
Now in its 103rd year, and 17th here at SPU, we added 21 juniors, seniors, and graduate students to our chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma.
We also inducted 34 students into the charter class of our new Alpha Kappa Xi chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the National Political Science Honor Society.
SBGE was pleased to provide 47 scholarships to deserving students through the endowments provided by contributors like you!
Explore the many giving options available to you in SPU’s School of Business, Government, and Economics. Give now.