Advocating for Education: My Internship in Washington, D.C.

This summer, Tiffany Carpenter (Alfie Scholar, 2017 Cohort) interned with The National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP), a national non-profit, non-partisan organization working to increase access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students.

As the Communications and Advocacy Intern, Tiffany helped plan the annual conference and Youth Leadership Summit and congressional advocacy campaigns. NCCEP works with Congress, the White House, and the U.S. Department of Education to advance public policy for a community of students and educators.

Below is her story….

By Tiffany Carpenter

It’s 8 a.m. and two hundred students—ranging from the 9th grade to their first year in college and coming from diverse backgrounds—are rehearsing enthusiastically. Some speak original poetry with shining eyes; others break into creative dance or offer calming hugs. In minutes, these talented and underserved youths from across the nation will present powerful narratives in front of almost 1,700 teachers, administrators, and representatives—including the Department of Education. Demonstrating the daily realities of growing up amidst financial hardship, bullying, and gun violence, these students will also share the excitement of participating with GEAR UP, a federal initiative that provides mentoring, college planning, and scholarships. As a Communications and Advocacy Intern, I had the opportunity to learn about educational access, public policy, and government relations while assisting the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) with organizing the 2018 annual conference. My summer working in Washington, D.C., was incredible, and the best moments were meeting the inspiring students that we serve and watching them advocate for their futures on stage.

As a rising senior and honors student at Seattle University who relies on scholarships and financial aid, I understand how deeply education can transform a person’s potential. When the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) generously offered me an internship, I was excited about their mission of expanding educational access. Working with a variety of partners, from Congress to local teachers, NCCEP facilitates the funding and successful implementation of GEAR UP nationwide in underserved school districts. The organization’s impact is remarkable, and I was graciously welcomed to their Washington D.C. office by ten staff and a fellow summer intern. Each colleague supported GEAR UP in different ways, by gathering statistical data on graduation outcomes, coordinating with school administrators, informing public policy, working with Congress to increase budget funding, and so much more.

My primary projects involved working closely with our other super-smart intern and skilled manager to produce all data analysis, digital designs, and event coordination for the Youth Leadership Summit portion of the conference. This year was NCCEP’s largest conference yet, with 200 students and 1,700 attendees during three-and-a-half days. With only two months to develop and finalize materials, I always found something interesting to create or complete; 5:30 p.m. always arrived quickly! Some of the moving pieces we encountered with event planning included collecting and confirming information from attendees, arranging for room and signage needs, coordinating meals for dietary restrictions, creating a streamlined registration process, and other tasks.

Because of new branding and programming, our manager would occasionally email an idea and thoughtfully ask if it was a project that interns would be interested in pursuing at a convenient time. Whether working independently or together with my fellow intern, we were usually able to complete our regular assignments and then figure out how to independently deliver the new project within a day or two. I felt lucky not only to have a significant role in the NCCEP office, but also to have the trust of our manager and colleagues. Even while preparing for their most important event of the year, everyone at NCCEP was kind and always available to assist with assignments. They also knew when to step back, allowing me to develop the ability to take initiative, learn, or get creative with proposing solutions. During the Youth Leadership Summit itself onsite at the Washington Hilton, I helped register students and coordinate their daily training sessions, which sometimes stretched from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. as they learned about public speaking, defining and demonstrating their values, breaking through fears and barriers, sharing their stories, and other leadership skills.

Looking back, I’m so grateful for everything I learned and experienced through my first internship with the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. Living in Washington, D.C., I walked right past the White House on the way to work, explored museums filled with national heritage, and appreciated the sunset on the Potomac River. During my internship, assisting with event planning for the conference helped me grow professionally and gain new perspectives. I saw directly how advocacy works between multiple agencies; found the initiative to bring a project from conception to completion, facilitated all stages of the conference from registration to closure, and provided insight on process improvement so that NCCEP’s next conference runs even more smoothly. It was a joy to learn and contribute alongside my fellow intern and bright, dedicated professionals in a small office setting. Most of all, it was amazing to see our work efforts culminate in a national conference bringing together ideas, resources, and every member of our community—from Congress and the Department of Education to the inspiring students themselves. They face adversity with bravery, curiosity, and enthusiasm for the future. I can’t wait to see these young leaders rise, and I hope their next dream destination—a college classroom—comes true. In the meantime, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity of contributing at NCCEP to educational advocacy.

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Featured Alfie Scholar Series | Angela Flores-Marcus: Planting the STEMs for Future Women in Tech

When you read about Angela Flores-Marcus’s accomplishments, you are immediately awestruck. Her dedication to her community is apparent through the numerous organizations she has engaged in, including serving as the Vice President of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the President of Women in STEM club, and Co-Chair of the Queer-Straight Alliance. Her academic excellence is demonstrated by the eleven scholarships she has been awarded and the honor societies she is a part of.

But it is when you speak with her in person that you truly understand the magnitude of this woman’s drive and the civility she encompasses in every aspect of her life.

We sat down with Angela this week to discuss her visit with Google at the Women Techmakers Scholars Program and her transition into Seattle University last year.

As part of the Women Techmakers Scholars Program this summer, Angela and ten fellow recipients were invited to attend a four-day retreat at Google’s campus in Mountain View, CA. The retreat connects women scholars in the tech industry from all around the world to share stories, to collaborate on solutions to their struggles, and to build a network that will stay intact as they further their careers in STEM.

As the first student from Seattle University to receive this scholarship, Angela said, “I was shocked to have won the scholarship and was excited to meet other women in the same boat and with the same passions as me.”

“I was really excited, but also really nervous. There were moments where I felt, ‘Is what I am doing in terms of tech projects really impactful? How do I make sure I’m here for a reason, and how do I talk about it?’”

In other words, as Angela described, she was experiencing “imposter syndrome,” wherein high achievers feel as though their successes are out of luck and fraudulency rather than earned from their hard work and intellectual ability. This psychological phenomenon is universal, but some research suggests it disproportionately plagues women and underrepresented groups. When Angela alluded to these feelings at the retreat, she was relieved at how quickly it was identified as a shared experience by the other women.

It was made apparent to Angela through these discussions that although the women all had different backgrounds, tech experience, and reasons for being in tech, they shared an observation and a purpose.

“[We] all agreed there is not enough visibility and role models for women in tech, and we all want to find a way to make a difference.”

The retreat created a platform to explore these issues and to build a coalition of women dedicated to forging a space for themselves in the industry.

A second facet to the retreat hosted by Google was to promote tech projects with positive social impact, something Angela and her fellow scholars plan to pursue in their STEM careers. They were introduced to specific projects within Google such as Lookout, an app that connects the blind to their surroundings to help them navigate independently throughout their environments, and Project Loon, a balloon that connects people in remote communities or disaster relief areas to the internet.

“The idea of building something so powerful in order to use it to change people’s lives forever – that to me is the ideal way to use my degree. It could be easy to develop projects that are cool but not necessarily helpful,” says Angela.

“To me, coming from a background of limited access to a lot of things because of my income status, it has always been important to gather as much information as I possibly can to use it in a way that will impact people. It was nice to see at the retreat these things that are possible as long as we are not forgetting about people.”

A large part of being an Alfie Scholar is this mentality, Angela explains. The Alfies are a network of individuals devoted to social change as leaders for civility within their chosen fields.

“The reality is that we do so much; it can be a little exhausting. At what point do we take time for ourselves, to remind ourselves about self care.”

Self care is an invaluable lesson Angela has taken from the Alfie program that she was able to share with her fellow Women Techmaker scholars who struggle from the same sense of depletion and self sacrifice.

Last year marked Angela’s transition from South Seattle College to Seattle University. She entered as a junior and a member of the 2017 Alfie Scholars Cohort. She notes, “It could have been a lot harder of a transition [if I] were not part of the Alfie Scholars."

The Alfie Scholars program helped cultivate a sense of community on campus and introduced her to resources, clubs, and professors that she would not have otherwise found. Starting with Alfie Scholars in the summer enabled Angela and her fellow Alfies to become familiar with different departments and professors and to learn important lessons about preparing for classes and creating boundaries as leaders in their communities.

“It was helpful in building my confidence and feeling like this is a place where I belong,” says Angela of her summer quarter with Alfie Scholars.

This month, Angela begins her senior year at Seattle University. She will graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering with a Specialization in Computer Engineering and remain an active part of her community in the interim, heading the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Seattle University Chapter with fellow Alfie Scholar, Jorge Lara Alvarado.

To read more about Angela Flores-Marcus, please visit her bio.

Featured Alfie Scholar Series: Alfie Scholar Goes to Mars

Mina at JPL holding her Mars rover.

Alfie Scholar Jasmina “Mina” Omerovic (class of ‘20) was selected this year by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to participate in a five-week online workshop followed by a four-day visit to the NASA JPL campus in Pasadena, CA. Her experience was fun, inspiring, and intense.

In just four days, Mina and her 40 fellow students were split into teams and tasked with designing a rover that could pick up rocks and return them to a designated homebase, simulating a rescue mission on Mars. They literally worked from sunup until sundown, staying at JPL campus from 7am to 9:30 pm each day.

“I was so exhausted when I came home,” Mina chuckles infectiously.

But it is an experience that could very well have changed the trajectory of her internal rocket as it ignited in her an enhanced passion for out-of-earth travel and mechanical engineering.

Mina became interested in engineering at the age of 26 while taking her first college math class. During her studies at Bellevue Community College, she learned about the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS), a program operated by NASA to help provide STEM opportunities to underrepresented students.

Mina meeting Curiosity in the Mars Yard.

At JPL, Mina and her fellow scholars got to meet NASA aerospace engineers and scientists, and tour places on campus we civilians likely had no idea even existed like the “Mars Yard,” a facility where Mars rovers such as Curiosity are tested.

Meeting the scientists and engineers working on these rovers inspired Mina. Not only were they working on projects that made her giddy with excitement; they were incredible humans.

“Everybody [at NASA] is so welcoming! You can come up to someone at lunch and ask them about their projects, and as long as their projects aren’t top secret, they will tell you about them.”

One connection Mina drew between her first year with Alfie Scholars and her experience at JPL is civility. The Alfie Scholars program discusses in depth what civility is, its impact on our world, and how we experience it throughout our lives. When at JPL, Mina thought, “these people at NASA are so civil! They don’t make you feel intimidated because they understand your passion; it’s the same as theirs.”

Alfie Scholars’ emphasis on leadership is another thing Mina thought a lot about during her visit at JPL. “It’s really cool that Alfie courses teach you how to be the leader you want to be. It made me more comfortable with being around these big headshots at NASA.”

As intensive as this program was at NASA’s JPL, Mina is ready for more. She now plans to apply for their highly competitive summer internship which selects 900 out of 10,000 applicants each year. The only way to apply is to submit your resume online, but the connections Mina made at JPL make her hopeful she will stand out.

Alfie Scholars 2018 Cohort on the Philosophy of the Civil Person

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To cultivate leaders for civility in their chosen professions and communities, we encourage Alfies to embrace their authentic selves and life’s purpose. We support them in doing so by providing the tools to develop and strengthen their own voice. They learn the importance of hearing their own voice, not only for themselves but for their communities and our society at large. The Alfies learn to communicate their ideas, perspectives, emotions, and values that shape their voice.

The annual summer conferences provide the forum for each Alfie to present their research and thoughts about a contemporary social issue, analyze that issue through the lenses of civility and philosophy, and bring their wisdom forth. In this way, they experience their ability to influence how others perceive an issue about which they care deeply.

Last week, the 2018 Cohort gave their first presentation in their first Alfie Scholars conference. They brought their passion, values, and drive for a more civil world to the table. They were fired up and ready to engage, spoke on topics our society needs to address in the realm of economic, social, and educational justice. In so doing, this young group of leaders reminds us that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“This year the Alfie's brought their A-game to the conference! Their energy, passion, and ideas were inspiring to witness. Each one left us with issues to ponder in new ways. The conference was a wonderful launch for the 2018 Alfie Scholar cohort,” says President/Executive Director of Alfie Scholars.

Here’s a summary of the program:

Human Sex Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery

Presenter: Stephanie Sanchez

Moderator: Danielle Klindt

Police Mistreatment of Asians in the United States: A Call for Human Dignity Protection

Presenter: Yue Zhang

Moderator: Soren Tran

One-Size-Fits-All Education System: What about the students who don’t fit the mold?

Presenter: Chloe Zabrek

Moderator: Angela Flores-Marcus

Discrimination, Discipline, and Disparities Prevent Learning.

Presenter: Farhia (Dekha) Hassan

Moderator: Faiza Abaroone

When Universities are Tone-Deaf to the Challenges Faced by International Students, They Diminish the Contributions That International Students Bring.

Presenter: Chhavi Mehra

Moderator: Azrael Howell

The Key to Freedom: Addressing the Challenges Low- income and Immigrant Students Face in Their Pursuit of Education.

Presenter: Kaddy Suso

Moderator: Abdulqadir Diriye

Universal Health Care for All: A Vaccination for Healthy and Civility Society

Presenter: Megan Nguyen

Moderator: Angel Vuong

Becoming American!

Presenter: Michel Mugisha

Moderator: Jorge Lara Alvarado

Artificial Intelligence Civility: Intelligence, Emotional Connection, And Rational Reasoning

Presenter: Jasmina Omerovic

Moderator: Angela Flores-Marcus

A Path to Conscientiousness: Reimagining Our Neighbors the Homeless.

Presenter: Cesar Rios III

Moderator: Mariajesus Elgueta

Asian Discrimination: The Immigrant Story

Presenter: Soren Tran

Moderator: Yue Zhang

Exit Civility, Stage Left: Radicalizing of Liberalism in the Wake of Trump

Presenter: Azrael Howell

Moderator: Chhavi Mehra

For more information on the Alfie Scholars Junior Conference, and a full description of their presentations, please refer to the program.


Prostitution, Radical Liberalism, China...Here’s a recap from the Alfie Scholars Senior Conference

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To facilitate Alfie Scholars’ development as leaders for civility in their chosen fields and communities, each summer they participate in two Alfie Scholar Conferences. These conferences help form a bridge for students to effectively navigate in academic and professional arenas and communities.

Each summer, as part of their University Core Philosophy Course, Alfie Scholars research a topic of social consequence and analyze it through the lens of civility, philosophy, and their own lived experience. In addition to writing a paper, they also make a class presentation. Rather than present in the classroom, we created the Alfie Scholars Conference to provide a vehicle for them to engage in professional conference experiences. As members of a profession, they will have opportunities to attend and speak at conferences. Scholars respond to a Call for Proposals, and then present or moderate at a conference each summer.

Last week Alfie Scholar seniors took to the podium, supported by alumni Aminata Drammeh, Pa Ousman Jobe, D.D. Meakin, David Rosales Morales, and Gabriel Narvaez, to present on important topics that we as Americans should not shy away from, but many times do.

Here’s a rundown of the program:

Topic: Leadership Without Ethics

Presenter: Abdulqadir Diriye

Moderator: Kaddy Suso

 

Topic: #MeToo

Presenter: Mariajesus Elgueta

Moderator: Cesar Rios III

 

Topic: Prostitution: Autonomy, Dignity, and Pleasure Versus Pain

Presenter: Danielle Klindt

Moderator: Stephanie Sanchez

 

Topic: Nurturing The Acorn To Create A Benevolent and Civil Society

Presenter: Angel Vuong

Moderator: Megan Nguyen

 

Topic: China’s Social Credit System: The Civility Algorithm

Presenter: Angela Flores-Marcus

Moderator: Jasmina Omerovic

 

Topic: Exit Civility, Stage Left: Radicalizing of Liberalism in the Wake of Trump

Presenter: Azrael Howell

Moderator: Chhavi Mehra

 

Topic: How Racism was Licensed Post 2016 U.S. Election

Presenter: Faiza Abaroone

Moderator: Dehka Hassan

 

Topic: Are We All Immigrants?

Presenter:  Jorge Lara Alvarado

Moderator: Michel Mugisha

 

For more information on the Alfie Scholars Senior Conference, and a full description of their presentations, please refer to the program. Congratulations to the Alfie Scholars seniors! We cannot wait to see what value your power and poise will bring to our world!

 

Featured Alfie Scholar Series: Julia Mariga

When Alfie Scholar and Seattle University College of Nursing graduate, Julia Mariga, found out she was selected by her cohort of 75-80 fellow nursing students to speak at the Pinning Ceremony, she was “genuinely shocked.” She expected someone more “vocal” to be elected and saw herself as a “fly-on-the-wall” in her classes, gently guiding her peers towards various resources and support. “It feels good to know I’ve been helpful to people even when I thought I was just doing a kind thing. It’s good to see people actually benefited from my help,” she says humbly.

The Pinning Ceremony, which took place on Monday, August 20th, is a symbolic welcoming of newly graduated nurses into the nursing profession. The graduates are presented with a pin, by a loved one or faculty member in the field of nursing selected by the graduate. Julia was presented her pin by S.U. faculty member Dr. Heather Depuydt and her mother Jane Mariga. Dr. Depuydt has provided Julia a tremendous amount of support since her first year in nursing school. She ignited in Julia a deeper passion for social justice, and became a powerful source of strength and joy for many of her students.

Being joined by her mother, a nursing assistant, was beyond question. “I would not be here without her. The amount of support she has given me...I couldn’t go up there without my mama!” says Julia.

This was a pivotal theme of Julia’s speech on Monday--the gratitude she and her fellow graduates have for those that helped get them through the program. “We would not have gotten here on our own. A lot of times we forget about the key players that come into our lives and help us make it through. Take a moment to step back and realize all these people here; we may not have made it without them. We didn’t do this alone.”

In addition to being selected as the student speaker Julia was also the recipient of the Nursing Service Award, one of only three student awards distributed during the Pinning Ceremony.

Takeaways From Nursing School:

Reflecting back on her journey to now, Julia says the pivotal moment for her was when she finally started interacting with patients. “You realize why you went into this. I’m making a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes you have crappy days, but other days you remember why you went into service for others, and you leave there feeling accomplished.”

Getting through the “crappy days” requires demonstrating civility and patience by understanding where patients are coming from even when they may not be acting civilly themselves. You have to be patient and compassionate during the hard times, “remember the days that went well,” and appreciate the fact that, regardless of the quality of the day, you were of service.

Practicing self care is another important takeaway from nursing school. “Being able to take care of yourself is important to being able to take care of others,” emphasizes Julia. This was a concept that was drilled into Julia and her peers since day one. But it wasn’t until classes got more intense that they really started to understand the importance.

For Julia, self care is getting outside. “Going on a hike releases any stress I had from the week.” If she’s unable to get out for a long hike, it is at least important to take time to breathe, or find something that makes her laugh.

Takeaways from Alfie Scholars:

The importance of support and community was an impactful realization Julia will be taking away from the Alfie Scholars program. Transitioning from a small community college to a larger university is not easy; it requires support. Her fellow Alfie cohort members became family and gave integral support. Via this community, she was able to see the commonality and the beauty in different people, personalities, ages, degrees. They were people who understand the power of education and the difficulty of this transition because they were going through the same thing.

Learning how to be an advocate for yourself and others is another takeaway Julia has from the Alfie Scholars. The program’s emphasis on social justice and not standing for the status quo is something that Julia will be applying directly to nursing, wherein you are constantly advocating for your patient.

After Graduation:

Julia plans to take her exam to become a licensed nurse in September after which she will take some well-deserved vacation time in Kenya to visit family and Germany to visit friends. She will practice nursing in Seattle once registered, but still plans to bring her expertise to Kenya where she hopes to help make access to medical care more readily available.

 

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How to Practice the 3 C’s (Consciousness, Creativity, and Community) of Civility Like an Alfie

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We believe that true civility requires more than mere politeness; it calls upon us to respect others, to remain open-minded and curious, and to engage in honest and constructive discourse. Civility requires an integration of relational attitudes, behaviors, and skills. We believe that the foundation for civility is consciousness, creativity, and community (3 C’s).

Developed by Italian artist and art teacher, Sergio Tamassia, the Civility Mural Project  was created to introduce students to these 3 C’s. The exercise begins with white shapes and black shapes that are precut into interesting forms to stimulate creativity, even from those who claim no artistic ability. The students then paint on the shapes they select.

During the process of painting on these shapes, students practice consciousness by going inward and unleashing their own creativity; by mindfully focusing on their painting; and by being relaxed and playful. After the painted shapes have dried, students create a collage with the shapes (their own or others’) by placing them on a long sheet of poster paper. At this point, students must let go of their attachment to their own work and sacrifice their own piece of art to the good of the community’s collective art. Through this stage of the process students see how they can change the impact of a form by altering its direction or by placing other forms next to it. Thus, they see how a creative process enables them to expand possibilities and keep soft eyes and open minds – a skill that is useful in problem-solving generally. In the end, the collage is hung on the wall where students can literally see how their individual contributions are both necessary to the completion of the whole and, more importantly, how the whole is enhanced by everyone’s contributions. Thus they see the value in community collaboration.

Try out this exercise with your community and send us some photos or post on instagram and facebook with the hashtag AlfieScholars3Cs.

How else do you practice the 3 C’s?

 

 Alfie Scholar President, Paula Lustbader (center), leading the first phase of the exercise.

Alfie Scholar President, Paula Lustbader (center), leading the first phase of the exercise.

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Welcome Alfie Scholars Cohort, Class of 2020!

 Front row, left to right: Yue Zhang, Ngan “Meghan” Nguyen, Chloe Zabrek, Stephanie Sanchez. Back row, left to right: Cesar Rios III, Farhia “Dekha” Hassan, Jasmina “Mina” Omerovic, Michel Mugisha, Chhavi Mehra

Front row, left to right: Yue Zhang, Ngan “Meghan” Nguyen, Chloe Zabrek, Stephanie Sanchez. Back row, left to right: Cesar Rios III, Farhia “Dekha” Hassan, Jasmina “Mina” Omerovic, Michel Mugisha, Chhavi Mehra

We welcomed our Alfie Scholar class of 2020 on June 30, 2018 for an all-day Leadership for Civility retreat. Our new Alfie Scholars represent a diverse range of ages (18-38) and nationalities (Bosnia, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Somalia, Vietnam, United States). Six are the first in their families to attend college. Two are parents. Three were encouraged to apply by current scholars! Three are engineering majors, three are nursing majors, two are business majors, and one is a journalism major.

We are excited to welcome these incredible scholars into our community and look forward to seeing where this journey takes them!

Alfie Scholar Angela Flores-Marcus honored by Google's Women Techmakers Scholars Program

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Alfie Scholar and Seattle University Electrical Engineering student Angela Flores-Marcus is one of 20 honorees in the 2018 Women Techmakers Scholars Program offered by Google. Flores is the first Seattle University Student and Alfie Scholar to receive this award, and we could not be more proud.

Each year Google honors a select few candidates out of thousands of submissions who demonstrate a passion for technology, academic excellence, and leadership as role models within their communities. Through the Women Techmakers Scholars Program, Google awards women in tech who are defying the gender gap in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and demonstrating themselves as active leaders in their field. The disparity between men and women in tech, especially women of color, is staggering. Last year, women accounted for only 26% of the STEM workforce. Of that 26%, only 10% were women of color.

As President of Women in STEM, member of the Society of Women Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, recipient of the Women in Science & Engineering Scholarship (WiSE), and recipient of the PRIDE Scholarship  – just to name a few! – Flores-Marcus has demonstrated her passion for and dedication to the future of STEM. Read more about Angela at https://www.alfiescholars.org/2017-bios/angela-flores-marcus.

We are honored to celebrate this victory with her and cannot wait to see what’s next for this fearless warrior. Congratulations, Angela!

References and Resources:

For more information on the Women Techmakers Scholars Program, please visit https://www.womentechmakers.com/scholars

For more information on the broader Google Scholarship programs, visit https://students.googleblog.com/2018/05/congratulations-to-2018-google.html

For more information on the gender gap in STEM, visit https://www.ncwit.org/

 

How to become a successful student – an Alfie Scholar's perspective

By David Morales Rosales

I’ve been sick for the past week. I woke up this morning coughing and fighting to catch my breath. I put my hand on my chest gasping for air; when I finally caught my breath I smiled and cried a little because in that moment I knew I meant everything I said in my presentation yesterday: “I’m going to tell you right now, I want it so bad I’m going to die trying,” when speaking about my education. I also thought about what my father told me one day while we were having breakfast: “I always dreamed about being a speaker, but I don’t have that gift. I’m not educated, but sometimes when I sleep I have this dream that I’m in front of people speaking and they are listening to what I have to say.” My father was never given the opportunity to live out his dream, but what kind of son would I be if I didn’t live it out for him.

 

No one in my family was given the opportunity I have now; I want my education so bad I would die trying to get it.
— David Morales Rosales, Alfie Scholar

 

Yesterday I had the honor of being a keynote speaker at Career Link High School at South Seattle College. I was asked to speak about the resources that have helped me become a successful student. As I sat down and wrote about resources such as the writing center, math lab, tutors, and scholarships, I remembered that I sat in those same chairs where the Career Link students would be sitting. And when I was a student at Career Link, there were times where I needed to hear more from my speaker then the usual “go here,” “go there,” “call here,” “email there.” I crumpled the paper and began from scratch. I instead gave the advice that helped me become a successful student beyond what it needs on paper. I spoke on my own life experiences, hoping I could identify with some of these individuals, and I gave them some of the tools that kept me going when I wanted to quit. This opportunity I was given was a true blessing; never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be speaking in the place where I only saw others making presentations. To look back on my journey and see how far I have come was an extremely proud moment for me. Who knows what the future holds for me, but trust me when I say, “No one in my family was given the opportunity I have now; I want my education so bad I would die trying to get it.” 

Alfie Scholars Abroad: Nizama

This past summer and fall four of the Alfie Scholars studied and worked abroad. Over the next few weeks, we will post their reflections on their time as global citizens. Our first author is Nizama Djuderija, who studied at the American University of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

 

By Nizama Djuderija

In my time in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I constantly got asked, “Why would you want to study abroad in the country that you’re from?” I wished myself I could have answered that question in a simple way. For many, my reality is one of millions of diasporas who have claimed the USA as their second home after war became the reason for their departure from their old one. Leaving Bosnia at the age of two and a half and visiting family every couple of years gave me a glimpse into what life was like. I felt like a complete stranger even if my name was for once not foreign to a stranger’s ear. I didn’t understand why I never felt at home in Seattle, nor in Sarajevo. I realized when I began attending Seattle U I had to search for what I was dedicating so much of my personal time to: my home country. With the assistance of my amazing parents, mentors, and advisors, within months I began my summer at the American University of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo. With the program basing itself mainly on peace and conflict, digging into the core of a fresh wound, the war was the weight of many discussions. Because the war was the peak of my interests and what I researched the most, meeting individuals who suffered horrible tragedies and, to this day, suffer as a result demonstrated that the harm done by the aggression that was started in Bosnia by fascist, nationalistic regimes lived on.

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Visiting the worst of many cities stricken by mass killings, rapes, incapacitation, and abuse, I stared death right in its eyes. I stood under the smoldering heat by a building that once held thousands of imprisoned Bosnians in Trnopolje and scanned the countless graves in Srebrenica while holding back tears, knowing the voices under these graves bear witness to more crimes than the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia could ever hold accountable.

Interning at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) brought real-time experience of just the complexity, politics, and despair that comes with finding missing bodies of hundreds and thousands of missing victims. Having family members of my own brutally killed during the war and knowing that the ICMP was there to lay their bodies to rest provided me a sense of pride that if NGO’s continue with the missions set out from the beginning, we can form some place of peace for mourning families. As I drove through Sarajevo daily, while sharing a story with a taxi driver, I observed just how beautiful my country is.

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Every detail had its own piece of history, dating its ex-Yugoslavian spunk to the regal Ottoman Empire architecture. Shelled buildings proved the resistance against those who wanted to split the nation apart, but crossing entity lines froze that thought with the harsh reality of my identity not being welcome. With the knowledge of the corrupted government, weakened economy, and depressing reality for youth with college degrees but next to zero chances for employment put my focus in a new state alongside the war. We as diaspora have been lucky enough to escape the daily struggles many are still living through after the war, and we have a moral obligation to use our resources, talents, and altruistic capabilities to help those stuck in a corrupted time-freeze from a government that could care less for them.

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Studying abroad provided me with the harsh reality of my country’s state today. Although I am always looked at as “different” since I live in the US, I see a sliver of hope if we ourselves act to help reel back the bridges burned by war and come together, across ethnic lines, to create a prosperous Bosnia for this upcoming generation to prove the power of peace. That is why I studied abroad in the country that I am from. 

 

Cultivating a Campus Culture of Civility

Summary

Incivility permeates our culture including in colleges and universities. Higher education influences each generation, engenders critical thinking, and establishes cultural norms for professionals. When we teach and model ways to facilitate robust, yet civil, discourse about controversial topics, we empower students to be constructive, civil, and engaged citizens in an increasingly polarized world. After offering a definition and framework for thinking about civility, the paper summarizes the pervasiveness and cost of incivility in our society generally and the presence and impact of incivility on schools specifically. The paper then provides suggestions on ways that higher education can cultivate a campus culture of civility.

 

Alfie Scholars Response to the 2016 Presidential Election

November 9, 2016

To the Seattle University Community, on behalf of the Alfie Scholars of Seattle University,

We, the inaugural cohort of the Alfie Scholars program at Seattle University, offer this response to the results of our nation’s recent Presidential election.

Seattle University’s mission for a just and humane world compels us, as civility leaders, to reach out to the greater Seattle University community to offer words of reflection as well as to communicate our promise to continue to engage in the fight for what we believe in and what defines us.  For those who do not know what an Alfie Scholar is, we are a highly diverse group of high-achieving transfer students who’ve fought through serious adversity for the honor of obtaining a justice-oriented education.  Our governing principle of civility aligns with principles of service, responsibility, and justice. Our instinctive understanding of the full-bodied precedent of unity, as exemplified by so many of the civility leaders who’ve come before us, leads us to foster betterment in ourselves, and in the hearts and minds of others when the chips are down.

In the past eighteen months, we have watched as our common decency has fallen in the face of fear. It is a natural response to be tempted to allow ourselves to trip into a trap of lasting despair, but we argue that it is more important than ever to situate ourselves within the spectrum of love.  Now is not the time to engage in the pathology of divisiveness. It is a moment that will test our resolve as individuals who organically understand that what lives in our hearts has the power to thrust us toward a better tomorrow. In this spirit, we wish to offer our compassion to our Mother Earth, our brothers and sisters of color, our Muslim friends, our Native American tribes, our LGBTQ families, the poor and impoverished, and all those questioning their safety as we digest what the future may bring.

We feel strongly that our Seattle University community has the potential to set an example for strength in leadership, specifically leadership that stands boldly to represent what is right and good within each of us.  Margaret Mead’s famous quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”, embodies our ideology of staying grounded, as we engage those with whom we have fierce disagreement with. Civility thrives on connectivity, so we reach out today in an effort to both introduce ourselves and to extend our arms to the SU community.  We are here to work alongside you, as we begin the arduous work of establishing our common voice as the dominant voice for a more inclusive discourse. In a broader sense, the confrontation of extremes reminds us of our responsibility as arbiters, the importance of communication, understanding and interaction in a much polarized national conversation.  We believe that this resonates even more clearly in context when Americans face the potential of global isolation.

In Civil Solidarity,

Nizama Djudrija, Criminal Justice, Class of 2018
Aminata Drammeh, Business, Class of 2018
Pa Ousman Jobe, Business, Class of 2018
Julia Mariga, Nursing, Class of 2018
Dian “D.D.” Meakin, Sociology, Class of 2018
David Morales-Rosales, Criminal Justice, Class of 2018
Gabriel Narvaez, Sociology, Class of 2018
Giang Nguyen, Business, Class of 2018, Class of 2018
Hiba Salama, Diagnostic Ultrasound, Class of 2018
Mahakdeep Singh, Engineering, Class of 2018

Seattle University Officially Launches the Alfie Scholars Program

President Stephen Sundborg officially launched the Alfie Scholars Program at Seattle University on Wednesday, March 9, 2016. Over 50 representatives from Seattle University, local community colleges, and individuals from around Seattle gathered to celebrate the launch of the Alfie Scholars Program at Seattle University, an innovative academic support scholarship for transfer students. 

 

The program included remarks from Marilyn Crone, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Father Stephen Sundborg, President of Seattle University, Professor Paula Lustbader, President of Alfie's Fund, and Carol Cochran, Program Director of Alfie Scholars.

The application deadline for the 2016 Alfie Scholars cohort is March 27, 2016. 

 Carol Cochran, program director of alfie scholars, professor paula lustbader, president of alfie's fund, father stephen sundbord, president of seattle university

Carol Cochran, program director of alfie scholars, professor paula lustbader, president of alfie's fund, father stephen sundbord, president of seattle university

What do we mean by 'Civility'?

Professor Paula Lustbader speaks to the definition of civility and its importance during the Alfie Scholars at Seattle University launch event on March 9, 2016.


What do we mean by civility?

We certainly know we need it more than ever, right? Anybody been watching the debates recently? Anybody looking at what's going on in our country and notice the crassness, the crudeness, and the lack of sensitivity? Rather than coming together in our shared humanity, some people want to close the borders and build the walls. I'm not naming names. But this is a moment that kind of cries out for civility.

What do we mean by civility? Civility is living by the Golden Rule, which has its version in all the major religions and most of you were raised with a version of the Golden Rule as a guiding life principle. So civility at its most basic is to treat others as you wish to by treated. But what does that mean?  Think about somebody who is a role model of civility. What is one word that would describe them?

Fair.

Fair.

Respectful.

Respectful.

Kind.

Kind.

Generous.

Generous.

Reflective.

Reflective.

Gracious.

Gracious.

Accountable.

Accountable.

Mensch.

Mensch. A good mensch is a person of honor. You know, we have to leave it with mensch, right? A mensch is a civil person. That's right. What does civility mean? There's a variety of definitions out there, and I had a whole bunch of them written out, and then I thought, I'm not going to give a lecture today.

The main thing is at core, all of the definitions include some piece of the Golden Rule, some element of respect, and it's about a way of approaching and seeing others, and an openness to be with others. We're not saying you have to be agreeable and roll over and be docile and let people steam roll you. We're not saying civility means one can't disagree with another person. It's really the way in which you go about having the conversation and the way in which you approach it. We call it the Tai Chi of civility because it's about an attitude as much as behavior and skill set. It's all of that. It's not just one set of rules.

Civility calls upon us to do more than tolerate each other and our differences. It requires us to even do more than what Aretha asks for: Respect. It's important to be respectful, but civility also calls upon us to be curious, because when we're really curious about others and our differences, then we will value what all of that brings, and in so doing, we can have a more, this is where our missions coalesce, just and humane world. We will treat each other differently.

We need to connect in our shared humanity through many acts of civility little and big. I was reading on a blog post just the other day on the Mighty website. Anybody ever look at the Mighty website? It's interesting. I won't go into that, but this woman, Debra Green, was writing about what occurred to her in thanking strangers that came to her aid ten months ago. She describes this moment where she had just started shopping in the Whole Foods and her shopping cart was partially full. She was standing near the entrance and she got a phone call from her brother. The brother says, “I hate to tell you, but our father just died. He killed himself.” She falls to her knees, lets out an agonizing scream, and these strangers came to her aid. The strangers are picking up her phone, trying to find the contact for her husband. One says can I pray for you and your father, and she says sure, and then this woman starts praying to Jesus, and she's like, hey, we're Jewish, you know, but it was wonderful. It was a wonderful moment.

Another one is planning trying to figure out how to get this woman back home in one piece, so they're planning, “I can drive her back in her car, you follow me in your car, and then we can come back.” Then Debra, who's in a puddle on the floor, says, “you know, I have a friend who works here. Maybe she's here.” Sure enough they find the friend, and the friend comes to her aid and takes her back into the employee section and calls the husband to come get her.

And the strangers bought her a gift card for Whole Foods to pay for her groceries so that she would know that they were still holding her. Debra ends her post by saying, "Your kindness, your compassion, your willingness to help a stranger in need have stayed with me until this day, and no matter how many times my mind takes me back to that horrible life altering moment, it's not all darkness because you reached out to help. You offered a ray of light in the bleakest moment I've ever endured. You may not even remember it. You may not remember me, but I will never, ever forget you, and though you may never know it, I give thanks for your presence and humanity each and every day."

The power of civility is that through these small acts of kindness, we can transform lives. You'll never know the light you can bring to somebody else's darkness, and that's just so eloquent. I just think that's really what we're talking about with civility.

When we're talking about civility, we're asking people to be conscious and aware of their own issues and aware of the people around them. We're asking them to be creative and open-minded, and to realize there are many different ways to perceive what is before us. My way isn't the only way. I have a colleague and dear friend who was explaining she was in a meeting that was getting very contentious, and she finally said, “you know, I just would like to share my truth,” and I thought, what a great way to give room for other truths, but to also be heard. I think that's how we get to be heard, and we get to be listened to so our ideas can flourish, and we can actually get to a better result when we bring everybody's voices to the table.

Lastly, civility asks us to be community-oriented. The Dalai Lama says that the greatest secret to happiness is being in service to others? Think about it. Think about that good feeling you have when you know you've helped somebody else. Archbishop Desmond Tutu talks about Ubuntu, which is this concept that human beings are inextricably connected to the one another, and we are connected in such a deep way that our humanity depends upon us honoring the other. He says, “I need you to be the best you can be because that's the only way I can be the best I can be.” So together collectively, we're all rising with the tide.

I'll end with this other story. I don't know how many of you watched or saw on the news this summer. In July, there was a protest going on in South Carolina, and it was right after they moved the Confederate flag from state grounds in South Carolina. On one side of the courthouse grounds, there was a Black Lives Matter protest going on, and on the other side was the neo Nazis protesting against taking the flag down. In the middle of this scene was Leroy Smith, who is a black state trooper in his uniform, and he was on duty at the statehouse grounds. He saw an elderly white man with a swastika t-shirt on who was starting to collapse, had heat exhaustion. He took that man, took him by the arm, and he walked him up five flights of stairs to get him to a place where it was cool and he could sit inside the house.

There was a photograph of Leroy helping and this man.  This photograph was taken on an iPhone and posted on social media, and it went completely viral. This powerful, powerful image of not just helping a stranger that's a neutral encounter, but actually seeing a someone, Leroy, come to the aid of somebody who represents hatred towards him and his race.  There may be a lot more beneath that that would have had to work through, but Leroy didn't stop to question it. Leroy just stepped up and helped this man because in that moment all he saw a was a fellow human suffering. He didn't see the swastika or give it meaning. When interviewed about why he thought this photograph went viral and had struck such a chord in our culture, Leroy Smith said, “Love. I think that's the greatest thing in the world. It was love.”

I would say it was love, but it was love that was embodied in the act of true civility. Thank you.

Ready to Launch

New Alfie Scholars program will enroll transfer students, increase diversity and promote civility

Story by: Dean Forbes and Mike Thee
Published March 1, 2016 in Seattle University's The Commons

On March 9 the university will publicly launch a new scholarship program for community college transfer students. 

As announced by President Stephen Sundborg, S.J., in January, Alfie Scholars annually will admit 15 transfer students from diverse populations backed by a $10,000 annual scholarship for two years. The focus on developing leaders who foster civility in their professions and society makes this program stand out.  

Alfie Scholars is dedicated to making the dream of attaining a bachelor's degree a reality for transfer students from two-year colleges, to increasing diversity on campus and in the workforce and to promoting leadership to foster civility in society. The program will be available to students who want to transfer to SU beginning with the start of the 2016-17 academic year. (Recipients would still need to go through SU's regular admissions application process.) 

The program provides the following:

  • A $10,000 annual scholarship.
  • Academic support programming that prepares students for the increased academic rigor of a four-year university.
  • Opportunities to create mutually reinforcing relationships.
  • A customized curriculum to develop leadership skills.
  • Preparation to become leaders who foster civility in their professions and society.

With a $500,000 annual budget, the scholarship program is funded by Alife's Fund and headed by Seattle University School of Law Professor Emerita Paula Lustbader. Students will begin the year in August by taking one of the university-required core courses, which will give them a an opportunity to adjust to the academic rigor, to lighten their course load during the academic year, and to form a sense of community on campus and within their cohort.

In 2008, Paula's father, Alfred Lustbader, founded Robert's Fund, named for his brother, to foster civility in the legal profession. In 2014, he founded Alfie's Fund to provide support to help change a life. The Alfie Scholars program is the fund's first initiative. 

The Lustbaders chose to benefit transfer students because they are, in Paula's words, an untapped resource of students who have ideas, energy and perspectives who don't have as much access to four-year colleges using the normal channels of admissions and financial aid programs that are available to non-transfer students. 

Paula, herself once a community college transfer student, retired from SU in 2015.  She now runs both foundations. 

"This an underserved population-there's not a lot of support available for transfer students," she says. And by support, she means financial and otherwise. A number of support services and academic enrichment programs will be available to the recipients, including a full-time director, Carol Cochran, who will ensure students get the resources they need to succeed and earn their degrees. 

A big part of the program's effectiveness is expected to derive from the cohort model. As Lustbader explains, transfer students come into an environment in which relationships among traditional students who entered as freshmen are already established and transfers can easily feel like outsiders. Alfie Scholars will be connected to each other through a variety of activities. "We want to help them realize that they're here for a mission that's bigger than them," says Lustbader. 

Civility is another major thrust of the Alfie Scholars program. Lustbader explains, "Much more can happen constructively-for our relationships, for our productivity, for our environment-if we can all be mutually respectful, considerate and treat people as we would like to be treated. We as a society need to embrace our differences and embrace our shared humanity." 

"Communication is a big part of this. We're not advocating for not having different opinions or disagreements; on the contrary, we should robustly be saying, 'I don't understand your perspective because my truth is this, so educate me.' What I want to do is. We hope to help engender a curiosity about other perspectives so we can respectfully discuss issues, increase our understanding, and create best solutions." 

How then to foster that kind of commitment to civility among the Alfie Scholars? 

"Some of it comes from modeling and educating skills to increase emotional intelligence and effective communication…to cultivate an enhanced awareness of the variety of ways each of our behaviors and words impact others." 

Alfie Scholars will also take a course developed specifically for the cohort on leadership and civility. "Our goal is that they will be ambassadors for civility while they're at the university, as well as when they enter their chosen field." 

The Alfie Scholars program follows in the footsteps of a program that Lustbader co-founded in the law school in 1987 called the Academic Resource Center, the law school's access admissions program. That program's mission-to increase diversity in the profession-annually accepted 30 students who showed promise but whose backgrounds predicted them not to be successful. Upon admission to the law school, those students received academic support and were part of a learning cohort that embraced the school's mission. Students in the highly regarded program have excelled, with many of them going on to distinguished careers and serving their communities. 

Lustbader is a recognized leader in opening new avenues of access to underrepresented students. She was given the Association of American Law Schools Section on Academic Support Award for Excellence in Legal Education. The Washington State Bar Association recognized her outstanding contributions by naming her co-recipient of the organization's Award for Excellence in Diversity (2006). In 2010, she received the Loren Miller Bar Association President's Award for her role in increasing the diversity in the legal profession.