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.