Redhawks Reflect on Their Time at Seattle U

Time is flying; in a few short weeks, Seattle University will hold its commencement ceremony for the Class of 2023. It is an exciting time for the graduating class, who are beginning to enter the next phase of their lives. For some, that means joining the workforce or beginning to travel, while others are deciding to continue their education through graduate programs. Fourth-years have navigated significant adversity to obtain 180 credits to walk across the stage at their commencement ceremony. 

As commencement approaches, graduating students reflect on their time at Seattle U and remember what made them choose to come to the university four years ago. 

Sophie Groustra, a fourth-year biology major, was drawn to the Emerald City to experience life in an urban metropolis while still having a smaller university community to develop connections in. After attending a different university her freshman year, Groustra saw Seattle U as an opportunity to do more, leading her to transfer from her previous school to Seattle U..  

“I chose Seattle University because of the small class sizes which allow me to connect well with the professors. I also chose it because of its location in a big, fun city which makes it so I can have new experiences and try new food, etc. I also chose it because of [the university’s] dedication to educating the whole person,” Groustra said.  

While at Seattle U, Groustra has had the opportunity to work as a Teaching Assistant where she was able to deepen connections with her professors and teach other students about a subject she excelled in. From her own experiences on campus, Groustra encourages students to be more involved on campus and take advantage of the resources Seattle U offers. 

“Join at least one club or sport and attend at least one Seattle U-hosted event each quarter. There’s a lot of really cool and fun things to get involved in,” Groustra said. “Get to know your professors well. They’re awesome people, super helpful and will not think you are stupid for asking for help. I’m close with a lot of my professors and they have been some of the most helpful people ever for advice and job recommendations.”  

Ultimately, Groustra learned to be more curious in her everyday life and not to be afraid of trying new things. She further encourages students to be inclined to experiment academically. 

“From my college experience, I have learned how to be curious, especially in my upper-level classes. I’ve learned that there isn’t always one right answer and it’s okay to experiment with things and try new things in class, even if it doesn’t work,” Groustra said.

After graduation, Groustra plans to work as a Research Assistant at Seattle Children’s Institute and hopes to later return to school to receive a Master’s in Genetic Counseling.

Similar to Groustra, Finola Schmahl-Waggoner, fourth-year cell and molecular biology student, was also drawn to Seattle U by  small class sizes and the traditional campus feel within a big city. The location offered her new and engaging experiences and never-ending opportunities for room to grow.

Reflecting on her time at Seattle U, Schmahl-Waggoner reminisces over late-night study sessions in the library, the Christmas tree lighting and the drag show Seattle U holds every year. Schmahl-Waggoner encourages students to take advantage of school events and seek out professional development opportunities, especially those within one’s major or department. 

“Biology hosts multiple seminars from renowned scientists from around the Seattle area, in which you can get lunch with the speaker afterward. It is a great networking opportunity alongside helping you learn about what you are interested in with your field,” Schmahl-Waggoner said.  

After graduation, Schmahl-Waggoner is heading to Japan to teach Japanese high school students leadership skills before moving to Ireland to start pursuing her Master’s degree in Molecular Medicine at Trinity College Dublin this fall. Schmahl-Waggoner shared that college has taught her to be more assertive and to be more comfortable asking questions. 

Fourth-year Communication and Media student Catalina Magnuson-Tamayo originally came to Seattle University for the nursing program, but ultimately changed her major to strategic communications. Magnuson-Tamayo, similar to many students, navigated the process to change her major.

Magnuson-Tamayo valued how small the campus was, “I originally chose Seattle U for the nursing program. I also loved the location. I’m from a small town, so it is the total opposite of where I grew up.” 

Magnuson-Tamayo enjoyed her experience at Seattle U’s Red Fest in 2021 and found it to be a relief from school. Red Fest serves as a Fall tradition at Seattle U, with games and opportunities for students to converse. She finds it important to find a balance with classes through activities and events. In reflection on her college experience, she advises other students to be aware that everything in life happens for a reason and to not compare themselves to others. Magnuson-Tamayo encourages students to be aware that change is normal not only to the college experience but also to life. 

“I learned to take some things too seriously and the importance of keeping a balance with school, work and social life,” Magnuson-Tamayo said.

Magnuson-Tamayo plans to move to California and work at a public relations firm after graduating in the Spring. 

Claire Needs, a fourth-year communication and media student, was drawn to Seattle U because of the community on and off campus. With plans of pursuing a career in fashion journalism or public relations, the art and music scene of Capitol Hill immediately caught her attention. However, since Seattle lacks a larger fashion industry, Needs sees herself moving to another city or abroad. 

“Coming from the suburbs in the bay area, I wanted to experience living in a city, specifically a neighborhood like Capitol Hill with so much live music and thrifting,”  Needs said.  

While attending Seattle U, Needs has found herself attending events in the surrounding area, especially over breaks. She has enjoyed going to Lake Washington over the summer, attending concerts like Capitol Hill Block Party, The Strokes, Yves Tumor and Phoebe Bridgers and karaoke nights at neighborhood pub, the Chieftain. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic began during the Class of 2023’s first year of college, lockdowns and travel restrictions left student’s goals of studying abroad unfulfilled. Fortunately, Needs was able to travel to London in Fall 2022. From her experience, she encourages all students to study abroad if they are given the opportunity to.

“Study abroad if you can. Going to London changed my entire outlook on school and employment possibilities post-grad. Picking a program that you wouldn’t be able to study at Seattle U is a plus,” Needs said. “Also, meet as many people as possible! The college provides a default sense of community that I’ll miss when I graduate.” 

Similar to other students, Amy Newman-Taylor, a fourth-year psychology major, was also attracted to Seattle U because of the small class sizes. However, Newman-Taylor, who grew up in the Seattle area, was also drawn to Seattle U’s campus because of the close proximity to her home.  

“It seemed like a great school and I had heard great things. The smaller class sizes gave me that one-on-one attention with professors that made it easy for me to learn,” Newman-Taylor said. “I had so much fun in my summer courses and always making new friends walking around campus.” 

As fourth-year students reflect on their time at Seattle U, they leave behind advice to underclassmen about navigating undergrad, as they face decisions about what their future plans will be after departing and becoming the newest alumni of Seattle U. Commencement for the class of 2023 will take place at Climate Pledge Arena, June 12.