The 2024 Seattle Experience highlights resiliency

Seattle Experience students pose for a picture in March.
This year’s Seattle Experience cohort brought together undergraduate students from several majors across five WSU campuses.

After a successful pilot launch in 2023, the Seattle Experience, a faculty-led alternative spring break program hosted by the College of Arts and Sciences, kicked off the first of a three-year donor-funded series this March. This year’s cohort brought together 12 undergraduate students from several majors across five WSU campuses. The students spent five days in Seattle visiting sites, meeting leadership in local business and city management, and conducting field studies.

The Seattle Experience presents a unique opportunity for students to develop and hone professional skills while networking with business leaders in the region. This exposure also encourages students from diverse majors to consider how they might prepare for a professional track in a variety of workplaces that may not directly align with their coursework.

“This venture asks students to consider how they might see themselves as citizens in a large metropolitan environment by introducing them to the different voices and stories of resilience that make up the community’s history,” said Jeff Sanders, program director and professor of history.

This year’s itinerary included visits to Seattle Central Library, Pike Place Market, Amazon headquarters and The Amazon Spheres, city hall, Wing Luke Museum, a hotel and store in the historic East Kong Yick building, and a tour and tasting at the Starbucks headquarters. Meet ups with Cougar alumni rounded out the itinerary to provide students the chance to discuss professional life beyond graduation.

Jared Kelnhofer, a data analytics major, said, “I appreciated the way I was able to learn from people in fields outside of my own. I was able to learn about how cities are run, coffee beans are sourced, and communities are built and protected. Definitely out of my wheelhouse but incredibly eye opening and useful.”

As part of each cohort’s experience, a theme is associated that highlights an aspect of Seattle’s cultural history. This year’s focus was on the concept of resilience in which students learned about how NGOs, corporations, employers, and other stakeholders define it in practice. Students were also asked to consider how diverse fields of study within the College of Arts and Sciences may help them and others contribute to achieving a more resilient society. The 2024 cohort included students from biology, data analytics, digital techology and culture, environmental sciences, psychology, social sciences, and sociology.

During their time in Seattle, students conducted field studies: for example, one group approached the role that art and artists have played in the city’s resilience, where another explored the issue of unsheltered people. These exercises enabled students to prepare and ask important questions of public officials and corporate workers.

“The WSU alumni from Amazon and Starbucks showed us that life doesn’t run on a straight path, but what is important is to have the determination and the zeal to become more and do more for yourself and the society you find yourself in,” said Isatou Dumbuya, a digital technology and culture major.

The Seattle Experience is open to all undergraduate students pursuing a major in the College of Arts and Sciences. The application for the 2025 cohort is tentatively scheduled to open in late fall 2024.

By Christina Mancebo, College of Arts and Sciences, for WSU Insider.