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Student wins National Speakers Association scholarship

August 20, 2003

Photo of graduate student Dawn Seaman

Dawn Seaman is likely one of the most enthusiastic, appreciative and generous students at San Francisco State.

The first-year graduate student and recent bachelor's degree recipient in Speech and Communication Studies smiles brightly, routinely gives gifts to her teachers at the end of the semester, cooks dinner for her fellow students when they come to her home for study sessions, and thanks the University's janitorial and grounds-keeping staffs for keeping SFSU such a beautiful campus.

These deeds tend to bring Seaman good karma, most recently in the form of a $4,000 scholarship from the National Speakers Association. The scholarship is based on academic merit, a personal essay, and recommendation letter. One of only four scholarship recipients selected from about 135 applicants, Seaman plans to pursue a doctorate in speech communications and eventually teach at the college level -- preferably at SFSU.

"The professors in the Speech and Communication Studies Department are very open and willing to do whatever it takes for their students to be successful," said Seaman, a 44-year-old Millbrae resident. "I want to be a part of that team."

She can wax poetic about the virtues and talents of each faculty member in the department, nearly driving herself to tears in explaining how they have inspired her. After a recent surgery, she was especially touched to receive phone calls at home from her professors.

"It comes natural to them to treat you with care and respect," said Seaman, who earned a 3.98 grade-point average and was named the department's Outstanding Undergraduate Honoree for 2002-03. "The end of the semester is really emotional for me. Most students are glad to be done with the class, but I have that feeling of missing my professors."

And Seaman isn't overwhelmed by the pressure of graduate school. She's taking 12 units this semester, more than a full load for a graduate student, and she also works as an independent beauty consultant for Mary Kay Inc. She clearly impresses faculty members.

"I met Dawn in my Organizational Communication class a year ago, where she stood out because of her considerable prior work experience, her academic preparedness and her motivation to learn," said Gerianne Merrigan, professor and chair of Speech and Communication Studies. "She became a leader among her peers in that class, and I am happy to say she will work with me in the class again this fall, but as a teaching assistant."

"She is one the finest students I have had the pleasure to work with in 16 years of college teaching," said Lecturer Shawn Whalen, who knows Seaman from his Public Speaking class.

Seaman's strong work ethic and commitment to customer service dates back to her high school days, when she was a janitor at a McDonald's in her native Miami. She eventually worked her way up to a regional director of operations, overseeing about 60 restaurants and 2,000 employees. After holding a similar job for Office Depot and then moving to the Bay Area with her fiancé Terry Bean, she grew tired of the corporate world and decided to return to school and become the first person in her family to graduate from college.

Because public speaking has always come naturally to Seaman, she realized she found her calling when a teacher suggested she pursue teaching.

"Being an executive in corporate America is not nearly as rewarding as helping someone and imparting your knowledge to them," she said.

-- Matt Itelson


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Last modified August 20, 2003, by the Office of Public Affairs