Purpose chosen over convention

Nettie+Silvernale+is+a+fifth+year+senior+at+SPU.%0A%0ASteven+Jenkins+%7C+The+Falcon

STEVEN JENKINS

Nettie Silvernale is a fifth year senior at SPU. Steven Jenkins | The Falcon

Alexandra Moore

Silvernale takes on year five at SPU

Although she was a senior, Nettie Silvernale did not graduate last spring.
Silvernale is currently in the second quarter of her fifth year as a student at Seattle Pacific University. Graduating in March, this quarter will also be her last.

Silvernale has not yet graduated because of a significant shift she experienced during her junior year; her roommate passed away unexpectedly.

After realizing how precious life is, and how brief it can be, Silvernale’s dissatisfaction with her life plan led her to take a more purpose-focused approach to her studies.

“That’s when I started to really evaluate: What am I doing?” Silvernale said.

Silvernale’s former roommate and friend, Erin Kimminau, was passionate about social justice and spent her time serving others; Kimminau was a founding member of the SPU Justice Coalition.

“I think she was one of the most compassionate, strong, intelligent individuals I knew,” Silvernale said, smiling.

According to an article in Response Magazine, Kimminau was also a student ministry coordinator and tutor on campus, as well as a women’s shelter worker and advocate for the disabled.

Kimminau was killed in a car accident on the way home from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where she had gone to show solidarity against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the article reported.

“I feel some sort of an obligation to carry on what Erin was doing,” Silvernale said.

The summer after her junior year, Silvernale had a financial accounting internship lined up and, despite the recent circumstances, she decided to follow through with it. In light of her loss, however, Silvernale carried a new mindset into the internship as she began to question whether that was the career path she really wanted to take.

It was during the internship, sitting behind a computer screen managing corporate taxes, when Silvernale confirmed that the uncertainty she felt came from a lacking sense of purpose.

“Why am I spending the time, the little time that I have here that I don’t know when it’s going to end, just serving myself and doing something that [gives me] mediocre happiness?” Silvernale asked.

“I wanted to do something that at the end of my life I can look back and say, ‘I’m so happy I spent my life doing that,’ … making a difference, or trying to.”

Thus, Silvernale evaluated which classes she had completed at SPU and got right to work on curating a custom economics major that would allow her to take more sociology classes and, therefore, a more meaningful approach to the discipline in which she was already so invested.

In order to do this, however, Silvernale had to continue into her fifth year.

“I feel like everybody thinks of school like it should be a very linear process, and I thought about that — but my journey has not been linear,” Silvernale said.

Although she did have a linear plan to begin with, and loved the sense of comfort she felt within the confines of it, Silvernale did not predict that she would be where she is currently.

“You are just programmed [to think that] you have to finish within a certain time period, you have to have a plan set up, you have to know exactly where you’re going, but it’s not like that.”

Instead, Silvernale is now pursuing a different vocation than she initially intended — one she is passionate about and one she feels can contribute to a more meaningful cause.
Silvernale’s original plan was to study accounting in order to become a public accountant for a Big Four accounting firm.

Now, however, Silvernale is triple majoring in accounting, business administration and developmental economics, and dreams of commiting her life to gender development research.

Silvernale feels as though this extra time has granted her the privilege of slowing down in order to explore what excites her and refine her passions into a new dream.

“I’m so fortunate to be here in the first place, so I want to take advantage of that and not just do what society tells me I should be doing or what I’m going to make the most money with or what has the most prestige. I’m going to do what I’m actually interested in and what I can contribute to.”

Silvernale is in the process of applying to a graduate program which will allow her to conduct her own primary research study abroad and graduate with a Bachelor of Science in International Development Economics.

She is also considering continuing her education and getting her Ph.D., hoping to learn more about the global gender gap through microeconomic gender development research.

Inspired by her commitment to work toward positive change, Silvernale still attributes her new, passion-driven plan to the friend that she lost.

“She out of all the people in my life, I think, educated me the most on what’s going on in the world. And I would love to do that for others.”