Exemplary Student Leaders Recognized for Making a Difference in Forest Grove
Seema Khatcherian ’21 and Karsen Buck ’21 are pretty familiar faces around campus — you may have seen them speaking at the 2019 Climate Strike, winning the 2019 Sustainable Futures Competition, or discussing Advocacy, Activism & Voting for the 2020 Pacific Votes campaign, among many other efforts. Now, they’re familiar faces in Forest Grove’s City Hall as well.
Khatcherian and Buck are the co-founders of the social justice mural in Forest Grove’s Forest Glen Park — a work of art which has had an extraordinary impact — a mere four-minute drive from campus. "By bringing a social justice mural into the world on the outskirts of Forest Grove, in a tiny forgotten park, Seema and Karsen have changed our community," said Amy Tracewell, Pacific Major Gifts officer. "Their tenacity, determination, courage, grit and sense of humor helped push some vital conversations and the reverberations have been felt at all levels within Forest Grove.”
The exhaustive process the duo undertook to move this inspiring project forward is now being recognized through the presentation of the Bevin McCarthy Spirit of Civic Engagement award. The Bevin Award honors the memory of Bevin McCarthy, the Tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement assistant director from 2013 to 2018. It is awarded annually to an individual, program, partnership, or organization selected by MCCE staff for particularly noteworthy achievements over the past academic year and/or accumulated over time.
In 2021, the selection was unanimous. “Seema and Karsen exemplify what it means to be engaged community members," said Stephanie Stokamer, MCCE director. "They not only had an idea for how to make their community more inclusive and welcoming, but they took all the steps — including building support and persisting through bureaucratic processes — to make their vision a reality. Bevin McCarthy, for whom collaboration and fighting for social justice were paramount, would have loved this project, the mural itself, and those championing it. I can therefore think of no two people better suited to earn the Bevin McCarthy Spirit of Civic Engagement Award than Seema and Karsen.”
"Civic engagement wears many different hats," echoed Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax '69, MAT '83. "Seema and Karsen have covered a great deal of ground with their effort. They have begun the healing process. They have made the effort to build bridges between the varied parts of our community, and have enriched the “Town and Gown” partnership. We are proud to share in the recognition of these contributors to improving the human condition."
"Karsen and Seema deserve this award and so much more!," agreed Dana Eytzen, Forest Grove Public Arts Commission chair. "Though they endured a very long, tedious and drawn-out process to get their amazing mural project approved by the city; they never gave up! Seema and Karsen are such a great asset to our community. I'm so proud of them for what they've accomplished."
Recipients for the Bevin McCarthy Spirit of Civic Engagement are selected based on the following criteria:
- Embodies the joy of being in community.
- Demonstrates a commitment to a more just and sustainable future.
- Inspires and involves others.
- Harnesses the power of civic engagement for the greater good, indicated by democratic processes or outcomes of engagement.
In the midst of an unprecedented year, Khatcherian and Buck’s commitment to building a community that reflects all of its members feels particularly timely and vital. Although we will miss their energy on campus after graduation, we have no doubt of their ability to “think, care, create, and pursue justice in our world,” and feel lucky to have been a part of their journey here at Pacific.
As Social Sciences Assciate Dean Jaye Cee Whitehead so eloquently put it, "Once in a great while we have the opportunity to work with truly extraordinary students with the tenacity to persist when facing adversity. Seema and Karsen never gave up in their pursuit of social justice, and we have much to learn from them as we all grow to become individuals who transform passion into action."
Please consider visiting the mural at Forest Glen Park, learning more about the democratic processes they executed in the pursuit of this mural project, and reaching out to Khatcherian and Buck with your congratulations!