Pair of WWU students nominated for the state Student Civic Leadership Awards

Shatha Abbas, from the Woodring College of Education, has been named state runner-up

Shatha Abbas and Ian Schaefer Lorenz, students from the Woodring College of Education and from the College of the Environment, respectively, recently received WWU’s 2024 Student Civic Leadership Award. Abbas has now been named statewide runner-up in the Governor’s Student Civic Leadership Award.  

Organized by the Washington Campus Coalition for the Public Good, the awards recognize civically engaged and passionate students who are dedicated to making a difference on their campuses and in their communities.  

Shatha Abbas: Teaching languages, bridging cultural divides 

Shatha Abbas started her career in Iraq as a medical laboratory technician, where she says she developed an eye for detail and a deep appreciation for science. Her path, she says, took an unexpected turn when she realized her true passion lay in language and education after arriving in the United States. “This revelation led me to work on my bachelor’s degree in teaching to become a bilingual teacher, blending my scientific expertise with my love for teaching and languages,” Abbas said.  

Woodring's Shatha Abbas was named state runner-up in the Governor's Student Civic Leadership Awards.

Abbas is a Bilingual Teaching Fellow at the Woodring College of Education and is pursuing her elementary education teaching credential with an ELL/Multilingual or Dual Language endorsement as she completes her BA degree. She works full-time for the Kent School District and takes full-time Western classes in the evening at the Renton site. Her long-term goal is to start and teach an Arabic dual language program in the Kent School District.  

She began her instructional work with Kent as a substitute teacher in 2016 and as a paraeducator in 2017, an area of work has that allowed her to explore new ways of learning and teaching, and what she describes as “making every day in the classroom an adventure in knowledge sharing.”  

In that time, Abbas has been able to support diverse learning needs, furthering her commitment to education – and to her own personal growth. “The experiences through Woodring and my time teaching in the South Seattle area have shaped me into a more rounded educator,” she says.  

In addition to her teaching career, Abbas has been actively involved in volunteer work over the last decade as the program coordinator, director and instructor of the Iraqi Community Center of WA Arabic School. The program now has eight teachers and 90 students, ages 5-14. Abbas says that working in the program has been enriching beyond measure and creating opportunities to give back to her community while staying connected to her roots.  

“Integrating my experiences and aspirations, my goal is to establish an Arabic dual-language program within my community,” Abbas says. “This initiative aims to provide an immersive learning environment where students can develop fluency in both Arabic and English, fostering cultural understanding and bilingual competencies.” 

Abbas explains that by drawing on her background in science, education, and volunteer work, she can create a program that not only teaches language but also bridges cultural divides, preparing students for a diverse and interconnected world. “This effort reflects my commitment to enriching our educational landscape and empowering students with the skills to thrive in a global society,” Abbas says says. 

Ian Schaefer Lorenz: An environmental scientist and a voice for lower-income America 

“Ian Schaefer Lorenz has been an excellent student and a great example of a scholar who embodies both the pursuit of scientific knowledge and the consideration of the broader impacts of that science,” wrote Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences Manuel Montaño in Lorenz’s nomination. Lorenz is a senior majoring in environmental science with an emphasis on toxicology and a minor in chemistry.   

Ian Schaefer Lorenz

“As a non-traditional student, he has to balance many responsibilities outside of work,” wrote Montaño, who has taught and advised Lorenz for several years. “Despite some of these challenges, he is consistently one of the best students in my classes, and outside the classroom he strives to elevate members of his community.”  

In addition to his rigorous course load, Lorenz regularly volunteers at the local food bank, has worked on research projects with the Institute for Watershed Studies, and holds down a retail job. In 2022, a summer internship had him working as the Washington state campaign organizer for the Poor People’s Campaign, a national non-profit that fights to give voice to low-income and poor Americans, which landed him at the annual demonstration and march in Washington, D.C. Lorenz continues to support the social justice organization. 

“It is very humbling to be recognized by Western,” said Lorenz. “But any positive contributions I may have made spring from the guidance of my elders and the support of many people.” 

As the two nominees from Western, Abbas and Lorenz advance for consideration for the Governor’s Student Civic Leadership Award in a statewide ceremony held at the Museum of Flight in Seattle and presented by Gov.  Inslee. The awards ceremony includes a full-day student leadership event recognizing and celebrating outstanding Student Civic Leaders from across Washington and Idaho.