Senior applies leadership lessons toward improving the community

Seiko Shastri

Senior Seiko Shastri greets Bob Virgil, dean emeritus of Olin Business School at the Gerry and Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award ceremony. Photos by Whitney Curtis.

Campus leader Seiko Shastri changed Washington University in St. Louis during her time here. Now, she’s poised to change St. Louis.

After graduation, Shastri will serve as development coordinator for Casa de Salud, a leading nonprofit that provides clinical and mental health care for new immigrants and refugees. Shastri is eager to put her values into action.

“I want to be a citizen of this community,” said Shastri, a Spanish and international development major in Arts & Sciences. “My interests — academically, personally, co-curricularly — revolve around questions of diversity and inclusion and how we make communities more equitable. I have strived during my time in college to learn more about how immigration impacts people, and Casa de Salud addresses practically the issues that I have studied theoretically. It’s exciting to see that bridge between what I am passionate about and what I can do for this community.”

In April, Shastri received the prestigious Gerry & Bob Virgil Ethic of Service Award. Other honorees included alumnus and educator Charles R. Brown; Casa de Salud founder and Gephardt Institute National Council member Bob Fox; alumnus and community developer Mike Giger; alumna and health advocate Allison King, MD, assistant professor of occupational therapy and of pediatrics; and alumna and Ferguson Commission member Brittany Packnett. David B. Gray, PhD, a professor of occupational therapy, also was honored posthumously for his tireless work to improve the lives of those with disabilities.

Shastri, a Civic Scholar, has led a number of high-profile campus initiatives and organizations, including the Mosaic Project and the Social Justice Center. Perhaps less known is her work developing the freshman pre-orientation program, “WU Impact: Leading Your Way.” Under her direction, the program has broadened its scope to explore what leadership looks like in different communities and cultures.

Seko Shastri

(Top row from left) Charles R. Brown, Brittany N. Packnett, Seiko Shastri and Allison King. (Bottom row from left) Bob Fox, Gerry Virgil, Bob Virgil and Mike Giger.

“Being a leader on campus is important, but it is even more important to apply that to St. Louis and the world beyond,” Shastri said.

The program curriculum reflects Shastri’s own belief that leadership is deeply intertwined with listening.

“Sometimes when we talk about leadership, it’s very individualistic,” Shastri said. “You are taught to have a voice and to be grounded in your beliefs. But we sometimes forget that leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To be a leader is to truly know how to listen to other people and meet them where they are.”


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