Intersecting culture, leadership

Julia Suddarth

Even though Nathan Samayo’s original plan did not involve attending SPU after high school, he firmly believes this was where he was supposed to end up.

His senior year of high school, Samayo landed a full-ride scholarship to a small Lutheran college. He lived on campus his first semester, and when he finally went home to see his family during winter break, he was shocked by how much had changed. His mom had gotten very sick and had lost a substantial amount of weight.

“My whole world shifted. I had no idea how bad it had gotten,” Samayo said.

One month after returning to school, Samayo not only found out that his college was shutting down, but that his mother had suddenly passed away.

This is where SPU came in: they offered Samayo a transfer agreement that helped him transfer all of his credits, and worked out a plan so he could graduate on time even though he did not begin his college career at SPU.

Even though Samayo’s journey to SPU was atypical, he believes that it was God’s plan for him to come to SPU when he did.

“It all worked out for me to be here,” he said.

Growing up just half an hour south of Seattle, Samayo feels like the world he grew up in is different than the world he encountered when moving to Seattle. He was only a year old when his family moved from Guam to Tacoma, Washington

Even though he was technically raised in the United States, he said that the lifestyle he grew up with was “very islander.” His parents’ beliefs and worldviews were shaped on the island, as neither of them ever lived anywhere else until they moved to Washington.

Sharing meals together and having parties frequently is a big part of the culture in Guam that Samayo’s family continued to practice in Washington.

In Tacoma, Samayo’s immediate family found a large community of other Chamorros, people native to Guam, that they would get together with every month. These people became his family.

In this community, every member is included and valued. This community atmosphere Samayo is familiar with influenced his decision to be student leader. After running for ASSP President and winning the election, Samayo realized that what he has learned from his culture will allow him to make real changes within SPU’s student government.

Because he comes from a collectivist culture, he is used to everyone being together all the time, and making communal decisions.

“I’m not very individualistic in decision making,” Samayo said.

Samayo wants to make sure everyone is included and represented and everybody has a voice.

“It shows up in Westernized Christianity that Jesus is a very personal relationship you have, but in my culture that’s not how it is,” Samayo said. “Everything is community focused.”

He acknowledges that issues arise when people do not understand each other’s world views. It has a lot to do with cross cultural connections. His goal is to have an ASSP team that will eradicate those barriers.

“During this presidency I’m not going to put up a front that everything’s good if I’m completely stressed out,” Samayo said. “I want everyone to come as they are, and feel all their feelings and not feel like they have to put up a front.”

Leadership to Samayo means being transparent, especially involving transparency about mental health. Samayo wants to be known for turning ASSP back into a communal team, and he wants there to be total transparency between the student government and students at SPU.

“The best leaders are the ones who identify with people who are struggling the most … I want to reflect how a lot of people here are feeling.”