Communications Specialist for the City of Renton, Executive Department
Class of 2012, Communication: Journalism Track major
Ava Van knows too much about struggling in poverty. “The moment I was born, I was an orphan,” says the 2012 Seattle Pacific University graduate and communications specialist for the City of Renton, Washington. Her father walked out when she was a child. When her mother became unable to care for her, Van was adopted by grandparents and lived a welfare and food stamps existence.
Believing in paying it forward, Van says her position with the city where she grew up is the perfect delivery system. “I am able to impact the lives of people through my storytelling,” says the former intern at NBC affiliate KING 5. A child who struggled with reading, writing, and public speaking is now a communicator for a city of more than 100,000 people.
“Miracles do happen,” says Van, who seeks to lift others like her. While promoting the civic charms of Renton, home of the Seattle Seahawks, she connects underserved individuals and families with city resources. She also promotes programs that portray a positive image of police officers. “I want to share the goodness and beauty in this world,” says Van. Having been mentored by CNN News Anchor Natasha Curry, Van personally mentors three students in communications, journalism, and photography.
A former Miss Seattle Teen USA (2007) and once a Buddhist, Van says it was SPU Associate Professor of Old Testament Bo Lim who helped her explore the true meaning of Christianity. In 2009, she converted. In 2014, she gave her life to Christ.
“SPU not only prepared me for my career,” says Van, “but it also prepared me for life.”
— Clint Kelly
As the communications specialist for the City of Renton Executive Department, Van provides support in multimedia design and implementation of traditional and digital marketing material. Renton is home to the Seattle Seahawks and ranked as one of the most diverse cities in America. She is also a certified public information officer. Van has previous crisis communications experience through first-hand response with emergencies and disasters when she filled in for the City of Snoqualmie. Outside of work, Van volunteers at the Seattle Union Gospel Mission (SUGM), serving dinner at the men’s shelter and at New Life Church, greeting people on the host team.
How does your time at SPU connect to what you’re doing today?
SPU not only prepared me for my career, but the University also prepared me for life. As a new Christian during my time as a student, SPU taught me the true meaning of faith, which is love. I try my best to carry this with me everyday in everything I do.
Which SPU faculty or staff member made a difference in your education?
I had the privilege to have not only one, but many inspirational professors who made a difference in my education. All supported me in my studies and integrated faith in their curriculum, which in turn, prepared me for my career and connected me to my spirituality on a deeper level. I am truly grateful for them as they shaped me into the person I am today.
What advice would you give to current SPU students?
Let everything that you do, be done in love.