Tulsa to Blakely
Student trades the Midwest for the Northwest

Matt Strnad, 22, a fourth-year student majoring in Biology, always knew he would end up at Seattle Pacific University. What he didn’t know, was that he would find his true northwest experience miles away from campus, Seattle and most of civilization.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Strnad

Both Strnad’s brother and sister attended the university, majoring in nursing and pre-medicine respectively. In 2018, Strnad traded the flat and snowy of Tulsa, Oklahoma for the trees and rain of Seattle, Washington.

“Blakely has kind of become a sacred space to me. Both my brother and sister had different memories attached to a place on campus when they were here, but for me, my favorite aspect of SPU is Blakely Island,” Strnad says with a grin on his face.

“It’s nice to go home and be able to feel like I have something unique to talk about my personal SPU experience. We don’t end up talking about Gwinn or old hall traditions.

The first time Strnad visited Blakely Island was for Dr. Long’s Introduction to Biology class. He attributes his love for Blakely to the professors who have taught classes on the island.

“All of the classes I’ve taken here on the island have been the most fun and engaging, I really do feel like I learn a lot.”

The science program was what brought Strnad SPU, and now, looking back, that if it was not for Blakely and the professors who teach at Blakely, he would have transferred schools.

“I liked SPU, but (I) felt disconnected being from the Midwest with all these west coast kids, it wasn’t until I went to Blakely that I knew I should stay. I connected with nature and the beauty that surrounds this area.”

Following Intro to Biology, Strnad would make the trip up to Blakely two more times. His second time was as a class teacher’s assistant for the same biology class he took two years earlier.

“Going up to Blakely as a T.A was the best, I got to enjoy the island a little bit more since I wasn’t concerned about taking notes or just focusing on academics.”

Strnad revisited his favorite hikes and views, often stopping to tell different stories.

The last time Strnad went up Blakely was in the summer of 2017 when he spent two weeks with Dr. Long doing intensive research and surveys as a part of the summer course.

Even though it was an upper-division science course, Strnad still found time to relax and enjoy the island.

“By the third trip I felt I had learned the ropes of how ‘to do Blakely’, I knew how to handle the balance work and hang time.”

Photos Courtesy of Matthew Strnad

When not in the lab researching or eating upstairs you would most likely have found Strnad in a Kayak. Being on the water became a way for Strnad to quiet his mind and realize the beauty around him.

Strnad was transparent in his explanation of the ratio of work to play is.

“I honestly would have to say it’s about 35-65 play to work, but that 35% is the best time I’ve had in college.” He said joyfully.

When asked about what Blakely Island meant to him, Strnad took his time and finally said, “It’s been the best part of college, I honestly think it’s the best part of our program, and even the state. It has helped me connect with my education and my identity.”


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