Remembering trailblazing alumnus who reshaped college experience for foster care youth

Contact: Deanne Puca

John R. Seita

John R. Seita, BS ’83, MA ’87, PhD ’93, who helped launch what became the nation’s largest and most comprehensive collegiate program for foster care youth, passed away on June 11, 2023, in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Seita, associate professor emeritus of social work at Michigan State University, was instrumental in reshaping thinking about how students made their way to Western from foster care. The three-time Western alumnus is one of the architects for WMU’s Seita Scholars Program, which was launched in 2008 for youth who aged out of foster care and provides a scholarship, round-the-clock campus coaches, mentors and campus housing that remains available to program participants during holiday recesses and between semesters.

A former foster care youth himself, he underscored the importance of housing stability for students trying to pursue a college degree who have aged out of foster care.

Before he became a student at WMU, Seita briefly attended a small Michigan liberal arts college. When his fellow students went home for the holidays, he had no place to go. When college administrators could offer him no assistance, he spent his holiday recess sneaking in and out of a residence hall and scrambling to find a way to eat.

His story and experience led to WMU forming a support program for students with experience in foster care. Inspired by his advocacy and accomplishments in life, the University named the program after him.

Today, 88 former foster youth are at home on Western’s campus and working toward their degree. Since accepting its first class in fall 2008, the Seita Scholars Program had a total 236 graduates as of summer 2023..

“As our students, team and I remember Dr. Seita, one way we will honor him is to continue living a life of purpose
with joy, to never stop learning and to share our gifts and talents with others,” says Ronicka D. Hamilton, Seita Scholars program director. “He lives on in each of us through his legacy of strength, compassion and resilience! We will always remember him as the champion, fierce advocate and icon he was and, most especially, as our program’s namesake.” ■