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All Hands on Deck Donor Profile: Chris & Savannah Sinfield

Transformative Voyage Inspires Lifelong Philanthropic Commitment

In the fall of 1989, Chris Sinfield embarked on his maiden voyage with Semester at Sea. “We sailed out of Vancouver, British Columbia direct to Kobe, Japan. It was a start to an incredible journey around the world and we had such a wonderful group of students and faculty.”

         The program’s structure fit Chris’ academic needs. The value of Semester at Sea is that it exposes students to an incredible journey of exploring different cultures around the world. When you’re on the ship, you learn about each country you’ll be visiting and when you get to port you then put to use what you learned on the ship. You learn about so many different cultures, but more importantly, the people you meet on a day-to-day basis allows for so many life lessons that you can’t replicate in a normal college setting. The world is your campus and there is not a better way to see the world than from your home which is a floating university.”

        Today, Chris still sees the benefits from his voyage. “We explored the world and learned about so many people and their cultures, which has helped me tremendously in my career. I sell commercial real estate and deal with all types of people from all over the world. What I learned during my voyage has allowed me to work successfully with individuals from all walks of life.”

         Chris also has maintained lasting friendships from that voyage. “Five or six of us get together regularly. We relive stories of our student experience, talk about life on board the SS Universe and the impact of that journey on our lives.”

         It was such a transformative event in his life that he wanted to share that with others and ensure that the program will be around for future generations. “I told my wife, Karen, that Semester at Sea had to be a part of all our children’s college experiences and I absolutely wanted our daughter, Savannah, to sail when she was old enough.”

         Savannah Sinfield remembers that clearly. “My dad started making the case when I was seven. When I started college, he encouraged me to go, but I really wanted to graduate first.”

         After graduation, Savannah found Semester at Sea was open to post graduates and, in the fall of 2019, she took the leap. “I was pretty intimidated. I had never been away from home more than a few weeks. And now I was in a totally unfamiliar setting. There was no cell phone service for a lot of the time so I couldn’t talk to people in my comfort zone. I couldn’t rely on anyone other than myself and my ability to make friends. I was excited, nervous, scared. I missed my family but, after the first few days, it started to feel like home. The faculty became my family. The closeness of a shipboard community is unlike anything else. There’s something about floating on a ship in the middle of the ocean. It’s more than just traveling. That’s certainly an essential component but being part of that community makes it so special and unique.”

         The voyage was exactly what Savannah needed. “It was the perfect bridge for me to soul search and figure out what I wanted to do next. Here was a complete chance to reassess, and I’m so lucky I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity and support to do so. I was able to learn so much about myself, as I rediscovered my love of music, dance, and art, and connected with people who reminded me of those creative parts of myself.”

         Savannah studied journalism at the University of Southern California but wasn’t sure that was the career path she wanted to follow. “I was confused. Was I sure I wanted to commit to news? At some point during Semester at Sea I even thought about pursuing acting or music. I changed my mind a lot, but found incredible support among my friends no matter what my life plan of the day was along with pure warmth and kindness from students, professors, and crew members on my voyage.”

         Self-reflection aboard the World Odyssey brought her reality into focus, she says. “At the end of the day, I came full circle, realizing I wanted to write, direct, and produce for news. My on-ship journalism class and professor helped remind me why I loved what I’d already been doing, and my global experiences put into perspective the impact I could have.”

         After her voyage, Savannah applied for a job with CBS News and is now a news associate on the CBS National Desk. Her Semester at Sea experience helped crystallize her career ambitions and also changed her worldview. “You realize that just because you’re not used to different customs or a certain way of life doesn’t mean they’re wrong; they are just different. Every society and every life has importance. All people are connected. Anything anyone does affects life on Earth. We must have respect for humanity and for the planet on which we walk.”

         Her dad wholeheartedly agrees and said it drives him to continue providing opportunities for others to sail through his philanthropic support. “Because Semester at Sea creates such a global view, I encourage others to join in and help create possibilities for future generations to have this life-changing experience.”

Learn more about the All Hands on Deck Capital Campaign

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