Thorsett’s quick response to a prospective student's letter is one of many ways Willamette administrators and faculty connect with students.
Here’s what students had to say when we asked about their connections to faculty:
“Politics professor Jonneke Koomen goes above and beyond her professor duties. She is great at helping you succeed in class, but also takes the time to know you as a person. By doing that, she can cater her resources and expertise to who you are and your goals. In a classroom setting, she makes you feel appreciated.” — Yasmine Genena ’16
“Christopher Harris, a professor from the Theatre Department, is easily one of the most incredible professors I have had the pleasure to take a class with and get to know on a more personal level. … He truly goes above and beyond the role of a classroom professor and is one of the most reliable and helpful people I know.” — Kassie McKay ’15
“Sociology professor Stas Vysotsky is one of the most intelligent, relaxed professors who cares first and foremost about creating an environment where all of his students are comfortable with each other and able to discuss material in a meaningful way. … He represents everything a good professor should be — someone who not only loves teaching, but someone who will go out of their way to help their students reach their fullest potential.” — Jennifer Allaway ’15
“Sociology professor Brianne Dávila wrote a letter of recommendation for me for my involvement in the Columbia Summer Public Health Scholars Program at Columbia University in New York this summer. While at Columbia, I learned about the importance of a reference, along with the other valuable career, professional, life lessons. I consider her a phenomenal mentor because she has intentionally connected with me and other students and initiates academic interventions. Her office has always been a safe space for me.” — Emmanuel Rodriguez ’15
“In the Japanese Department, professor Miho Fujiwara is an exemplary teacher. Her door is literally always open, and discussions during her office hours can start with extra help on assignments but end with powerful life lessons. … There is no professor on campus who is more caring and invested in her students as professor Fujiwara.” — Matt Tom ’15
“Professor Jon Cole of the Theatre Department has gone above and beyond for me. I needed a directing class to graduate, so he is teaching a directing independent study class for me this semester. That means he has committed to extra hours of class time to teach directing, so I can graduate with a double major.” — Rebecca Wirta ’14
Prospective student asks President Thorsett "Why Willamette?"
Like most prospective students, Zöe Sprott is inundated with choices. The junior at Sacred Hearts Academy in Hawaii visited eight schools in three days and wanted to know why she should choose Willamette.
So who better to ask than President Steve Thorsett himself?
From: Zoë Sprott
Date: Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 9:41 PM
Subject: Prospective Student
To: Stephen Thorsett
My name is Zoë Sprott, and I was part of a college visit at your campus today. I've seen 8 colleges in three days and Willamette stood out the most. There's something enlightening about stepping onto campus; it's a place that I want to be.
I'll be honest, there was one other school that did it for me too (OSU). Our tour guide at Willamette, Erin (she was amazing), described you as personable and "a really cool guy" so I thought that you'd be the best contact for my million dollar question: What is your reason for why I, a prospective Chemistry/Economics major who is currently in her select choir and is her school's parliamentary debate captain, should go to Willamette?
I have so many choices and I've heard the spiel a hundred times. I want to get to the heart of things, and I want an answer straight from the horse's mouth. Can you give me that?
Thank you so much for your time,
Zoë E. Sprott
From: Stephen Thorsett
Date: Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 10:24 PM
Subject: Re: Prospective Student
To: Zoë Sprott
The best reason might be as simple as the feeling you get when you visit. After all, your college will be the place that you live for four years (or at least your home base, since you might travel abroad), and you shouldn't undervalue the sense of feeling at home.
That said, it sounds like you've got two good choices that feel like they might be that place. And they really are both good places, but they are pretty different.
The number one reason I'd pick Willamette is the faculty. Don't get me wrong -- OSU has good faculty too -- but Willamette's faculty are really remarkable. We've had 10 Oregon professors of the year in the last two decades, including 4 in Chemistry and 3 in Politics or Economics (and I bet we'll have another in one of those fields soon). Oregon State has had three total. We have a phenomenal choir director (Wallace Long), and a very successful choral program (we were one of two colleges invited to perform at the national choral directors meeting last year). With a 10-1 student-faculty ratio, our faculty really have time to work with undergraduate students in a way that even the most well-meaning faculty just can't do at a big university like OSU or the U of Cal. That kind of contact and focus really does pay off, in the quality of individual classes and the opportunities for research and other intensive scholarly work.
At Willamette, even the president gets into the classroom on occasion -- I'm teaching a seminar to 14 freshmen this fall.
I could give you lots of other reasons to choose Willamette. We've got a strong debate program, including an interesting project (funded by the Soros Foundation) focused on teaching civic debate in China. We've got an unusually internationalized campus, with well over a hundred students from Japan here at any given time through our partnership with Tokyo International. We've got a warm and welcoming campus culture. We've got quite a few students here from Hawaii (the annual Luau has huge attendance!) and lots of alumni living in Hawaii as well. For music fans, we've got lots of great concerts, including a full season by the Oregon Symphony with $5 student rush tickets (the year Joshua Bell, Emanuel Ax, Alban Gerhardt and others are performing on campus). But probably you already heard all those things on your tour.
Let me know if I can be of any more help with your thinking and decision-making, and if you come to Willamette, look me up next year at my office hours or introduce yourself sometime in the dining hall or the Bistro.
From: Zoë Sprott
Date: Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Subject: Re: Prospective Student
To: Stephen Thorsett
Thank you so much for your wonderful response. It's amazing to find a school's president who will respond to emails from even prospective students, and I think that speaks to how close faculty are to students. Thank you for being so resourceful. I'm so glad to have spoken with you and I look forward to possibly seeing you around campus during my freshman year (2015, as I'm a junior).