The Capitol: Our Extended Campus
The Willamette University campus officially comprises 60 acres (plus 305 at our Zena Forest and Farm), but we like to think of the Oregon State Capitol, courts and state agencies to our north as part of our campus, too. No other college or university in the Pacific Northwest offers such direct access to state government.
Only a crosswalk away, the epicenter of Oregon government and policy provides another set of labs and classrooms where our students explore and implement the ideas they’re learning from their professors — whether they are interning for policymakers, conducting primary source research in the Oregon State Archives, or working side-by-side with the state’s top scientists and economists.
And the members of our extended campus don’t hesitate to cross State Street to take advantage of Willamette’s resources. You’ll regularly find lawmakers, Supreme Court justices, lobbyists and even the governor on campus — teaching classes, consulting with our professors and students, and having lunch (our neighbors like our food, too).
All that stuff you are learning in class, you go across the street and experience it. You can watch the application of the political process, basically from your classroom, and you can make a meaningful difference as a student. It’s a living laboratory.”
My internship has given me a window into how government works. Even if I’m not directly working with policy, it has taught me how much thought goes into policy and into the rhetoric.”
I’m very interested in politics. Going over there, understanding the process more — it’s really exciting to be a part of that. I’m getting my foot in the door if I ever decide to work there.”
All year long our students flood the Capitol and other state agencies, working alongside judges, lawmakers and other political influencers as they gain hands-on experience in how government and policy work.
Our undergraduate and graduate students explore everything from environmental regulations to the state budget to urban planning through internships that guide their career paths — and often lead to jobs after graduation.
- Politics Internship Program: Contact Melissa Michaux, associate professor of politics
- Economics internships: Contact Nathan Sivers Boyce, associate professor of economics
- Law Externship Program and court clerkships: Contact Phylis Myles, assistant dean for placement
- Atkinson Graduate School of Management internships: Contact Career Services
From my perspective, the richest mine has been the research connections. The Oregon State Archives offers opportunities to do original research. It’s a resource that’s not often tapped.”
“The Oregon government has granted permission to haze and kill sea lions that eat salmon in the Columbia River. I have received a lot of calls at the Governor’s office from people who have strong opinions about this.”
Whether they’re viewing Depression-era murals inside the Capitol building or digging through original records at the Oregon State Archives, our students find that their unofficial research labs across the street provide resources they couldn’t get anywhere else.
The proximity of so many government agencies and nonprofits also creates ample opportunities to discover research topics and contribute directly to the work of the state’s leaders.
From Student Intern to Governor’s AdvisorThe gold man atop the State Capitol first caught Dmitri Palmateer’s eye as a prospective student. Today he works beneath it to help pass important Oregon legislation. Read more
My favorite part of working for the Oregon Law Commission is knowing that the research I complete plays a role in the proposals the commission submits to the legislature."
The Center for Constitutional Government is a great opportunity to get involved, not only for law students, but for any student who has an interest in law and government or wants to get involved in the legislative process.”
The Oregon Law Commission is a great microcosm for the kind of big-picture work people do across Willamette. They identify theoretical problems, come at them a hundred different ways and decide how to connect them up in the real world.”
Policy and Lawmaking
Willamette’s location makes us a natural site for organizations working to shape and improve Oregon government — and it’s not unusual for our students to directly impact the state’s laws and policies.
Through established centers at all three of our schools, our students and professors make law recommendations to the Legislature, host hearings and policy summits on federal-state and government-citizen relations, and conduct research to help advance government through advocacy and education.
- Oregon Law Commission: Contact Jeff Dobbins, executive director
- Center for Constitutional Government: Contact Norman Williams, center director and associate dean for academic affairs at College of Law
- Center for Governance and Public Policy Research: Contact Fred Thompson, director
- AGSM’s Certificate in Public Management Program
Coming over and watching the lawmaking process helps give context to what you learn in law school. Most law students understand the law, but they don’t understand how laws are made. It’s a very different process.”
At Willamette College of Law, you have access to the justices, the clerks, the state senators and state representatives. It’s easier to get out of your law school box to talk to people and make those connections.”
Students tell me over and over, ‘We met a lot of people who did horrific, awful acts, and we saw them as human.’ Through debates at the Oregon State Penitentiary, students are improving their communication and critical thinking abilities.”
Somebody once told me that if you find the right job, you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s what I feel with this program. I feel like I’m making a difference.”
The borders of our official and unofficial campuses blur often as our professors and students contribute their knowledge and talents to state programs — and Oregon’s leaders return the favor by crossing the street to engage at Willamette.
Our students lead town-hall discussions at the Capitol, teach debate and poetry at the Oregon State Penitentiary and conduct research for governmental agencies. Back at Willamette, you’ll find current and former state administrators and Oregon Supreme Court justices mentoring students, teaching classes and providing guest lectures.
- Willamette Debate Union discussions and debates: Contact Robert Trapp, director of Debate Union and professor of rhetoric and media studies
- Willamette Prisoner’s Poetry class for Oregon State Penitentiary inmates: Contact Rei Ayala ’14, program co-creator
- Law school jurists in residence include three former Oregon Supreme Court chief justices
- AGSM faculty includes former senior-level state administrators
Here are some of the many government and state agencies near campus where our students and professors have worked or conducted research.