• An art historian.
  • Studying languages.
  • A first-generation college student.
  • Originally from Thailand.
  • A Collegian columnist.

Alisa curated a local artist’s exhibition at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art.


An instructor and a classmate practice French with Alisa.

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Primed for the Art World

As a student, Alisa Alexander added curator to her résumé.

Why I Value Willamette

"My Willamette education is an edifying intellectual journey and also a deeply personal one that permeates my perspective on the world in every way," Alisa Alexander says.

"My experiences with art at Willamette were transformative. I have the foundation for an exciting career thanks to my professors who challenged and encouraged me. Willamette helps you rise to the top of whatever you want to do."

Academic Life

It was Alisa's professors who helped her find a way to turn her passion for art history into a career path — as a museum curator.

Her mentor, Professor Roger Hull, encouraged her to apply for a Carson Undergraduate Research Grant from Willamette.

She used the grant to curate an exhibition at the Hallie Ford Museum Art for D.E. May, a nationally recognized Salem artist. Alisa met him through her connections in the Salem art scene — she frequents multiple galleries in town.

"It was a really tough project," she says. "I had to work with a living artist to figure out the concept of the exhibit and select works we both agreed on for the show. It was my proudest academic moment."

The Future

The summer after Alisa's junior year, she traveled with another professor to the Art Institute of Chicago for a summer research project and met Willamette alumnus James Cuno, the museum's director.

"I was able to ask a Willamette graduate, who directs the second largest art museum in the country and has taught at Harvard, for advice on how to leverage my Willamette education for a future in art."

Alisa's visit led to an Art Institute internship for after she graduates, and a deep love for Chicago — she will apply to graduate schools there to pursue her dream of becoming a curator.

Beyond the Classroom

Financial aid and scholarships made Alisa's Willamette education possible, but she also worked multiple jobs to help pay her way — at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, at the student newspaper, in the university archives and at several local coffeehouses as a barista.

For a while, she could be found at the Coffeehouse Café, a popular shop downtown, but lately she serves up lattes at the Bistro on campus.

Two students created the Bistro in 1986, and today the student-run shop remains one of the best campus spots to see friends while enjoying a warm cup of coffee.

Next time you drop in, look for Alisa — she's behind the counter, near the freshly baked scones.

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