Willamette University, Students at the Mill Stream

WU News

DeniseThat "thing" (pass it on)

So here we are back after our July hiatus from WU News.  It’s crazy to think that in less than a month the new freshman class will be arriving and Willamette will be wrapping up its 170th year.

And what a year it’s been. With our new president at the helm, we’ve begun a strategic planning process to guide us in the coming years. It’s exciting to dream about what we want Willamette to be for the next generation of students and what it will take to achieve it. I’ve taken part in many heady discussions about the values that make us unique as an institution and how we truly communicate them to those who might think we’re just like every other liberal arts college (with amazing professional programs!) in the northwest.

How do you put a bead on what it is that makes Willamette special? When I talk with other alumni, they often speak of, you know, that *thing* about Willamette. They all know it. They lived it, they talk about it, they still feel it, yet they can’t really articulate it.  I understand; I’m a dual alumna myself and it’s my job to sit around and think about articulating it -- and I still can’t do it well. It’s tough because it’s an ethos and a value that permeates our campus, our classrooms, our faculty and our classmates. For each person it may impact them in a different way, but it comes from the same place. It’s the place that has been built and shaped over time by benefactors, visionaries, creators and educators. A place that strives to welcome all who can add to that *thing*and share it with others.

In the end, the reason that *thing* is hard to articulate is because each person at Willamette has the opportunity to make it his or her own. We are a community that provides a place where teaching and learning, strengthened by scholarship and service, flourish in a vibrant campus community. How our students engage with that is up to them. They can make their own way, just as we all did, and figure out what role they want to take in making the world a better place. And they’ll succeed, because they have that *thing* and they’ll share it through everything they do. Lucky world.

Pass it on. 

Denise Crawford Signature

Denise Callahan '95, MBA'00
Senior Director of Alumni Relations