Why did you come to Willamette—and why major in English?
I came to Willamette for two reasons. One, because it met a series of criteria that I had for schools: in the Pacific Northwest, on the smaller side, not exclusively focused on any one discipline or research area or something. And two, Willamette is generous with the financial aid—that made my decision easy. As for English, I sort of stumbled into it. I actually thought I’d be a physics or engineering major, but then I rediscovered my love for writing-centered work. It was a happy accident, because the English Department turned out to be exactly what I was after.
What sort of independent research projects did you do?
Both my English and Spanish majors required plenty of solo research time. My English thesis, for instance, was an independent project investigating the relationship between community and individuality in Edward Abbey. My Spanish thesis made the claim (hardly original, in retrospect) that a lot of Jacques Derrida's stuff is prefigured by Borges.
Tell me about your overseas experiences.
I spent roughly the last year (2010-11) in Madrid, Spain, for an MAT-equivalent program with the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. It was an intense year. For the degree itself, carried out wholly in Spanish, I took eight courses related to education in the fields of language, literature and culture; I also wrote another thesis, this time examining authorship as a Foucauldian “technology of the self” in—again—Borges. The degree’s other big component was an internship in a Madrid school. We were basically thrown in the deep end as English teachers—solo in the classroom by the end of week one, no curricular oversight, few resources, etc. Within a few weeks, I had my students making fake infomercials for fake products, editing “Bushisms” for grammar and clarity, reading Onion articles, and debating all sorts of things. It was an exhausting but invaluable year, and the experience of making a temporary home for myself in Madrid was a thrill.
I hear you spent a fair amount of time in spandex while you were at Willamette. What’s the campus cycling life like, and where did that take you as a student?
Yes, I did spend most of my Willamette time in spandex! I’m delighted to report that the campus cycling scene is flourishing these days. I cofounded the WU cycling team during freshman year and spent all spring driving around the Northwest with two other people in this absurd State Motor Pool Prius, a vehicle ill-equipped to handle the bike rack we lashed to it. We didn’t know what we were doing at all—no uniforms, no money, wacky hijinks, etc. But we were able to get some great sponsorships, both local and international, and things picked up steam from there. Willamette Cycling was the defining element of my WU experience: we spent about six weekends each spring racing in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, and we also made it to southern California for a training camp and to Wisconsin for Nationals. It taught me a lot about leadership, entrepreneurship and events promotion.
Were you involved in other campus activities?
In addition to working for the WU Bike Shop for four years, I worked at the Bistro and the Writing Center my senior year. I loved all those jobs: the Bistro is just a ton of fun, the Writing Center is dynamic and challenging, and the bike shop is, if you're into bikes, rad. The English major was very relevant to my work at the Writing Center, of course, and it actually overlapped with the cycling team stuff. The sponsor-seeking process is 100% built on the shoulders of persuasive business writing, and I remember taking various argument tips from class—“beat the reader to his/her objections,” “evolve the thesis”—and applying them to our sponsor letters. Thanks, English!
What did you do after graduating—and what’s the feature got in store?
I had a pretty relaxed summer after graduating: I made coffee at a Polish creperie and worked a fascinating marketing/PR internship from home. Then I headed to Spain at the end of August. Now I'm looking to settle down and work in Seattle or Portland for the next few years, then start thinking about more grad school.