Isabella Guida ’12

Why did you come to Willamette—and why did you major in English?

I came to Willamette because it’s a small, unpretentious, beautiful liberal arts school full of smart, high achieving people and professors who are enthusiastic, dedicated, and personable. I was also attracted by the general state of Oregon, which was far, but not too far, from my hometown in North Idaho. I decided to major in English my freshman year after taking “Close Reading.” What a class! I had always loved reading and thinking about literature, and I felt, as an English major, that I'd be challenged to broaden my scope of the kinds of things I read while constantly improving my writing abilities. I was right!

You received summer research funding from the Lily Project to pursue your own independent research. What did you do, and what was that experience like?

The Lilly Project is an amazing resource at Willamette that holds workshops and retreats to get students thinking and acting about vocation and purpose. I wrote a proposal to study how truth and personhood is created, represented, and interpreted in the modern American memoir, and Lilly awarded me $3,000 to spend the summer reading, researching, and writing a paper on my findings. To be funded to research a topic that related directly to my English major and to things I had been thinking about for a long time was a really incredible opportunity. I learned a lot from that summer—about researching, about writing long papers, about collaboration and idea generating, and, of course, about literature.

You're heading to Africa, right? What will you do there?

After my Junior year, I received a Boren Scholarship— a national scholarship that funds students to study lesser taught languages as it pertains to diplomacy and national security. It was a huge honor to get this scholarship, and I will be studying Swahili in Tanzania for the next academic year. While there, I’ll also be doing internships in public health and trying to learn and absorb all I can about East African culture and life.

Did you have a job or work-study position at Willamette? How did that shape your English Department experience?

I've had a few different jobs that relate directly to my love of literature and my English major. The first I've had since I was a freshman—working across the street for the Oregon State Library. Second, I wrote for the arts page of Willamette's newspaper, The Collegian. Also, I worked as a writing consultant for the Writing Center at the University. Working there was a really great experience that made me think a lot about the diversity of writing processes and experiences with academic writing. From brainstorming, to generating really succinctly awesome thesis statements, to giving finished papers the final grammatical go over, working with my fellow students on their papers spanning the disciplines was a job that was never the same, always challenged me, and informed how I thought about my own writing.

What campus activities did you participate in?

Willamette can sometimes be a little intimidating in its wealth of Things To Do. I kept pretty busy with my classes and working, but I had time to be involved with the literary arts magazine, The Chrysalis. Last year I was editor in chief, and it was tons of fun and the final project turned out wonderfully thanks to the talent of the Willamette campus and the staff of The Chrysalis.

Also, whenever the university or English Department brings authors or speakers to campus there are chances to dine and chat with them! Last year I had dinner with Billy Collins where a small group of students and I were given free reign to ask him any sort of question. It was a pretty unbelievable evening.

I did go on a really awesome English Department field trip as well. While in "Poetry of the Pacific Northwest" my 5 classmates, professor, and I went a few hours north one weekend to attend the Fisher Poet's Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. We even were able to get a few interviews and make some friends with the poets! A year later, we invited two of them to give a really well attended reading on campus. Two of my fellow English major friends and I also got a Mini Sustainability Grant to host a zine workshop with one of the fisher poets, Moe Bowstern.