Bethany Williams ’12

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

When I was a child, my mother was forced to ban books from the dinner table because my interest in reading overwhelmed my interest in eating. I have always been enchanted by literature, and in determining where to go to develop my passion into something more, I saw that Willamette turned students’ interests into skills and futures—and the students themselves into confident and conscientious professionals. Willamette would enable me to do what I love and teach me how to do it in a manner that improved the world around me. As a senior, my work has evolved and my methods have been refined; out of necessity I have learned to eat and read simultaneously, but I remain completely enamored by literature and writing.

Tell me about your favorite English Department class so far.

The courses I’ve most enjoyed cultivated my mental and emotional growth and have shaken the beliefs I held of myself as a student and individual. Literature of Motherhood demanded that I question my views of the intensely personal yet universal subject of motherhood and prompted me to critically analyze its role in literature and society. Creative Nonfiction also altered my studies and passions in unexpected ways. I was sure that nonfiction meant stuffy memoirs and dull accounts of even less thrilling events that could never pique my interest, but I discovered a genre that quickly claimed a top spot on my book shelf and sparked a passion for writing. In Creative Nonfiction, we were encouraged to submit our work to literary journals and other publications, and one of my pieces is set to appear in the first edition of Salem’s literary journal, Gold Man Review, coming out this November.

Did you study overseas, and what was that experience like?

I spent the first semester of my junior year in Angers, France, and I will shamelessly embrace the cliché and confess that it changed my life. I was unconfident with the language and unfamiliar with the culture, and I learned to listen to my environment in order to actively participate in my own life. The world is noisy; discovering how to take time to listen, observe, read, and contemplate while I absorb what occurs around me has been invaluable.

What other campus activities did you take part in, and how did those connect with your English major?

I’ve been choreographing and dancing with the Willamette Dance Company—our student-run university company—for the past three years. Due to the diverse range of students involved in the troupe, productions are enriched by a wide array of passions and interests, and I have been thrilled to watch scholarly pursuits get translated into movement and music. Dancing in a piece influenced by The Wreck of the Hesperus, channeling the mindset of a Weird Sister to perfect a move, and watching other students use their disciplines to inform their performance has reminded me how exquisite it is when art, education, and passion come together and create something beautiful.

What are your plans for the future?

I daydream about teaching at the college level and writing professionally. I plan on taking a few years off after I graduate from Willamette to work, travel, and breathe, but after that I’ll be hitting the books and will continue to do so for the rest of my life!