WE ARE WILLAMETTE
Willamette students grow food for campus at Zena Farm.
Our students, professors and staff lead many campus and community initiatives.
Job: Dempsey Chair in Environmental Policy and Politics, Willamette University
Professor blends dedication to the environment with passion for public policy
Long before Willamette Professor Joe Bowersox was the Dempsey Chair in Environmental Policy and Politics, he was just a kid on a minibike, racing around a dirt track near his parents' home in rural South Salem.
It was during one of those rides when he encountered something that shaped the entire course of his future: a Chinese Pheasant.
As the bird launched into the air, dodging the minibike, Bowersox considered his intrusion into the creature's space. "This belongs here, and I really don't," he thought. He felt as if he overstepped his bounds. Ashamed for nearly killing the pheasant, Bowersox put away his minibike — and thus began a career dedicated to the environment.
Bowersox teaches courses in environmental politics, policy, forestry, and ethics. His research focuses on forest and fire policy, water policy and sustainability.
He has served on state watershed councils and worked for U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden on forest policy. His publications include articles on water policy, forestry, fire policy and environmental political theory.
"We need ecological, social and economic literacy to put the pieces together," he explains. It is this balanced perspective that he seeks to advance in his public policy work.
Bowersox was a driving force behind the purchase of Willamette University Forest at Zena, 305 acres of forestland that the university uses as a research station. "One of the things we can do at Zena is to balance healthy ecosystems with healthy economies," he says.
Student’s interdisciplinary research unlocks history of Zena Forest
Zena Forest first came into Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz’s life when she was a freshman in Professor Joe Bowersox’s “Landscapes” College Colloquium class.
At the time, the forest didn’t seem too glamorous — Willamette had yet to purchase part of the property, and Copes-Gerbitz ’11 and her classmates spent their time clearing out invasive blackberry bushes.
It wasn’t until Copes-Gerbitz took Professor Karen Arabas’ “Biogeography” class two years later that she began to see the potential of the forest, as she and her classmates studied the area’s ecology by taking core samples from trees.
Copes-Gerbitz became so fascinated by the property that she went on to conduct a summer research project there, and to focus both her archaeology and her environmental and earth sciences theses on the history of Zena.
“It started with grunt work, went to course work, and then became independent research,” she says. “Zena is such a unique place, and I’ve fallen in love with it. It provides a venue for anyone to explore what’s important to them.”
In 2008, Willamette purchased 305 acres at Zena Forest, located west of Salem, to create a research station for students and faculty from any academic discipline.
Copes-Gerbitz’s work in the forest is not the only sustainability-related legacy she’ll leave behind at Willamette. As a senior, she co-chaired the university’s Sustainability Council along with Bowersox.
“My professors at Willamette have guided me to become an independent thinker and a global citizen, which is how I have been able to accomplish as much as I have,” she says. “Willamette has opened doors for me that were not there before. I was given the tools that I need to help me become my own person, and that’s what I’ll value the most.”
Ryan Calkins ’99
Major: Religious studies
Job: Board chair and co-founder, Seattle Microfinance Organization
Location: Seattle, Wash.
Ryan Calkins co-founded a microfinance organization to help communities become sustainable
Ryan Calkins '99 had little inkling while at Willamette that he would eventually found a popular organization to support Seattle's burgeoning microfinance industry.
He was majoring in religious studies — a topic far from that of financial services — after his mentor, Professor Doug McGaughey, sparked and supported his interest in the subject.
But during the fall of his senior year, Calkins studied in Ecuador, and the experience showed him an alternate path.
"For the first time, I was forced to have my culture stand in relief against another culture, and what that taught me about myself and what I wanted to do with my life was pretty fundamental," Calkins says.
That semester in South America launched Calkins on a path of fighting global poverty, and nearly a decade later, he discovered a different way to do it: microfinance.
The rapidly growing industry presents a way to help those living in poverty become self-sustainable by providing them with financial services such as loans — with a promise that the money will be invested and repaid.
Calkins and several friends created their own group, Seattle Microfinance Organization, which acts like a chamber of commerce by connecting and supporting other groups working in microfinance, giving them new ways to collaborate.
"Willamette allowed me to experiment with different disciplines and find out what I was passionate about,” he says. “Once I narrowed in on it, I had the support of Professor McGaughey, who was interested in not only my scholarly journey, but also in what kind of person I would become. Willamette provided me with a safe space to explore and form my identity."
Geneva Hooten ’11
Job: Transportation planner, David Evans and Associates, Inc.
Location: Portland, Ore.
Geneva Hooten sees economics and infrastructure planning as key to making communities sustainable
“Willamette helped me learn that it’s important to be curious about many things. Interesting people visit campus often to give lectures, and you find friends who are passionate about different pursuits. It showed me the importance of respecting others’ interests and learning from them.
I was very interested in sustainability while I was at Willamette. The summer after my sophomore year, I interned at the Oregon Department of Forestry on a project that mapped, tracked and analyzed land use changes in Oregon and Washington.
The next summer I interned through C-TRAN — a public transportation agency in southwest Washington — on the Columbia River Crossing project, a bridge, transit and highway improvement project on Interstate 5.
Both projects helped me to realize what a huge impact transportation options have on people’s living, working and shopping choices. In order to convince people to use their cars less, we have to offer safe, reliable and efficient public transportation alternatives; we need to give people an incentive to leave their cars at home and take the bus or train.
My current position allows me to merge my passions for sustainability and improved transportation solutions. I am collecting and studying data in support of the Northwest Oregon Transit Alliance project, which is looking at ways to implement innovative transit strategies to reduce fossil fuel dependence and enhance economic vitality.
Willamette gave me the support to attempt many things — I failed at some and was successful at others. I appreciated that I was able to come out of my four years at Willamette and say, ‘This is what I want to do in life, and I’m ready for it.’”
Briana Ezray ’14
Hometown: Sacramento, Calif.
Internship helps aspiring entomologist gain field experience
“The summer after my sophomore year, I interned at the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), in the pest prevention and management section of the Plant Division. The ODA is a government agency that works to protect natural resources in Oregon.
“Early in my freshman year, my advisor, biology professor David Craig, learned I was interested in pursuing a graduate degree in entomology (the study of insects). He suggested I contact the ODA to see if I could acquire a volunteer position.
“My first project as a volunteer at ODA was to catalog its insect museum. After that, my manager asked if I would return as a summer intern to run a trial of a native bee survey throughout Oregon. I had just received a College Colloquium grant from Willamette to study bees, so this was a perfect opportunity.
“My internship entailed placing native bee traps on farmers’ properties. The traps were placed among at least 20 different crops, including cherries, blueberries, radishes, melons and squash.
“I collected samples from these traps and analyzed them — washing and drying the specimens beforehand. Then, I pinned the bee specimens to prepare them for identification. I ran the trapping sites in the Willamette Valley, and I also trained trappers in Central and Eastern Oregon to collect bee samples.
“I was responsible for drafting the experimental protocol for the trapping and collection of bees, which taught me how to run a scientific survey from start to finish. My experience directly helps with my academic and career goals because I plan to go to graduate school to study entomology and then hopefully become a professor of entomology.”
Job: Taul Watanabe Chair of Science, Willamette University
Biology professor makes mentoring a top priority
A professor and researcher in molecular genetics and microbiology at The University of Texas at Austin. A dental student at Columbia University who plans to serve Vietnamese immigrants in an urban environment. A plant biology PhD student at Michigan State University who recently published important research on ways plants survive freezing temperatures.
These are just a few of the dozens of Willamette graduates who got their start in the lab of biology Professor Gary Tallman, Taul Watanabe Chair of Science.
In his 33 years as a college professor — the last 15 of which were at Willamette — he has mentored about 80 undergraduates, kindling their interest in research while helping them find ways to turn their passions into fulfilling careers in science and medicine.
“I like doing research, publishing my work and discovering the answers to scientific questions,” Tallman says. “But it’s just as satisfying to see my students go on to do great things after Willamette. I love watching them find something they can be passionate about, something that challenges them intellectually and allows them to make contributions to science while solving problems to help others.”
Tallman researches the way plants respond to and survive in high temperatures — a topic that is crucial to the future availability of food in light of global climate change.
His work has inspired numerous student research projects while earning multiple national grants, including several from the National Science Foundation.
“I really like the practical application of his research and the fact that it can have a direct impact on society,” says biology major Robbie Beard ’10, who has worked in Tallman’s lab since graduation and hopes to go on to study molecular biology in graduate school before starting a career at a biotech company.
Bearcats compete in 20 sports — and many have won national and conference titles.
More than half of our students stay active through our intramural and club sport programs.
Francis Gonzalez ’96
Job: Global supply planner, Nike
Location: Portland, Ore.
Grad turns Willamette studies into successful career at Nike
Not everyone can say that their workplace includes a lake, two fitness centers, running trails and soccer fields.
But Francis Gonzalez ’96 sees these features daily in his job at the NIKE, Inc. World Headquarters near Portland.
It’s an ideal setting for someone who loves sports, particularly basketball and soccer. And it’s quite different from where Gonzalez saw himself when he majored in politics at Willamette.
His passion for policy took him to Washington, D.C. twice — once for a semester-long study program, and again to intern with the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance.
While these opportunities transformed his academic experience, they also taught him a few things about his career goals: that he preferred to stay in the Northwest, and that he wanted to explore options outside of politics.
He applied for a position at Nike after graduation — and so began a fulfilling 15-year career with one of the world’s best-known athletic companies.
“Willamette equipped me well to market myself for a job at Nike that was outside my major,” he says. “I was able to dive deep into my politics studies, but I also got a well-rounded education that allowed me to try out other interests.”
Gonzalez focuses on global supply planning for Nike apparel. Others at the company analyze the apparel market to figure out what type of clothing consumers will want and when. Then Gonzalez’s team works with Nike’s factory partners to make sure they reserve enough space to meet the projected demand.
“The liberal arts education I got at Willamette helps me to think outside of the box,” he says. “Instead of trying to address business questions with a prescribed formula, I’m able to examine issues with a different perspective and think more creatively about how to solve them.”
Chris Platano ’10
Job: Operations analyst, Intel
Location: Folsom, Calif.
Scholarships help track and field athlete pursue graduate school
Soon after graduating from Willamette, Chris Platano ’10 was awarded a NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, which provides $7,500 for graduate school to outstanding scholar-athletes.
Platano also was named Third Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America in track and field/cross country. He was the seventh Willamette cross country or track and field athlete to earn Academic All-America honors since 2004.
Platano, who majored in economics with a minor in politics, now works for Intel in Folsom, Calif., as an operations analyst. He plans to use his NCAA scholarship to attend business school.
"In my job at Intel, I will work with customers like HP or Dell to make sure they receive the proper amount of product that makes both them and Intel competitive and profitable," Platano says. "It relates to the supply and demand issues I explored in economics.
"Eventually I want to earn an MBA so that I can gain further experience in international business. Later in life, I would like to get involved in public policy."
Platano was hired at Intel after spending a summer working there as an intern, an opportunity he earned through the James S. Kemper Scholarship, a national program that provides annual scholarships and stipends for internships.
As a Bearcat athlete, Platano competed in both cross country and track. He helped the Bearcat men earn Northwest Conference team titles in cross country in 2006, 2007 and 2009, and he won the conference title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in 2009.
"The Willamette coaching staff is very supportive of academic pursuits," he says. "They understand that although athletics are important, academics are number one at Willamette."
Stephanie Skelly ’12
Hometown: Poulsbo, Wash.
Academic All-American excels in the classroom and on the soccer field
Sports and academics hold equal importance for Stephanie Skelly ’12, which is why she didn’t hesitate to enroll at Willamette for college.
“I felt so comfortable and at home there,” she says. “I’m so thankful for all the opportunities I had at Willamette, opportunities I wouldn’t have had by attending another university.”
Skelly made her mark in the classroom and on the soccer field while at Willamette. A biology major, she maintained a 3.9 grade point average with an intent to pursue a career in either clinical or research genetics.
In her senior year, the midfielder was named Offensive Player of the Year within the Northwest Conference and First Team Capital One Academic All-America for NCAA Division III. Only 12 players across the country were chosen for the latter honor, based on their athletic and scholastic prowess.
On the academic side, Skelly twice received the Martha Springer scholarship for her leadership and success in the biology field.
She worked in Professor Jason Duncan’s lab through Willamette’s Science Collaborative Research Program, studying genetic mutations in fruit flies and attempting to learn why and in which genes the anomalies occurred.
By attending Willamette, Skelly says she was able to challenge herself and discover her true potential.
“Sports and education are so important to me,” Skelly says. “There is a great community at Willamette, and I feel so lucky to have been a part of that.”
Jan Taborsky ’10, MBA’11
Job: Co-owner, Happy Campers Baking
Location: Portland, Ore.
A business man, minus the suit
Jan Taborsky’s summer internship during his time at Willamette was so much fun that it didn’t really seem like work — he climbed in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains, test-rode cutting-edge new bicycles, took group rides with his co-workers during lunch breaks and met cycling journalists from across the country.
But he also conducted price-comparison research for a major sports equipment company, helped market products to retailers and worked with media to promote the latest bikes.
That’s the appeal of working in business, Jan says. With so many entrepreneurial possibilities, it’s easy to find one that matches your personal passions.
“I see business as a way to make your ideas become a reality, and that’s the most interesting job I could have,” he says. “You can change many lives and do a lot of good for your community if you have the right ideas.”
The internship in the bike division at Scott USA was a dream come true for this economics major who spent much of his childhood on a mountain bike and co-founded Willamette’s cycling team. It was one of two internships he pursued through the Kemper Scholarship, a national award that preps students for careers in business.
He took his entrepreneurial ambitions to Willamette’s Atkinson Graduate School of Management through the BA/MBA joint degree program, where he got a jump start on his career by finishing both degrees in five years instead of the typical six. Since leaving the MBA program, he has already started a gluten-free baking business near Portland.
“Attending Willamette and getting the Kemper Scholarship were life-changing experiences for me,” he says. “Both opportunities gave me direction and laid out a potential career path.”
Jaela Dinsmore ’12
Job: U.S. Fulbright Grant-funded English teacher
Location: Bogotá, Colombia
Scholar-athlete makes her education global
Jaela Dinsmore ’12 had a successful four years at Willamette, both in the classroom and on the track, where she competed in the 100-meter dash.
Her hard work and accomplishments paid off after graduation when she earned a Fulbright Grant to teach English in Bogotá, Colombia. The Spanish and Latin American studies double major will work to help students improve their English-language skills, and also conduct research on racial and ethnic relations in Colombia, which was the focus of her studies at Willamette.
“This will allow me to share my culture and English language with Colombian students,” Dinsmore says. “At the same time, I will be learning about Colombian customs and a different form of Spanish than what I’m used to, by living in the country and interacting with the community.”
Dinsmore says her time at Willamette, both as an athlete and through a study- abroad experience in Mexico, helped prepare her for the challenges of living in a foreign country.
“I am thankful that I will be able to draw on and build upon these experiences while being abroad once again,” Dinsmore says.
“Being at Willamette — through rigorous class work, participating in varsity track, and other personal challenges — has taught me how to be adaptable, open-minded and to keep a positive attitude, especially when things are not going my way.”
During Dinsmore’s senior year, she finished 5th in the finals of the 100-meter dash at the NCAA track and field championships, and she received a NCAA Elite 89 Award by achieving a 3.99 cumulative GPA.
She earned academic All-American honors twice, and she worked with the Willamette chapter of CAUSA, Mid-Valley Mentors and as an international student peer advisor.
Dinsmore is eager to use the Fulbright grant to prepare for a career in bilingual education.
“I look forward to being able to challenge and improve upon my skills, expand my knowledge and get to know another part of Latin America,” she says.
Jun Zhang ’05
Job: Worldwide supply demand product manager, Apple
Location: Santa Clara, Calif.
Campus leadership positions prepared Jun Zhang for work at several major companies
“At Willamette I participated in the House of Hall Representatives and I was a senator for ASWU (Associated Students of Willamette University). My campus involvement helped me to be become more assertive, and I’ve taken that into the corporate setting.
Interacting with other students through those opportunities is similar to how I interact now with my peers at work. You learn to share your ideas with other people, help them to understand the benefits and then figure out how to bring those ideas to life.
I love sports — I’m an avid golfer — as well as technology and consumer gadgets, which is why I chose to work at Nike and Apple. At Apple, I’m doing similar work to what I previously did at Nike for several years — supply chain planning — but instead of shoes and cutting-edge athletic equipment, now it’s for iPhones, iPads and other Apple products.
I first got involved with Nike during my freshman year at Willamette after one of my friends told me over dinner about a cool internship he had done there. I applied for it as a sophomore and got it. I went back for two more internships and then accepted a full-time job after graduation.
Supply chain management is about getting the right product to the right place at the right time. You have to plan how much of each product gets produced, and make sure it gets shipped to the right places, so that our products are on the shelves at the same time the consumer wants them.
I often use the critical thinking and analytical skills I learned at Willamette. In my job, there is sometimes a right or wrong answer, but often there is a lot of gray area. I have to weight the different trade-offs of all the options to reach a business decision.”
We cancel classes on Student Scholarship Recognition Day so you can present your research project.
We award students grants — as early as freshman year — to research in any field they desire.
Research program brings together scholars from different disciplines
During a recent summer, historians met in Eaton Hall with scholars from English and from rhetoric and media studies to debate the relationship between history, memory and identity. Politics majors worked alongside environmental scientists in Collins Hall to study Latin American landscapes.
And on a boat on the Columbia River, professors from English and biology guided a group to examine nature with both a scientific and an artistic eye.
The 11 Willamette professors and 16 students were participating in the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative (LARC) — a program for students and faculty in the humanities, arts and social sciences. LARC allows participants to each to pursue their own topics of interest while collaborating with a larger group of people from different academic fields.
Among the recent participants was Elizabeth Calixtro ’13, who researched a Belize indigenous land rights case.
“The professors and other students I worked with brought up questions I wouldn’t have thought about otherwise,” she says. “I valued the unique exchange that came from collaborating with professors as if they were my colleagues.”
Calixtro has also studied domestic violence reporting through Willamette’s Carson Undergraduate Research Program.
Her research experiences, as well as her academic and extracurricular accomplishments, earned her a spot in the Public Policy and International Affairs Fellowship Program at the University of California, Berkeley.
During the program, she will complete coursework designed to prepare her to enter a top-level graduate program in public policy, international affairs or law.
“Being admitted to this program means a lot to me, to my family and to my community because it symbolizes hope and opportunities,” says Calixtro, who is passionate about immigrant rights. “I believe this will be a great way to begin preparing for life after Willamette.”
Tyler Starr ’12
Major: Biology and biochemistry
Job: Molecular biosciences PhD candidate, University of Chicago
Research opportunities lead to success for Willamette scientist
Tyler Starr ’12 came to Willamette with the intent to study biology, and he has wholeheartedly fulfilled his ambitions — to a level above and beyond what he imagined.
In recognition of his dedication to science, Starr was awarded the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a national award for students in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences or engineering. Starr received $7,500 to put toward tuition and other university expenses.
Since Starr’s first year at Willamette, he and biology assistant professor Chris Smith collaborated on research involving reciprocal natural selection between the Joshua tree and its pollinator, yucca moths.
Starr went on to participate in a nine-week project on Joshua trees through Willamette’s Science Collaborative Research Program following his freshman year. He continued with this research for several years, and also worked with Smith to co-write a paper and submit it to the academic journal “Heredity” for possible publication.
All his experiences helped him get into the University of Chicago's molecular biosciences PhD program, where he plans to perform research on the evolution of proteins in cells.
"I am highly appreciative of the opportunity to begin scientific research early on in my college career," he says. "Overall, my strong scientific education allowed me to be competitive for national scholarships and fellowships.
"I also value the fact that at Willamette, I was able to immerse myself in my scientific education, yet still retain the opportunity to engage in other communities. The chance to study abroad for a semester, volunteer with various organizations and participate in student groups truly contributed to my personal development, without hindering my ability to succeed in my science classes."
Alicia Maggard ’10
Job: English teacher, Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme
Location: Southwest Japan
Alicia Maggard searches historical archives for clues about people’s identities
“I study history because I enjoy reading other people’s mail,” Alicia Maggard ’10 likes to joke.
The letters she reads are hundreds of years old and are essential for understanding the past. As a Willamette student, Alicia mainly studied American insurance underwriting societies of the late 18th and early 19th centuries by perusing letters between marine merchants.
Reading about insurance? Alicia will assure you it is more interesting than it sounds. Insurance companies influenced people’s political philosophies, business dealings and even their gender identities and family relations. These stories haven’t made it into most textbooks — which is part of what intrigues Alicia about historical research.
“I have always enjoyed learning about history, but it wasn’t until I came to Willamette that I learned to think critically about how historians use archives and primary sources to craft a particular narrative,” she says.
Alicia wasn’t doing her research online or from a book — she handled the actual merchant letters housed in the McNeil Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She was there as part of the Shear-Mellon Undergraduate Fellowship, one of two national research awards she won as a junior. The other was from the Gilder-Lehrman Institute of American History in New York. Both allowed her to dig into some of the country’s finest historical archives.
Alicia also explored her passion for global studies at Willamette — both by studying for a semester in Italy and by tutoring Japanese students at Tokyo International University of America in Salem. After graduation, Alicia headed to Japan to teach English through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme.
She ultimately plans to pursue a PhD in American history so she can continue using archives — and reading letters — to bring light to historical narratives.
Job: Assistant professor of psychology, Willamette University
Professor and students collaborate on adolescent behavior research
Many people are happy to forget the adolescent social network, but Assistant Professor Melissa Witkow and her students are digging deep into the complex interactions of teenagers.
As psychology researchers, they realize that examining these relationships can reveal important information about how teens’ friendships impact their mood, their actions and even their academic achievement.
Witkow began studying adolescent development when she was in graduate school. Since joining the Willamette faculty in 2007, she has cultivated a growing network of undergraduates to assist with her research and create their own scientific questions to answer — everything from the influence of teens’ romantic relationships to how the school day differs for students with attention deficit disorder.
Before Witkow and her students could start tackling these questions, they had to go through a lengthy process faced by every scientist: gathering data.
They spent several weeks collecting daily surveys from about 200 ninth-graders at a local high school, asking the students a litany of questions about what they did each day, what their friends did and how they felt about their experiences.
“If my students choose to go on to graduate school, this project will give them important skills in critical thinking and understanding psychology that will help them be successful,” Witkow says.
“But even if they don’t continue in research, this experience will help them evaluate research in their daily lives. We evaluate research all the time — anytime we read a news story or discuss politics, for instance. This project enables them to be better consumers of the information around them.”
BJ Wright ’03
Job: Management consultant, McKinsey & Company
Location: New York City
Alumnus moves his problem-solving from the lab to the boardroom
BJ Wright '03 majored in chemistry and went on to earn a PhD at Columbia University with a renowned organic chemist. Today he works for McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm.
The two fields may sound unrelated, but Wright says that consulting and chemistry are more alike than they appear.
"I like the challenge of taking on a problem that nobody knows how to solve," he says. "As a chemist, I broke apart molecules on paper to figure out how to put them together in real life, and in consulting, we use a similar process to lend structure to complex business problems. It turns out that in all those years of studying chemistry, I was also training myself to be a management consultant."
Wright fell in love with chemistry during his freshman year after former Willamette Professor Jeff Willemsen introduced him to the field.
Through Willamette's Presidential Scholarship and the Science Collaborative Research Program, Wright spent his summers making organic compounds in the lab — and he enjoyed the work so much that he went on to grad school.
Along the way to his doctorate, Wright attended a McKinsey & Company retreat and was attracted to the opportunity to work on a broader variety of problems with companies around the world. He turned down a post-doc chemistry position and joined the consulting firm.
"I focus on health care, and I have worked with pharmaceutical, medical device and health care IT companies," he says. "The most exciting thing about my job is that I'm always working with new people on new issues."
Job: Associate professor of biology, Willamette University
Research finds crows recognize and remember human faces
Think twice before being mean to a crow — it could hold a grudge against you and tell its friends and family to do the same.
Biology Professor David Craig recently co-authored a study which supports many people's anecdotal claims that birds recognize and remember people they consider to be a threat.
"Crows hold a grudge, and they are big gossips," Craig says. "They spread the information around. If you're bad to one crow, many more may hear about it."
Craig joined a team of researchers from the University of Washington to study crows' ability to distinguish among human faces. The researchers wore a caveman mask while trapping and banding crows on the Seattle campus, a traumatic experience for the birds.
From then on, anyone who donned the mask was harassed by the crows — regardless of the body type or gender of the person. The crows responded only to the face.
When the researchers who had done the trapping wore a mask the crows had not seen before, the birds ignored them.
And they shared their knowledge with other birds. Crows that were nowhere near the trapping incident also harassed the caveman, and young crows that hadn't even been born when the negative event occurred learned about the caveman from their parents.
Craig and several Willamette students are conducting a parallel study on the ways crows respond to positive people. They plan to co-author a paper for publication.
"That's the kind of experience that typically you would not get until you're in graduate school," Craig says. "My students are central to my research. Their open-ended questions, their intelligence and their creativity help us find new scientific problems that have not yet been tested."
Perform onstage, create or study art, attend a concert or theatre production — you can do it all here.
Willamette’s museum offers a wide array of visual art — and internship possibilities.
Singer expresses himself through music ensembles
A native of Palmer, Alaska, Richard Liebing heard about Willamette from his high school classmates. Attracted by its small size and comprehensive course offerings, Liebing chose Willamette from the eight schools he was considering.
When he stepped on campus for the first time during Opening Days, he says he knew he made the right decision.
“I was surprised with how friendly everyone was,” he says. “I felt I fit in really well here.”
To make Willamette truly feel like home, Liebing immersed himself in its musical offerings — starting with Chamber Choir and two jazz ensembles, Willamette Singers and Jazz Choir.
Liebing says he expresses a different side of himself in each ensemble. With jazz singing, he edits and composes the music to make it his own. And through Chamber Choir, he’s part of a robust, formal group that sings classic choral works.
If being part of three music ensembles wasn’t enough, Liebing also joined HeadBand. Through the student-led male a cappella group, Liebing says he adopts a rock ’n’ roll persona.
“Performing with HeadBand is just as much about entertaining as it is about music-making,” he says. “We’re there to be watched.”
While at Willamette, Liebing says he’s received continuous mentorship from music professor Wallace Long Jr. As director of choral activities, Long makes himself available to his students both in and outside the classroom, Liebing says.
“I consider him a personal friend,” Liebing says. “He has so much love and care for his students.”
With his double major in computer science and music, Liebing aspires to work for an IT department before heading on to graduate school. By attending Willamette, Liebing says he’s prepared to launch his career.
“Here, when you learn something, it’s not just to learn the information. You get a better understanding of concepts and how to apply them to the world around you.”
Sarah Hamilton ’07
Job: Event coordinator and venue manager, Rio Tinto Stadium
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Alumna turns theatre experience into career in venue management
Sarah Hamilton '07 starred in and helped produce numerous theatre productions at Willamette, and in 2010 she became a "production manager" of sorts for an international stage — the Winter Olympic Games.
As athletes and spectators from around the world converged in Vancouver, British Columbia, Hamilton was busy behind the scenes as a venue manager in Whistler, site of many of the skiing, luge and bobsled events.
She led the 90-person Whistler Mobile Operational Support Team that provided support and security for every mountain venue. Her team assisted with logistical challenges to make sure everything ran smoothly.
Reacting to unforeseen situations and making sure the show goes on — it's not that far from the challenges of putting on a theatre production.
Hamilton got the Olympics gig through her job at Contemporary Services Corporation, an event and crowd management company. Outside of the Olympics, her regular job is as an event coordinator and venue manager for Rio Tinto Stadium, home to Real Salt Lake, the 2009 Major League Soccer Championship team.
"Venue management is a paradox of being able to see how things operate both on the micro and macro levels," Hamilton says. "At Willamette, I learned to work with many different types of people, and how to take care of the finer details while remaining focused on the bigger ideals.
"My professors and friends at Willamette had a profound impact on the road I was able to take after graduation. I know a great deal of my confidence and drive was fueled by the strong support network of people who saw my potential and did everything they could to help me succeed."
Jason Kenitzer ’00
Job: Senior graphic designer, Oakley
Location: Lake Forest, Calif.
Grad turns sports into art
What can you do with an art degree? Jason Kenitzer ’00 pondered this question at Willamette, but he chose the major because art was his true passion. After he graduated he discovered a perfect career for his artistic talents and his interest in surfing and snowboarding: graphic design for sports companies.
Today Kenitzer is a senior graphic designer for Oakley, creating graphics for the company’s apparel and eyewear lines. He works with the CEO and creative director to produce a “story” that will guide the design theme of each season’s apparel.
“Some of our stories have looked at pivotal art movements, some have focused on important military history and one story focused on the idea behind revolution,” he says. “The amount of research that goes into creating and developing new stories is extensive. The research I did for my classes at Willamette helped me to understand the discipline it takes to dig into an idea.
“I use the skills I gained at Willamette to design and create art at a completely different level while thinking critically about the stories our team develops, how they apply to modern times and how they apply to apparel. My liberal arts education has really benefited me on my career path.”
Job: Assistant professor of art history, Willamette University
Professor takes art history far beyond names and dates
Hannah Schiff ’12 will never forget one of her first art history classes with Ricardo De Mambro Santos.
The professor drew a squiggly line on the white board at the front of the room. “What is it?” he asked the class.
“It’s a mountain,” one student responded, and De Mambro Santos turned the line into an alpine scene. Then he erased the landscape and drew the squiggly line again.
“What is it now?” he asked. “Lips,” someone said, and the professor changed the picture accordingly. Other suggestions and drawings followed.
“I was so taken with the idea that art can change depending on the meaning we ascribe to it,” Schiff says. “That was one of the moments in his class that got me. He can relate art to anything in our society.”
It’s a common reaction among De Mambro Santos’ students, who say his enthusiasm is hard to resist.
“Art history is not simply about memorizing data or putting it in a chronological line,” he says. “One of my biggest ambitions is to make my students curious about art and aware that they can contribute to our knowledge of what art is.”
In addition to his excitement for teaching, De Mambro Santos gives his students a global education even in the confines of a Willamette classroom.
Born and raised in Brazil, he spent most of his adult life living in Italy. He speaks seven languages and frequently travels abroad to present his Renaissance art research at conferences. He strives to share his international perspectives with his students.
“I want to help them establish an international dialogue, to let them know that they are part of a larger community,” he says.
Laura Curtis ’13
Hometown: Sisters, Ore.
Student balances Willamette studies with music career
When something happens in her life, Laura Curtis ’13 reaches for her guitar.
She sings about heartbreak, pride and the need to prove herself, about experiences real and imagined, personal and profound.
For this Willamette student, song writing is both a creative outlet and an emotional release.
“I write about things everyone goes through, but not everyone writes about,” she says. “When people hear my songs, they make them into their own stories. Music is about communication between people.”
Curtis recorded 12 songs on her new album, “Loving a Ghost,” produced by Brad Tisdel, executive director of the Sisters Folk Festival. Her deeply personal lyrics give insight into a folk musician who has made a new life for herself at Willamette.
A politics major, Curtis devotes her time to giving campus tours, working as director of the Collegiate Readership Program through the Associated Students of Willamette University and serving as a leader during Opening Days, Willamette’s new student orientation program.
She has also participated in the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative, a competitive summer research program guided by faculty advisors.
Still, what Curtis has accomplished pales in comparison to what she has planned. She wants to record another album, and she’s committed to continuing her music career after she graduates. Law school may also be on the horizon.
“No matter where I end up, I know that both my musical experiences and the academic foundation I have built at Willamette will give me the ability to succeed,” she says. “Whether I go into politics, pursue a career in music or do something completely different, music will always be a part of my life.”
Phil Taylor ’11
Major: Music composition
Job: Music composition PhD candidate, The University of Chicago
Location: Chicago, Ill.
Phil Taylor’s Willamette mentors guided him as he earned national recognition for his work
“I’ve been playing piano since I was 11, and composing since I was 15. Working with Professor John Peel has had a major influence on me. He’s big about feeling comfortable with yourself as a writer and helping you find your own way to compose.
I started with John and with piano Professor Jean-David Coen as my mentors, but eventually it seemed like the entire music department became my mentor. One of the best things about being a music major at Willamette was having access to so much advice and support — that is what most helped me prepare for the future.
When I was a sophomore, I won the BMI Student Composer Award, one of the biggest national awards for young composers. One reason I was able to win was because of the instruction I was receiving — that combination of my professors giving me knowledge while allowing me the freedom to do what comes naturally.
Now I’m working on my music composition PhD at The University of Chicago. I want to compose for a living. I also want to teach others and expose people who are willing to learn to the mélange of music out there — the same as John did for me. Watching my students grow would be a gratifying experience.
The best part of my Willamette experience was the people I met: my friends and my peers in the music department, my advisors and all the faculty. It seems like everybody there helped me in some way to figure out what I want to do, who I am, and what direction I need to take in order to reach my goals.”
Willamette students volunteer 44,000 hours annually at organizations nationwide.
Many top college rankings recognize Willamette’s commitment to service.
Emily Doerr ’06
Job: Program specialist, Bureau for Economic Growth and Trade, U.S. Agency for International Development
Location: Washington, D.C.
Alumna views development work through anthropological lens
Learning about other cultures through her anthropology major and subsequent Peace Corps service in Mali has guided Emily Doerr ’06 as she works in Washington, D.C. to facilitate programs that address development challenges abroad.
In her current position with USAID, she helps educate foreign individuals to improve the infrastructure of government and of private organizations in their home countries. She previously did similar work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, training people to address agriculture issues abroad.
“Anthropology has always played a part in my life since Willamette,” she says. “The way I think and react to situations is based on my understanding of the culture I'm in, whether it's in West Africa or Washington, D.C.
“When asked in one of my job interviews about my greatest accomplishment, I said that it was learning Bambara, the local language in Mali, in Peace Corps. The only way I was able to truly connect with and understand the people I was there to help was by speaking their language.
“You leave Peace Corps with a humbling sense of what is possible to accomplish in development. Ultimately, the friends you made — the people you spoke to and laughed with — were the real value in the experience.”
Randall Cass ’08
Major: International studies
Job: U.S. Fulbright Grant researcher
Location: Santiago, Chile
Alumnus explores sustainable agriculture through Fulbright Grant
Agriculture was not something Randall Cass '08 expected to choose for his career. He grew up in a farming family, but his summers spent pulling weeds and managing fertilization in canola seed fields left him thinking the work was "dull, dirty and tiresome."
At Willamette, Cass discovered a new way to combine his farming experience with his passions for civic engagement and the environment — through sustainable agriculture.
"As I participated in various research projects at Willamette — including a semester studying environmental theology and international relations at Yale Divinity School — I realized how important food and agriculture are to communities around the world," Cass says. "I became interested in sustainable agriculture because of the positive way it can affect communities and the environment."
He is currently observing these effects firsthand as he studies and researches in Chile through a prestigious Fulbright Grant for U.S. Students. He is taking classes at the Pontificia Universidad Católica while visiting farms to research Chile’s agrarian policies encouraging sustainable practices.
Before heading to Chile, Cass spent two years serving with Americorps as an environmental educator at Oregon Tilth, a nonprofit that promotes organic certification, education, research and advocacy.
Both opportunities support his desire to work for a nonprofit or government organization that assists developing communities in establishing food security in a sustainable way.
Cass credits his Willamette experiences with helping him find his career path and supporting his interest in service.
"Willamette cultivates in its students the idea to engage civically," he says. "All my friends from Willamette are off doing amazing things. They're becoming nurse practitioners; serving in Teach for America, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps; or traveling the world through the Watson Fellowship. We all graduated with a sense of purpose.”
Allison de la Torre ’05
Job: State policy associate, Pre-K Now, Pew Center on the States
Location: Washington, D.C.
Allison de la Torre influences education policy through her job in the nation’s capital
“Early on at Willamette, I took a ‘History of Western Political Philosophy’ class with Professor David Gutterman. That not only prompted me to join a student organization dedicated to political activism, but it helped me to look at society and government in a way I hadn’t before.
I have always used writing to express myself, but with political activism, I felt like I was finding my voice for the first time in a completely different way. My mother worked in early childhood development, so I wanted to go on to do something to improve public education. I felt that I’d be the most effective working in the policy realm.
I work for Pre-K Now, a national campaign of the Pew Center on the States. We’re finishing the final year of our campaign to improve the quality and expand access for state-funded pre-kindergarten programs through direct advocacy, public awareness and mobilizing leaders. I work with advocates and policy makers in more than 15 states.
I don’t think I’d be doing what I am today if it hadn’t been for my politics studies and my internship at the Oregon State Capitol. Reading about the influence of policy, and then seeing it firsthand at the Capitol across the street — it doesn’t get better than that.
Willamette provides you with so many opportunities to lead or start a club, work on an initiative, find an internship, get involved with the community — all of these things produce, young, innovative leaders. Those things end up on your first résumé, and they also give you the skills that will be necessary in your career.”
Willamette programs help guide student body president toward career in public service
“Not unto ourselves alone are we born” is more than a university motto to Tej Reddy ’12. It’s a way of life.
“I’m passionate about people,” says Reddy, who wants to pursue work in public service. “The more we listen to people’s stories, the better able we are to make decisions.”
The impact of the motto is clear in Reddy's first post-graduation opportunity: teaching math and science to secondary students in Phoenix through Teach for America, a program where recent college graduates make a two-year commitment to instruct disadvantaged youths.
At Willamette, Reddy immersed himself in several of Willamette’s educational offerings — including the Carson Undergraduate Research Grant and the Take a Break (TaB) service program.
Through the Carson grant — which awards $3,000 to Willamette undergraduates who undertake scholarly, creative or professional research projects — Reddy studied genetically modified crops in India.
And through TaB, he traveled to Chicago to work with the city’s homeless population, and went to New Orleans to learn how poverty, education and racism intersect in a historically underrepresented community.
Reddy made his mark on campus through the Associated Students of Willamette University. As its president, he discussed student concerns with Willamette President Stephen Thorsett and strove to make positive changes on campus.
He says he’s grateful for the advantages he’s gained through his liberal arts education at Willamette.
“Liberal arts majors are uniquely suited to express ourselves. We are trained to think,” he says. “By taking the skills you learn and applying them, anything is possible.”
Kevin Zerzan ’89, MAT’90
Job: Milken Educator Award-winning teacher
Location: Gladstone, Ore.
Care for students earns alumnus a national teaching award
Dual-flush toilets, a bioswale and labs where students conduct hands-on experiments related to sustainable energy — these are just a few of the "green" features at Gladstone High School.
Kevin Zerzan '89, MAT'90, who has taught science in the Portland suburb for a decade, is proud to be part of a school where sustainability is a priority — just like his alma mater.
Zerzan's contributions toward Gladstone High becoming a certified green school, as well as his teaching passion and care for students in the classroom, led him to receive a prestigious honor: a Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award.
He is humble about earning the award, which comes with a $25,000 prize, but when you ask him about his work with students, it becomes clear why he stands out.
"There is an old adage in teaching that says, ‘Students don't care what you know, but they know if you care,'" Zerzan says. "Although a strong base of knowledge is essential to being a good teacher, there is a grain of truth to that saying. Students will learn more if they know their teachers care about them.”
Zerzan majored in biology before earning his MAT at Willamette. For his master's thesis, he designed the ultimate high school science lab — research that came in handy when Gladstone High asked him to help develop a new science and technology center.
Zerzan keeps his Willamette experiences in mind as he shares his science passion with his own students.
"The coursework at Willamette was rigorous, challenging and interesting, while the relationships I developed there inspired me to work hard,” he says. "In my classroom, I have tried to provide an opportunity for my students to experience a Willamette-style education."
Erin Dougherty ’00
Job: Staff attorney, Native American Rights Fund
Location: Anchorage, Alaska
National fellowships allowed Erin Dougherty to pursue her passion for public service
“My experiences at Willamette informed my desire to work in public interest law. I have been fortunate enough to win several national fellowships, but I didn’t find them on my own — I found them through people at Willamette who recommended me and helped me apply. Willamette showed me ways to follow my passions.
When I was a junior, I won the Truman Scholarship for students dedicated to careers in public service. It gives you $3,000 for your senior year and $27,000 for graduate school, which I eventually used toward a law degree at the University of Michigan.
Several years after leaving Willamette, I won a Fulbright Grant to spend a year in Tromso, Norway, researching the political mobilization of the Sami, the indigenous people of northern Scandinavia. This introduced me to international indigenous law and strengthened my interest in public service work.
After law school, I clerked for then-Chief Justice Dana Fabe on the Alaska Supreme Court before receiving a Skadden Fellowship — often described as the Peace Corps for lawyers — to work in the Alaska office of the Native American Rights Fund.
I work with Alaska Native villages in the western part of the state that are literally falling into the ocean because of climate change. I mainly focus on administrative law issues related to the villagers’ relocation.
Willamette helped me to explore my interests and gain critical thinking skills. I chose to work in public service, but with my Willamette background, I just as easily could have worked as a securities lawyer or at a large firm. Willamette prepares you for whatever it is you want to be.”
Willamette offers majors and minors in a wide array of scientific fields.
The Science Collaborative Research Program puts students in the lab with professors.
Job: Assistant professor of physics, Willamette University
Physics professor collaborates with students in the lab
David Altman’s first year teaching was punctuated by two nationally competitive grants to study the protein myosin, a family of motor proteins that are core pieces of cellular machinery.
When you clicked on the link to read this story, myosin was at work. It is the cell’s motor, responsible for muscular contraction among many other cellular functions.
“Myosin’s got this elegant simplicity,” the physics professor says. “I want to understand how the motor works.”
As part of Willamette’s Science Collaborative Research Program (SCRP), Altman worked with Jared Green ’11 and Jesse Sant ’12 to build an optical trap in Collins Science Center, using a laser to examine myosin’s behavior. They planned to analyze the motor’s range of motion and perform experiments to study its function in retinal cells.
The experience has already paid off for Green, who won a competitive award from the Biophysical Society to present related work on optical trapping at the society’s annual meeting in Baltimore. The team also visited Stanford to create motor proteins using the university’s specialized equipment.
“Just sitting in on some of David’s conversations with his colleagues and seeing the immersion you get in grad school where you’re constantly talking and reading about all of these subjects was really cool,” Green says.
Whether in class, working in a lab or chatting over coffee, Altman appreciates the opportunity to get to know students personally. “The interactions in the small classes at Willamette are so wonderful,” he says. “I definitely ended my first year thinking I’m in the right place.”
Malia Dong ’06
Job: Plant biology PhD candidate, Michigan State University
Location: East Lansing, Mich.
Alumna studies plants’ responses to extreme temperatures
How can crops survive and still be productive in countries with harsh, warm climates? And what will happen to plants struggling to grow in hotter temperatures due to climate change?
These are the questions Malia Dong '06 asked during her time studying biology at Willamette. She developed them while working one-on-one with biology Professor Gary Tallman through Willamette’s Science Collaborative Research Program.
Specifically, she tried to understand why Nicotiana glauca (tree tobacco) cannot survive without a specific hormone at lower temperatures, but does fine without it when growing in hotter places.
Her academic successes and research experience earned her a University Enrichment Fellowship through the Plant Research Laboratory at Michigan State University — one of the premier plant biology graduate programs in the U.S.
There, she has taken her research to the opposite end of the spectrum by studying ways that plants survive freezing temperatures. She recently published her work in a prestigious academic journal.
Examining plant cells in a lab is not where Dong expected to see herself when she entered Willamette. A Hawaii native who counts dancing among her passions, she thought she might become a high school teacher when she declared her biology major.
“But after I started doing research, I discovered I enjoyed that,” she says. “I was kind of surprised. Research is very different than doing a biology lab in school. With research, there’s no wrong answer. You’re always asking questions about why things are working or not working.”
Natalie Goldberg ’08
Major: Neuroscience (self-designed)
Job: Neurobiology and behavior PhD candidate, University of California-Irvine
Location: Irvine, Calif.
Alumna takes research success from Willamette to grad school
Research grants Natalie Goldberg ’08 won while at Willamette, as well as the chance to create her own major, put her on the path to graduate school — where she has already earned funding for more research.
Goldberg won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship to support her work in the neurobiology and behavior PhD program at University of California, Irvine.
The award provides almost $30,000 annually for up to three years to students with extraordinary promise in the sciences, mathematics or engineering.
Before heading to grad school, Goldberg worked as a research assistant at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), where she developed murine models of Parkinson’s disease and investigated therapeutic interventions.
At UC-Irvine, she hopes to study neurodegeneration and mechanisms of repair in models of either spinal cord injury or Huntington’s disease.
Goldberg started on her current path at Willamette, beginning when she designed her major in neuroscience and continuing when she earned a Willamette Carson Undergraduate Research Grant and a VA Medical Center research scholarship to conduct research at OHSU.
“Willamette provided me with the inspiration to pursue and the freedom to follow the growth of my academic and personal interests,” she says. “So much of my inner scientist was fomented through interdepartmental exposure and support. And it was collaborative relationships between Willamette and OHSU faculty that helped me to form the bridge between college and my future.”
Job: Associate professor of chemistry, Willamette University
Mentoring, research — and rock 'n' roll — inspire chemistry professor
Whether she’s demystifying molecules for an introductory chemistry class or creating fireballs with her students in the Chemistry Club, Willamette Associate Professor Karen McFarlane Holman always tries to impart the same lesson: science is an important part of everyday life — and a lot of fun.
Her students laud her ability to explain complex concepts in a way that makes them accessible to anyone. They also love her laid-back, approachable nature and her diverse activities outside the classroom — including her role as a guitarist in a punk rock band.
Holman’s dedication and impact on her students garnered her a prestigious honor: 2010 Oregon Professor of the Year. She is Willamette’s 10th professor to earn the award since 1990.
“I enjoy working with students who may be learning chemistry for the first time and helping them find clarity in a subject that might at first seem enigmatic,” she says. “I love working collaboratively with both my students and colleagues. We make more innovative discoveries when we have multiple minds working together to examine issues from different perspectives.”
Collaboration is at the heart of everything Holman does. She often takes students to Berkeley and Stanford to collect data using high-tech equipment that’s only available to a select group of researchers from around the world.
In the classroom, Holman works hard to make sure all her students understand the concepts — and, hopefully, to enhance their interest in the subject.
“She wants others to love chemistry the way she does,” says environmental science major Janie Bube ’13, “and she helps you understand how chemistry applies to every aspect of your life.”
Scott Tomlins ’01
Job: Resident in anatomic pathology, University of Michigan Medical School
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Scott Tomlins’ Willamette liberal arts training led him on a promising path in medicine
“I knew when I started at Willamette that I wanted to study the sciences, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a researcher or a medical doctor. My chemistry professor helped me get a summer undergraduate research fellowship at Oregon Health & Science University. Willamette gives you many opportunities to do undergraduate research, which is critical for students in the sciences.
My summer experiences convinced me that I wanted a career in research at a medical center. I went on to earn my PhD and MD at the University of Michigan Medical School, and now I’m doing my residency in anatomic pathology.
During grad school, I researched prostate cancer at the molecular level. Our team found a key to the genetic cause of about 50 percent of prostate cancers — a possible marker for early detection.
My liberal arts education at Willamette taught me how to design experiments, create hypotheses, think critically, and present and communicate my results — better than people who went to larger, research-based schools. In science, you’re judged on your publications and presentations — I have been fortunate to co-author more than 60 papers, and my Willamette experience showed me how to effectively communicate my research.
Willamette prepared me for the career that I wanted, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the education that I received. At the same time, I was able to play soccer, hang out with my friends and have a great time outside the academic environment. Willamette puts you in a position to be successful in any field, and that’s valuable.”
Jeff Weber ’10
Job: Chemistry PhD candidate, Stanford University
Location: Stanford, Calif.
Research experiences at Willamette help student earn top doctoral fellowship
Jeff Weber ’10 never expected when he came to Willamette that four years later he would earn one of the nation’s most generous doctoral fellowships — and be recruited by many of the best chemistry PhD programs in the country.
But that’s exactly what happened to the chemistry and mathematics major, who was one of 15 students nationwide to earn a $250,000 Hertz Foundation Fellowship for innovative leaders in the applied sciences and engineering.
“Willamette placed me in the absolute best possible position for entering grad school in the sciences,” says Weber, who enrolled in Stanford’s chemistry PhD program. “I couldn't have been better prepared at any other school in the country."
The fellowship was among an impressive list of accomplishments for Weber during his time at Willamette.
Weber traveled to Stanford with his mentor, Willamette chemistry Professor Karen Holman, to collect data using one of the world's largest particle accelerators — supplementing their research into a new type of anti-cancer drug.
He also earned a national Goldwater Scholarship for students pursuing mathematics or science careers, and Willamette awarded him a Presidential Scholarship, which provides money for tuition and summer research.
Weber says he earned distinct advantages by studying science at a liberal arts university like Willamette.
“Willamette students often get into the best grad schools in the country because those schools understand the importance of being able to communicate your ideas effectively,” he says.
“The most exciting aspect of my research at Willamette was its conception — from a wide range of interdisciplinary topics, I was able to choose and pursue my own interests in the laboratory. This provided me with insight into the holistic world of research design and development that I entered after leaving Willamette.”
Looking for ways to turn your passion into a career? We can help.
Willamette students frequently start new clubs dedicated to their interests.
Marco Fiallo ’11
Job: Co-owner, international tourist hostel
Location: Quito, Ecuador
Graduate uses internship experiences to start a business abroad
Marco Fiallo ’11 knew that after graduation, he wanted to open a hostel in Ecuador that educates tourists while simultaneously supporting the surrounding community through programs like mini-grants and micro-lending.
Planning his business model wasn’t as hard as you might expect, because he had the experience of two summer college internships to draw on.
One, as a community organizer at an environmental justice non-profit in Chicago, taught him the importance of work that positively impacts others. The other, at Bonneville Power Administration in Portland, showed him how a for-profit business model can help an organization be sustainable.
Fiallo gained both opportunities after winning the national Kemper Scholarship, which provides scholarships and internships to students interested in the management and business fields.
“The internships taught me a lot about what I want to do with my business,” he says. “I learned so much through the opportunities Willamette offered me.”
Another part of Willamette that Fiallo valued was the supportive campus community. This was especially important to him because he was a non-traditional student — he served in the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan before enrolling in college.
“Because Willamette is a small school, you know the majority of people on campus, if not by name, then by face. The close-knit community is phenomenal. My Willamette experience changed me for the best.”
Andy Frazier ’97 and Mat Hunnicutt ’02, MBA’03
Job: Co-founders and managing partners, Frazier Hunnicutt Financial
Location: Portland, Ore.
Two graduates wanted to approach financial advising differently — so they started their own company
Andy: “Willamette’s small size gave me opportunities to be in leadership positions — I was captain of the soccer team and president of my fraternity — that helped me figure out how to handle responsibility and make decisions that affect me and others.”
Mat: “I transferred to Willamette my junior year, primarily to run cross country and track. But I decided to focus on academics after taking some great economics classes and learning about Willamette’s BA/MBA joint degree program.
“My close interactions with professors taught me how to have open conversations with other adults in a respectful way. I use that in our business as I meet with clients and convince them they can trust me with their finances.”
Andy: “We met when we were both working at a financial advising company. We started talking about how we might run the business differently — we wanted to put the clients first and figure out what’s best for them. So we left and started Frazier Hunnicutt Financial.”
Mat: “Andy runs the operations and works to promote our brand and give back to the community. I create strategies for how to work with client portfolios, manage assets and make sure that we’re thorough at what we do.”
Andy: “He is the math expert, and I use my psychology degree to help people figure out what steps they need to take emotionally to get to the point where they feel comfortable investing.
“We both jumped into jobs where we deal with millions of dollars. You have to be ready for that responsibility, and Willamette gave us the safe environment to grow in the way that we needed.”
Mat: “Willamette helped me find a career I was interested in, and it gave me something to be passionate about. I was undeniably changed by being there. It’s hard to put a price tag on that — it was definitely worth it.”
Ashley Holmer ’02
Job: Founder and executive director, Red Sweater Project
Location: Lake Oswego, Ore. and Arusha Region, Tanzania
Grad launches nonprofit to build schools in Africa
At Willamette, Ashley Holmer ’02 went to NCAA Final Four competition twice as part of the Bearcat women’s soccer team.
Today, she leads an organization that builds schools for Maasai children in Tanzania.
The two experiences may sound nothing alike, but it was Holmer’s time as an athlete that inspired her to create the Red Sweater Project in Africa.
“I became a licensed soccer coach following my graduation from Willamette and began coaching young girls’ teams in the Portland area,” she says. “Then I went to Tanzania to volunteer as an English teacher and to coach kids there in soccer.”
In Tanzania she witnessed the state of education for the Maasai people, many of whom live in rural areas and can’t afford to send their children off to secondary boarding schools. This gave Holmer the idea to launch a nonprofit that creates affordable, accessible and advanced educational opportunities for these children.
“My experiences playing soccer for Willamette definitely led to my passion for coaching and teaching — as well as my dedication to educating children and providing them with positive role models.”
Noah Horton ’02
Job: Co-founder and former chief technology officer, Involver
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
Computer science alumnus creates popular social media software company
When he first came to Willamette, Noah Horton '02 thought he wanted to be a lawyer. But it can be hard to ignore something you've been passionate about your whole life — and Horton has been writing computer programs since second grade.
After he took a few programming-related courses and found a mentor in computer science Professor Fritz Ruehr, Horton chose to double major in computer science and mathematics.
He eventually went on to co-found Involver, a fast-growing Bay Area company that creates software applications to help companies more effectively use websites like Facebook or YouTube to market their products.
Horton and his business partner, Rahim Fazal, achieved quick success — just one year after creating the company, they were named among the top 30 entrepreneurs under age 30 by Inc. Magazine. They recently sold the company to Oracle, and Horton is now leading the integration of Involver’s social capabilities into Oracle’s portfolio.
Horton says one of the biggest contributes to his success is his well-rounded liberal arts education.
"At Involver, I commonly had dinner with people from Fortune 500 companies who do not understand the technical aspects of computer programs, and I had to explain our product so that they would want to buy it. I went into those situations with a diverse background — I took classes at Willamette in archaeology and comparative religions, for example — and I had more to talk about with them.
"Not being too technically focused, like many of the people who graduate from tech schools, has been a great enabler in my career."
Emily Johnson ’12
Hometown: Denver, Colo.
Civic-minded student revamps campus outreach program
Emily Johnson ’12 has learned a lot from her big brother.
He taught her the power of a smile, the value of diversity and the importance of small victories. He also taught her to question first impressions.
“I’m good at taking a step back and not letting them influence me too much,” says Johnson, whose 24-year-old brother has Down syndrome. “Everyone has difficulties. Everyone has challenges. You can learn so much from people and what they bring to the table.”
That’s why Johnson is committed to showcasing what people of all abilities can accomplish. And at Willamette, she made her mark by reinventing the Best Buddies outreach program.
Since she took charge of the program, it developed from a group that played bingo with senior citizens into a program where members are paired with people their own age through the Willamette Valley Down Syndrome Association.
During scheduled activities each month, students and their buddies bowl, play games and make crafts — forming lasting friendships in the process. Under Johnson’s leadership, the club has grown from four to 20 students in the past two years.
Johnson, a chemistry major, hopes to enroll in medical school and pursue a career in cystic fibrosis research or developmental pediatrics. Wherever she ends up, she’s determined to work with children and make a difference in their lives.
“My brother has really impacted who I am,” says Johnson about her motivation. “I’d love other people to see what he and his friends have to offer.”
Julie Kennedy ’99
Job: Founding principal, Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School
Location: New York City
Enterprising Willamette graduate leads successful inner-city charter school
Julie Kennedy ’99 left Willamette with a chemistry degree, a passion for teaching and a desire to create positive change for children in need.
She went on to help found and lead a charter school for inner-city students in Brooklyn — one that beat all other New York City public schools, both regular and charter, in a progress report the year after it opened.
Today, Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School puts students struggling with poverty, learning delays and disabilities on the path to college. A recent New York Times article examining charter schools featured Williamsburg as a "high-flying school."
"Willamette always encouraged me and other students to make things happen, whether it was organizing a flood relief drive or putting on a basketball tournament," Kennedy says. "That's the reason I'm doing what I am now. I never questioned that if we had a vision for a school, we could make it happen."
Kennedy also worked one-on-one with professors to improve her writing skills — something that came in handy when she helped draft a 600-page charter for Williamsburg.
But the experience that most inspired Kennedy to teach was the Webber Scholarship, a Willamette program that allows female science undergraduates to serve as role models for children.
"I wrote lesson plans and developed strategies for teaching science to elementary school kids," Kennedy says. "I loved showing kids why chemistry mattered and how it applied to their lives. The Webber Scholarship was a turning point."
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Jim Albaugh ’72
Job: Former President and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Location: Seattle, Wash.
Willamette helped Boeing’s former CEO discover his love for numbers and engineering
“I came to Willamette without any idea what I wanted to do other than to go to college. After one semester — because of the small classes and one-on-one mentoring of the faculty — I fell in love with numbers and majored in math and physics. My math professor got me directly into engineering graduate school at Columbia University.
If it wasn’t for Willamette, I would not have had the exciting and rewarding career that I’ve had. I have put people and payloads into space, have worked with some of the smartest people on Earth designing and developing many of the most complex systems ever built for the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies, and have been part of the delivery of the first new commercial airplanes of the 21st century, the 787 Dreamliner and the 747-8 Freighter and Intercontinental.
I can think of no better preparation for my career than a liberal arts education and a degree in engineering. I owe so much to Willamette.”
Erin Bloom ’12
Hometown: Lake Oswego, Ore.
Politics major turns interest in policy and government into national scholarship
Erin Bloom ’12 did not follow the typical path from high school to Willamette. Before becoming a Bearcat, she served four years in the U.S. Air Force, where she was stationed on bases in Texas and Washington and deployed twice to Kyrgyzstan.
But it didn’t take her long to adjust to the life of the typical Willamette undergraduate. In addition to her politics major, she has served as president of the College Democrats, worked with visiting high school students from Bosnia and Herzegovina through the International Debate Education Association, and held positions as a resident assistant, a writer for The Collegian student newspaper and a barista in The Bistro.
All her varied experiences — plus her interest in a career in government — garnered her a prestigious national award: the Truman Scholarship.
The award provides up to $30,000 in scholarships for college juniors going into government, policy, public health and other related fields who are recognized for their potential as “change agents.”
She hopes to parlay her experiences and her scholarship into future opportunities in law school and eventually a master’s program in security or foreign service. Her goal is to work in foreign aid or security for the U.S. State Department or USAID.
Bloom thanks her Willamette politics professors for guiding her closely throughout her academic career.
“The size of Willamette has been absolutely conducive to enhancing my education,” she says. “I have relationships with professors that my peers at bigger schools can’t even dream of. And they have pointed me, like countless students on this campus, towards opportunities that I otherwise wouldn’t have discovered.”
Claire Bonilla ’95
Job: Senior director of disaster response, Microsoft
Location: Redmond, Wash.
Willamette grad takes passion for public service to the corporate environment
When floods, earthquakes or hurricanes occur, most people are exiting a disaster zone, while Claire Bonilla ’95 is busy working her way toward ground zero.
As senior director of Microsoft's disaster management team, she provides the technology that connects resources to people in need.
Disasters often result in chaos. Sometimes computer systems crash because of massive donations pouring in, or internet capacity is disrupted by a catastrophic event.
"When tragedies strike, information can become as precious as food, potable water and shelter," Bonilla says. "The effectiveness of rescue efforts relies heavily on the ability of first responders to share information and manage resources. By enabling communication and collaboration, technology can literally save thousands of lives."
"My team at Microsoft coordinates a 24/7 rotation of volunteers who can build out IT solutions in three to five days. We distribute free software, provide custom development to create the right type of information technology, help migrate information over, and work to restore local telecommunications."
Bonilla's degree in economics and German fed her interest in international relations and global commerce.
"Because of the broad-based curriculum at Willamette, I was able to explore my intellectual interests. At the same time, I could explore my passion for working with nonprofits by reaching out as a volunteer. That experience provided the roots for my current work."
Dale Mortensen ’61
Job: Professor or economics at Northwestern University, 2010 Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences
Location: Evanston, Ill.
Dale Mortensen’s economic theory for looking at labor markets earned him a Nobel Prize
It's a long journey from the Willamette University economics department to the Nobel Prize, but not out of reach. Just ask Dale Mortensen '61.
The alumnus — known at Willamette as a high-achieving economics student, singer, senior class president and Beta Theta Pi fraternity brother — was one of three to earn the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics. Mortensen is the Ida C. Cook Professor of Economics at Northwestern University.
Mortensen and the other two winners pioneered a theory that helps explain why people remain unemployed despite many job vacancies. The model can be used to estimate how unemployment benefits, interest rates, the efficiency of employment agencies and other factors affect the job market.
Mortensen chose to study economics at Willamette to combine his diverse interests in mathematics and history. He was inspired in his studies by Professor Richard Gillis, a popular faculty member who chaired Willamette's economics department for many years.
"He encouraged me in every step of my journey," Mortensen says. "He pointed me toward economics study that I could do beyond the regular coursework, and he wrote recommendation letters when I applied for graduate school."
Mortensen was accepted at Harvard, MIT and Stanford, but he chose to go on to Carnegie Mellon University for his PhD in economics.
"A liberal arts college trains people to be both literate and analytical, and that's the best training you can have for the future," he says. "Willamette is an excellent place for an undergraduate to become intellectually mature. It did well by me."
Liani Reeves ’98, JD’01
Major: Religious studies
Job: Legal counsel, Oregon governor’s office
Location: Salem, Ore.
Willamette graduate finds success in her career and the community
Liani Reeves '98, JD'01 takes the idea that there aren't enough hours in a day to a new level.
She spends her work days in the Oregon governor’s office, advising him on legal issues that affect citizens statewide.
After hours, she has volunteered her time to the Oregon Commission on Asian Affairs and the Oregon Minority Lawyers Association.
As if that's not enough, Reeves finds time to mentor minority law students who are seeking advice on school and their future careers.
Her hard work caught the eye of the Portland Business Journal in 2010 when it named her one of its Forty Under 40, an award that recognizes high-caliber young executives for career and community achievement.
Reeves's busy schedule stretches back to her days at Willamette. As an undergraduate, she led projects to improve campus security and to increase awareness of sexual assault and alcohol issues.
"Being empowered to make changes at the university level taught me a lot that I use today as I make change in my community and the government," she says.
Reeves built on her Willamette experience by enrolling in the College of Law, where she joined the Multicultural Law Students Association, participated in moot court and planned a university-wide Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
Her work today isn’t too far from the Willamette campus where she spent her formative years.
"Being at Willamette gives you a lot of opportunities to hop across the street and see what's going on at the Capitol or the Supreme Court. That proximity to the government is valuable, especially if you want to be a public servant."
Shana Cooper ’99
Job: Play director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Location: Ashland, Ore.
Theatre alumna takes Willamette lessons to bigger stages
Theatre-goers attending “Love’s Labor’s Lost” at the 2011 Oregon Shakespeare Festival were treated to a stage covered in grass and flowers, transporting them to the world of the play in an organic, sensual way.
Director Shana Cooper ’99 got the idea from a production she performed in as a Willamette undergraduate, when Theatre Professor Chris Harris laid turf on the stage to create the Ireland of Brian Friel’s “Dancing at Lughnasa.”
“That production had a big impact on my aesthetic as a director,” Cooper says. “Remembering the power that organic materials can have for the audience impacted the world we created for ‘Love’s Labor’s Lost.’”
That isn’t the only Willamette lesson Cooper has carried with her. Her participation in every part of student productions — from acting on-stage to building sets — gave her unique insight for coordinating all the different areas into a successful performance.
Since leaving Willamette, Cooper has helped direct plays on both coasts, co-founded a theatre company, and with “Love’s Labor’s Lost,” led her first full production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival — among the oldest and largest non-profit theatres in the country.
She is also among an elite group to have won the Princess Grace Award, which goes to promising emerging artists and provides opportunities for other fellowships throughout her career.
“To be successful in theatre, you can’t just wait for opportunities to be tossed into your lap — you have to create your own and then believe that others will want to support you,” she says. “The theatre department believed in me and supported me in any opportunity I sought. Learning that lesson at Willamette has enabled me to pursue and achieve most of what I have so far.”
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- Filmmaker's experiences inspire students Maren Grainger-Monsen shared how she uses science and art to advocate for social change.