Willamette University

Tidbits & Briefs


University’s Incoming Classes Exceed Targets

Willamette’s incoming classes — those at the College of Liberal Arts, Atkinson Graduate School of Management, the College of Law and the School of Education — included large and accomplished groups of students this fall, a fact that bodes well for the university’s national recognition, selectivity and fiscal health.

College of Liberal Arts application numbers have more than doubled in the last two years (from 2,983 in 2007 to 6,026 in 2009) with the result that admission has become significantly more selective. A total of 541 first-year students enrolled in August.

Atkinson Graduate School of Management (AGSM) welcomed 102 new MBA students into the full-time Early Career MBA and MBA for Career Change programs. The figure represents a 25 percent increase over last year and is the largest class to enroll at the AGSM to-date.

The College of Law’s class of 2012 is comprised of 149 students who represent an impressive 78 undergraduate institutions and almost 40 majors. Women make up 45 percent of the class, and about half the students come from out of state.

The School of Education’s Master of Arts in Teaching program pushed into triple digits, welcoming 103 new students. The boost in enrollment comes partially from an increase in applications to the Aspire part-time program.

Student in dorm
Jerry Houser

New Director of Career Services Hired

Jerry Houser, a career development professional with a considerable record working with college career programs, started work in October as the new director of Career Services. Houser stepped in to serve undergraduate students following the retirement of Nancy Norton.

Houser most recently worked for nine years at the California Institute of Technology, where he directed and re-engineered the Career Development Center, and previously spent 15 years directing the Career Planning and Placement Center at the University of Southern California.

Surveys of Willamette students and alumni show that they wish to see continued development in career services. Plans to expand the undergraduate office include creating a robust employer relations program, both regionally and nationally, that enhances internship and job opportunities for students and alumni; capitalizing on recently developed services for alumni and parents (through the alumni Career Network) to offer better mentoring, networking and access to career information; and implementing new online technologies to provide students and alumni with on-demand, 24-7 access to career tools and support.

Visit undergraduate Career Services online at willamette.edu/dept/careers. Information on the alumni Career Network can be found at willamette.edu/alumni/career_network.

The International Debate Education Association The International Debate Education Association

Students from Bosnia and Herzegovina Explore American-Style Democracy

The International Debate Education Association (IDEA) at Willamette recently hosted its Youth Leadership Program, held on Willamette’s campus, in which 18 high school students and three teachers from Bosnia and Herzegovina came together to discuss critical global issues and explore the democratic process.

During the program, Professors Nathaniel Cordova (rhetoric and media studies) and David Gutterman (politics) engaged students in lively discussions on America’s social and political movements. Professor Robert Trapp (rhetoric and media studies) helped them sharpen their debate skills. By volunteering at local organizations, the students also applied Willamette’s motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.” Participants immersed themselves further in American life by staying with local families.

The program culminated in a championship debate, in which the students competed alongside top debaters from Willamette Academy. The crowd of 80 spectators included five judges of the Oregon Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, who helped judge the event.

In a continuing partnership with the U.S. Department of State, IDEA and Willamette will administer the program again in 2010.

University Hosts Collaborative ‘Leave a Legacy’ Forum

Alumnus John D. Hawkins JD’87 joined Willamette staff this summer to participate in a community forum, held at the College of Law, focusing on financial preparedness and estate planning. The forum was organized in conjunction with Leave a Legacy of the Mid-Willamette Valley, a group whose outreach helps local residents understand how to make an impact on charities and organizations they value.

“Behind all the technical financial information we pass on are two simple messages,” Hawkins says of the ideas behind the event. “One: Estate plans are powerful things. Two: Think hard about your charities and causes, whatever they are, because you can make a difference.”

The forum is one of several recurring events co-managed by members of the Willamette community and other local organizers. The next event is set for May 2010.

MBA class

Willamette MBA in Forbes

Atkinson Graduate School of Management (AGSM) was named to Forbes magazine’s “Best Business Schools” list for 2009.

The rankings, which recognize the top 75 schools in the U.S., are based on measurements of each program’s return on investment to graduates.

AGSM is the highest-ranked program in Oregon and one of only three programs in the Northwest to make the list. Business schools across the U.S. are assessed on career services, placement rates and pre- and post-MBA salary levels.

“The Forbes survey speaks to the quality of our program and is evidence that Willamette MBA graduates experience a high return on their educational investment,” says Debra Ringold, dean and JELD-WEN Endowed Chair in Free Enterprise. “Our program prepares them for meaningful and successful careers.”

John Irving

Novelist John Irving to Visit Willamette

John Irving, among the most popular and respected contemporary American writers, will deliver the spring Atkinson Lecture Feb. 24, 2010. Irving’s 13th novel, Last Night in Twisted River, was released in October.

Irving’s first international bestseller, The World According to Garp, introduced readers to his inventive style, memorable characters and masterfully woven stories-within-stories. Garp won a National Book Award in 1980 and was made into a film starring Robin Williams that earned Academy Award nominations for John Lithgow and Glenn Close.

Another of Irving’s novels, The Cider House Rules, was turned into a movie in 1999 that won him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Irving has won the O. Henry Award and others from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1992 he was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Okla., and in 2001 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

College of Law

College of Law Named a Best Value Law School by National Jurist

The Willamette University College of Law was ranked among the “Best Value Law Schools“ in the September 2009 issue of the National Jurist. The magazine listed the top 65 law schools that give students the best bang for their buck — those that “carry a low price tag and are able to prepare their students incredibly well for today’s competitive job market.”

Listed at No. 58, Willamette ranked above the other three private law schools in the Northwest.

Men’s Lacrosse Bolsters Club Sports Visibility

The men’s lacrosse squad is coming off its best season and first playoff berth ever.

The club team is not a Division III organization — it competes as part of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) — but there are some similarities. Head Coach Will Patton ’07 ensures that all team members comply with Division III academic eligibility requirements, for example, even though it is not a mandate of the league. Further, the roster of 32 men is made up of players from around the country, due in part to the popularity of lacrosse on the East Coast.

The men’s lacrosse squad shares the turf of Willamette’s soccer field with the women’s lacrosse team, which has also garnered much support in recent seasons. Together, these programs illustrate the breadth of competition available to students and fans. For more on men’s lacrosse, visit wulax.com.

Jeff Collins

Professor and Students Unlock Secrets of Co-Evolution

Undergraduate students Jeff Collins ’10 and Tyler Starr ’10 are part of a research project spearheaded by biology Professor Chris Smith and profiled in Smithsonian Magazine, The American Naturalist and Evolution (where it was featured as a cover story). Funded with a sizeable grant from the National Science Foundation, the study is far-reaching both intellectually and geographically, with 43 research sites spread across Arizona, Nevada and California.

Smith and his students are looking at Joshua trees to determine whether reciprocal evolutionary change is shaping the relationship between the tree and its pollinators. The ancient trees are postcard icons of the American Southwest, remarkable not only for their spiny, bizarre appearance (explorer John Fremont called them “repulsive”) but also for their highly specialized and unusual pollination pattern.

The trees are pollinated exclusively by two species of yucca moth. The moths, in turn, reproduce by laying their eggs in the creamy white Joshua tree flowers. Upon hatching, the eggs become caterpillars that eat Joshua tree seeds. Thus, the relationship between the Joshua tree and its pollinators is one of complete interdependence: Both the moth and the desert plant are entirely reliant upon one another for reproduction.

“We’re trying to understand how natural selection shapes this interaction,” Smith says. “Once you zoom in and look at the details, it gets very exciting.” He and his students have discovered compelling evidence that different species are capable of evolving together in a reciprocal manner.

Smith works with Collins and Starr through the Science Collaborative Research Program (SCRP), which prepares undergraduate students for professional careers through collaborative research with Willamette faculty. Students communicate their research findings in a formal paper and oral presentation for a campus symposium, as well as an off-campus regional meeting for undergraduate researchers.


Willamette Recognized for Scholarship, Service and Student Support

Washington Monthly has recognized Willamette as among the leading liberal arts colleges and universities, noting the university’s attention to excellence in teaching and scholarship, student commitment to work that benefits society, and need-based financial aid for high-ability students.

In its rankings of the nation’s private and public institutions of higher education, Washington Monthly measured three criteria: research, service and social mobility.

“I am pleased that we are being recognized for how well we are upholding values that are intrinsic to our university community,” said university President M. Lee Pelton. “We are dedicated to helping our graduates become accountable, motivated leaders who will work toward bettering the world through their chosen professions.”

Lane McGaughy

Institute Researching Christianity’s Origins Comes to Willamette

The Westar Institute, an international association of scholars looking at the historical origins of Christianity, is making the move to Willamette.

The 34 surviving early Christian Gospels, including the four contained in the New Testament, were written by second generation disciples, and scholars have disagreed about their authenticity since the Enlightenment. Since 1985 more than 200 Westar-affiliated scholars have sifted through the sayings and deeds of Jesus to determine those most likely to be authentic and those that should be attributed to leaders of the early church. The group also makes its findings available to lay audiences.

“There has never been a concerted effort to bring this scholarship to the general public,” said Lane McGaughy, professor of religious studies, co-founder of the organization and former chair of its board of directors. “Such research was once considered too controversial or complicated for lay persons to understand, and so scholars just talked to one another. This research opens up a new kind of public conversation about religion.”

In addition, the new collaboration with the Westar Institute means that Polebridge Press, which is sponsored by Westar, will also be coming to Willamette. The university has long aspired to an academic press; Polebridge and Westar were looking for a new home at the right time. Westar’s mission is consistent with that of Willamette’s new Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology, which will house the institute, and McGaughy has offered to oversee the collaboration.

The press will continue to publish scholarly theological books; it will also publish other academic books from Willamette scholars, as well as books by noted authors from around the world.

“There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle,” McGaughy said, “and they’ve all come together quickly and beautifully. It was the perfect timing for this to occur. In a sense, Willamette has reclaimed a part of its theological heritage with these developments.”

Learn more about Willamette’s Center for Ancient Studies and Archaeology at willamette.edu/centers/casa, or about the religious studies department at willamette.edu/cla/religion.

CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria

Zakaria Speaks on Globalism, Contemporary Struggles

The U.S. is struggling to effectively address issues like Social Security, immigration and health care because the government’s solution so far has been to “kick the can down the road in hopes the problem will solve itself,” Newsweek International editor and CNN journalist Fareed Zakaria told a group of Willamette University students Oct. 16.

He added later that U.S. politicians must deal with a political system “that encourages short-termism. … It’s not that our politicians are stupid. It’s that they’re smart. They’re responding to the infrastructure we have given them.

“If you look at the world today and ask yourself, ‘What is the biggest problem in democratic societies?’ it is clearly the inability to impose any short-term pain for long-term gain,” he said.

Zakaria visited campus to deliver the fall Atkinson Lecture in Smith Auditorium, and his visit coincided with the celebration marking the successful conclusion of the Campaign for Willamette. Prior to the lecture, he met informally with students in politics Professor Greg Felker’s “Capitalism and Democracy” class.

Historian Addresses Religious Fundamentalism and the Rule of Law

Professor Martin Marty, a leading American historian of religion, visited Willamette in late September to lecture on “The Rules of Fundamentalism and the Rule of Law.” Marty’s remarks provided insight into complicated questions of law and religious sovereignty that have received recent national attention.

Marty is the author of more than 50 books on religion and American culture, including the three-volume Modern American Religion and the National Book Award-winning Righteous Empire: The Protestant Experience in America. His latest book is The Mystery of the Child.

Marty currently serves as the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the University of Chicago. The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago conducts advanced research in the study of religion and religious questions.

Marty’s lecture was sponsored by Willamette’s Center for Religion, Law and Democracy and Saint Mark Lutheran Church.

Willamette Surpasses Peers on Oregon State Bar Exam Once Again

For the seventh consecutive year, the graduates of Willamette University College of Law have outperformed their peers on the Oregon State Bar examination. Eighty-eight percent of Willamette graduates who took the July 2009 exam for the first time passed. The graduates of all other law schools passed at a rate of 75.1 percent.

The difference of 12.9 percentage points is the second largest in the last 30 years. The highest was in 2004 (84.9 percent vs. 71.8 percent).

In the last seven years, Willamette graduates have outperformed the graduates of other law schools by an average of 6.8 percentage points.

Garden Ford Hall

Sierra Magazine Names Willamette One of Nation’s Greenest Schools

Sierra, the official magazine of the Sierra Club, named Willamette one of the nation’s greenest universities in its third annual “Cool Schools” issue.

Willamette was the only Oregon university to make the list, placing 17th among the 20 schools featured for their efforts to operate sustainably. The honor adds to Willamette’s existing recognition as a green school — in 2008, the National Wildlife Federation named Willamette first in the nation for sustainability activities.

According to Sierra, Willamette rates particularly well in efficiency, purchasing, food and transportation. Willamette employs water and energy efficiency technologies, has a green purchasing policy, and has two buildings certified or on track to be certified LEED Gold: Kaneko Commons and Ford Hall.

“We are pleased to be included in this short list of the ‘green elite,’“ said Professor Joe Bowersox, director of Willamette’s Center for Sustainable Communities. “Willamette is working hard to create a culture of sustainability across all sectors of the university, from our teaching and research to the way we come to work to our management of campus facilities. We have great leadership and support from our administrators and staff, as well as our faculty and students.”