Marlene Moore has had just about a year to settle into her deanship. Here she discusses how she arrived at Willamette, opportunities and challenges ahead, and the value of a liberal arts education today.
Tell us about your higher-ed background.
I got into a wonderful liberal arts school as an undergrad. I loved it, and it changed my life. I started off going through a biology degree, and I worked in research labs during the summer at the Texas Medical Center — a very exciting place to be. I finished that up and went to Baylor College of Medicine for a PhD.
As with many faculty members, I never intended to be an administrator — to go to the dark side [laughs]. I finished my post-doc at Oregon Health Sciences University and there was an opening at the University of Portland. It just rekindled for me the wonderful experiences I’d had as an undergraduate, and I found myself able to be part of the opportunities that were given to me.
Why did you want to come to Willamette?
I read the motto and I was done for, because that so resonated with my personal value system. “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.” The goal of graduating people of purpose and passion totally speaks to my heart and what I do. So I got better acquainted with Willamette’s mission and its values, and the rest is history.
What strengths do you bring to Willamette?
I’m a strategic thinker. I love to learn and gather information, analyze it and decide on a course of action. I am a person who executes. I enjoy taking ideas and turning them into reality, and I work very hard to make that happen.
What do you believe are Willamette’s strengths?
Willamette has a wonderful tradition of people who are dedicated to the same vision, and who have worked toward improving the quality of this institution. Current and past faculty, alumni, trustees and administrators have all been united by personal and social responsibility.
Willamette is also strong for its interdisciplinary nature. People here are good at addressing complex, real-world issues through the lenses of their own disciplines, while also valuing the perspectives that other disciplines provide.
Why do you think that’s important?
That’s where the world is. That’s what we have to learn to do. Everything now is so complex that no one person will ever know enough to address each issue. We have to learn to work together; we have to learn to value the contribution of a different viewpoint, even if we don’t fully understand it; and we have to learn to trust people to know things we don’t know and to bring those ideas to bear.
Why is a liberal arts education valuable?
When we educate at Willamette, we emphasize enduring truths — the things that persist no matter what is happening in society — and we teach people how to solve problems and how to innovate. That’s because we are educating for a world that doesn’t yet exist; we don’t know how the world might change.
What do you hope to accomplish here?
In general, success involves meeting students where they are; understanding how they’re different than we were as students; and knowing how to motivate them, how to encourage them, and then how to challenge them. We want more than their personal fulfillment. We want them to graduate mobilized and ready to serve society. We also will continue work this year on earning reaccreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. The accreditation process is like an interview — someone asks us what is special about Willamette, what we care about, what kind of resources we are devoting to what, and whether we are making progress. This is something that will involve all of us in a great deal of reflection and conversation.*
Dean, College of Liberal Arts
Moore strolls into the big tent on the Quad alongside neuroscientist and 2010 opening convocation speaker Jonah Lehrer (bet we know their field of conversation)
Moore in her pre-dean days hones her lab skills.