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Words from Waller

April 21, 2022

Dear Willamette community,

After a successful Student Scholarship Recognition Day last week on the Salem campus, it’s once again time to celebrate the incredible work of our students.

Next week is Focus Week at PNCA, a week-long experience in which the entire college comes together to support senior undergraduate students as they present their Thesis proposals and orals. While PNCA students, staff and faculty are familiar with Focus Week, I know many members of the Willamette community don’t have a deep understanding of what it is and what makes it so integral to the PNCA experience.

At PNCA, all students’ senior year includes a year-long project called Thesis. During the first semester of senior year, Thesis is a group classroom experience in which one faculty member works with roughly a dozen students to help them research and hone their individual project ideas. In their second semester, students work with a single faculty member who serves as their mentor and helps them complete their work.

Thesis culminates in students presenting either a proposal or an oral during Focus Week – proposals happen at the end of the first semester of their senior year, with orals at the end of the second. Proposals see students discussing their project in front of a panel of faculty, students, family, friends, faculty, and staff, laying out a roadmap for its completion, while orals amount to a defense of the students’ completed work, again in front of a panel of faculty.

PNCA students’ Thesis project is a significant undertaking, and serves as a link between being a student and being a professional out in the world. The experience helps students better understand themselves as creative beings, and teaches them how to have a positive experience publicly engaging with their work. It’s also a terrific lead-in to graduate school should students choose to pursue that path, as they’ve already engaged in a graduate-level process and have achieved some level of comfort with making presentations and discussing all aspects of their work.

Focus Week is the result of a year of hard work, and after two-plus years of virtual Focus Weeks, next week’s return to entirely in-person events is a welcome and exciting one. I invite you to review the schedule and attend presentations if you are able, especially if you have never experienced Focus Week in the past.

Non nobis solum,


Willamette University

Office of the President

Salem Campus

Waller Hall, 5th Floor
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.