To the over 1,000 new students joining Willamette University this fall on our Salem and Portland campuses, welcome! And to everyone else, welcome back.

The opening of a new academic year is filled with excitement and optimism. Over just a few weeks, the quiet of summer gives way first to the nervous energy of new student orientation and the reconnection of colleagues at faculty and staff retreats, then very quickly to the steady buzz of teaching and learning in classrooms, labs, and studios.

Each year, I am struck by the way that over 3,000 individual faculty, staff, and students, representing an almost unimaginable diversity of views, experiences, and identities, are quickly knit together into an academic community committed to a common purpose: developing the capacities and skills our graduates will need to turn knowledge into action, and to find their own ways to contribute to the world and find meaning in their lives. Even before this last sweltering heat of August mellows into a typically beautiful Pacific Northwest autumn, the new academic year will be in full swing.

The new Bearcats of the College of Arts and Sciences and the new Sloths of the Pacific Northwest College of Art recently joined together on Jackson Plaza in Salem for the ceremony of Matriculation, as we begin our second year since the merger of the two institutions. On the Quad in Salem, we will have Commencement ceremonies for the second class of graduates of the new Master of Science program in Data Science. The growing enrollment at Willamette is matched by a broadening of the university’s intellectual and programmatic scope, a trend we can expect will continue as we recover from the challenging pandemic years.

To that end, all of Willamette’s schools have been engaged in strategic planning throughout the last academic year and the summer. In the spring, the Board of Trustees approved a new planning framework, grounded in the distinctive ways that Willamette connects liberal education and professional practice, committed to engagement with our region and the world, and designed to prepare graduates to be effective leaders in addressing the biggest challenges of this century, including climate change, the strengthening of democratic institutions, and the societal and economic impacts of big data.

Throughout the fall semester, I intend to use this weekly "Words From Waller" to share this emerging vision for the university, describing the planning work that has been finished as well as the choices that remain to be made. Already, Willamette is a larger, healthier, and more ambitious institution than it was just a few years ago. The next few years will be important, as the resources that will come with growth are invested to build quality and distinction.

As many of you have heard me say before, I can think of no more rewarding way to invest my own time and energy than in the education of people who have the talent and drive to change the world for the better. And although Willamette has been pursuing that mission for nearly two centuries, the world has never needed Willamette graduates more than it does today.

Non nobis solum nati sumus,

President Stephen E. Thorsett
Willamette University

Alumni and Parent Engagement

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

Back to Top