Why did you come to Willamette—and why major in English?

To be a hundred percent honest, the first time I visited Willamette, I thought there was no way I would even apply. I am from Atlanta, so to move to a much smaller city, three thousand miles away from home, in the rainy Pacific Northwest, to attend a tiny liberal arts school when I clearly needed a large research institution for my pre-med plan sounded a little absurd on paper. Luckily, I ended up coming back for a scholarship interview weekend my senior year, and realized what an idiot tenth-grade Anna was. I visited twenty-two schools in my college search process, and Willamette was the only school where students were as passionate as I am, both inside and outside of the classroom.

I sort of stumbled upon the English major. I entered Willamette as an intended Anthropology major and then declared Rhetoric during the spring of my first year. It wasn't until two-thirds of the way through the spring of my sophomore year, when I was taking upper level courses in my then major, an elective, and Literary Theory, that I realized something was not right. The only class I was consistently excited to attend was Literary Theory, which had been described to me as the Organic Chemistry of the English department. I figured that if I was crazy enough to love it, to love being challenged and continually revamping the way I can examine the world, it might be time to jump ship. It has been my first love ever since.

Tell me about your favorite English Department class so far.

It's probably a tie between Literary Theory, which I already nerded out about, and Post-Slavery Fiction. Both classes had the beautiful combination of a really engaged group of classmates, a curriculum that continually challenged me to re-examine the way I think, and professors who are the poster people for caring about students' intellectual development and emotional well being.

Tell me about your senior thesis plans—any ideas yet?

I am planning on applying for the 499W thesis, so that proposal is currently in the works. In reflecting on what topic to write on, I went back through old papers I had written for my English classes and found a surprisingly recurrent theme: I am moderately obsessed with the way form can impact reader response. I want to investigate this question through examining an epistolary novel (or novels) to specifically explore the way epistolary structure makes outsiderness/otherness accessible and identifiable to an audience.

Do you have any advice or insight for current or prospective WU students (and especially English majors)?

Don't commit to anything too quickly. As cheesy as it sounds, follow where your nerdy academic heart leads you. As someone who came into Willamette as a compulsive planner, my time here has continually reaffirmed that I don't honestly really know what I want on my first shot. The beautiful thing about Willamette is that you will continually be surrounded by passionate and engaged people who will challenge you to look at the world differently. Let them challenge you, and see what surprises may arise from that. At the same time, know that you are the person who knows yourself the best, so don't be afraid to stand your ground once you’ve listened to everyone around you. That balance will make you a stronger, more engaged student and global citizen.

What does your future beyond WU have in store?

As of right now: graduate programs in Student Affairs and Higher Ed Administration. My goal is to work in campus life at a university. Eventually, I would like to go through a doctoral program in the hopes of potentially becoming a Dean, but right now, surviving the GRE is the first step.

Anna Fredendall, an English major at Willamette
Willamette University


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

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