Introduction and History

If studying in one of the oldest universities south of the Mississippi River, which was established as old as 1842, is not sufficient motivation for you to be a part of this historical legacy, perhaps the massive basket of courses waiting to be picked will be.

Alternatively, it will be the irresistible attraction of the sprawling campus covering 61 acres and voted as one the most scenic ‘urban walks’ in the state. As you enter the hallowed portals of this historic institution, you will be struck not only just by the spotless cleanliness of the place, but by the friendly supportive attitude of the staff and administration that seek to make your stay there a welcome one, and your education, a holistic one.

Willamette University has a rich cultural and historical past. It has its roots anchored in the United Methodist Church and began as a school for Native American children, operated by the Reverend Jason Lee. In 1843, Lee, along with other colleagues, founded the Oregon Institute, and although funds were hard to come by, in 1864, Reverend Alvan Waller began to raise funds for a new building. Moreover, In 1867, a new college known as University Hall was erected. 

Over the years, the founders of the college concentrated on adding new buildings, starting with a medical college to which they then added a theological seminary, women’s dormitory, and a large gymnasium. Such was the persistence of its founders that even the great depression could not stem the growth of this venerable institution, and today, it stands as a concrete landmark of the crowning success of these early pioneers.

Located at Salem, Oregon’s capital, and situated right opposite Capitol Hill, the University has steadily gained in popularity, student strength, and rankings. This can be evinced by the fact that the University’s ‘Atkinson Graduate School of Management’ was ranked as one of the “Best Business Schools” by Forbes Magazine. A genuinely well-deserved ranking amongst its many laurels.

Courses and Faculty of Willamette University

Boasting of an undergraduate enrolment of 1808, the University houses three primary colleges. They are – the College of Liberal Arts, College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. They have 51 undergraduate programs, which include studies in languages as well, and also have special programs known as ‘accelerated’ programs, which include diverse subjects such as Forestry and Engineering. Apart from this, they also have the usual bouquet of Law and MBA courses.

Fresh students have a wide range of courses to choose from whatever suits their fancy and previous academic selections.

The faculty at Willamette is the cream of the academia, each with impeccable credentials and many years of teaching experience. They say the brand ambassadors of the University and proof of the prowess of the teaching staff are the students, especially the students who have passed out. 

One of the alumni, an ex-biology student of the University, received an email sometime back asking him to speak at a United Nations conference. At first, he thought it was a joke, but it turned out to be a genuine invitation, and this supposed joke culminated in his delivering a 15-minute address at the UN General Assembly on Climate Change, Global Wealth Inequality, and Sustainability. Such are the achievements of students who pass through the gates of this prestigious University.

A strong bond is retained between those who have passed out and those continuing in academic activities here. In October 2019, many families and alumni came back to the campus to enjoy a thoroughly entertaining weekend, which featured a comedy show, choral and jazz performances, and a theatrical performance entitled “Men on Boats.” There was also a football game and a mouth-watering barbecue to wrap up the weekend of festivity, recapturing many precious moments spent on the campus.

While there is a strong emphasis on studies and especially self-study, the University is ever ready to support deserving candidates. They support 98% of their students with academic scholarships around the year, so they have no reason to complain.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Nearly $42 million in scholarships are awarded annually along with $25,000/- per year for which the criterion is academic excellence. Moreover, it is not only pure academics that receive attention. They are scholarships for the creative and performing arts as well, reinforcing the vision of the University that anyone with talent and sincerity will be recognized and supported. Apart from this, there are many federal loan programs as well, and detailed instructions are provided at the University’s website on how to apply for these loans.

Most of the students are so grateful for financial support that many of them after they have passed out, return to their alma mater, a small portion of what they have received. Says Karen Holman, “Initially, I gave just $10 a year. That is all I could afford. However, I was investing in the community I was part of, and I am still a part of it today.”

Not only are students taken care of during their time of study, but utmost care and individual attention is devoted to seeing that the students who pass out are assured internships at established workplaces, and the campus placement authorities proudly state that the percentage of students who complete their internships are fifty-five, while the percentage of students who after completing their MBA receive a job almost immediately are eighty percent. This is proof positive not only of the standard of teaching and pedagogy that is followed in the courses and curriculum but also of the sincerity of the administration and ancillary support services that run alongside academic rigor.

There is also a strong focus on research, both for the students as well as for the faculty. The two libraries that have been instituted, the Mark O. Hatfield Library and the Long Law Library, are stocked with the latest print as well as online material to provide not only an academic atmosphere in which to peruse and study books and journals, but also a tremendous storehouse of academic resources, so that no excuses can be made that no material was found to supplement their forays into research areas.

While no one denies the importance of books, magazines, and journals, to develop a truly holistic and futuristic outlook, the University must have a global outlook and focus. To this end, there are many (summer) study abroad programs and exchange programs for both short term students as well as long term students. For such programs, there is a provision for faculty to accompany the students, or should they wish to go on their own; they can do so as well. There is also a Global Learning Centre and emergency contact information for those in a hurry or those who have inadequate knowledge of such resources.

For the Law students in particular, as an ABA-accredited law school and a law degree, data on the outcome of employment of law graduates are regularly maintained. All these reports from 2012 onwards to the present date can be seen and validated from the University’s website.

There are also Attorney Mentor programs where mentor-mentee files and records are kept, and individual personalized attention is given to the mentees under the care of a particular mentor. There are also professional training methods employed, which have become standard practice today like Moot Courts, Simulation-based courses, and Trial Practice. All programs initiated so that students can not only have well-rounded education but exposure to real-world situations through multiple simulation exercises.

Recreation and Extra-curricular activities

While there are a plethora of courses to choose from and extremely professional training for many of these, life is not all work and no play for these students. Campus recreation offers health and fitness packages to the students; there are gyms to choose from and 14 clubs to choose from. 

There is even an ‘Ultimate Frisbee’ club to choose should someone have the gift of deft wrist flicks! For those with an aquatic flair, there are two pools to plunge into – the Sparks Pool and the Kaneko Pool. There are even unusual water sports like Aqua Zumba for those who love dancing. 

The authorities at Willamette University believe in a policy of equity and inclusion, which is vital if one is to build communities in the future that are sustainable and devoid of prejudice. Intramural sports are organized, which helps destress students giving them a break from their rigorous studies. All the intramural staff and students are from the University itself, with supervisors being hired in the spring semester who will continue through the academic year. 

They also host a Steppin’ Out program where students can leave the campus and explore their lush surroundings as a group as they take off into the wilds on a hike and other adventure sports. 

Naturally, the college ensures that whenever such trips are undertaken that supervisors accompany the students and that adequate safety precautions are taken to preclude the possibility of any unforeseen contingency. Tessa Harvey, a 20-year-old undergrad, comments that “Steppin’ Out changed the way I felt going into college … the hiking and river rafting was amazing!”.

While the University does provide many openings and opportunities for students to enjoy themselves, improve their wellbeing and develop healthy relationships with their batchmates, Willamette University is also committed to programs that promote social equity and sustainability. 

Their program called ‘CAFES’ or Community Action for Equity and Sustainability is a program begun in 2014 and entirely handled by students that provide funding for projects and programs aimed at providing social justice and equity in and around the campus.

Conclusion

With such exciting events happening in and out of the campus, it is understandable that year after year, and many students would be queuing up to seek admission into this premiere institution. To assist the students in becoming familiar with the campus, they are introduced to an orientation program, where they can meet classmates and have many routine queries answered. 

In case their questions have somehow escaped the attention of peers or the faculty, and the university website systematically provides detailed information about what all needs to be done for new entrants. Different manuals exist on the site like a ‘First-year student advising manual’ and a ‘Transfer Students Advising Manual’ so almost all their queries can be suitably answered. Phone and contact numbers are also always made available so that support staff can direct the students in precisely the right direction.

However, even before the students join up, they are encouraged to visit the campus so they can learn about the various options and make all the right choices. The campus area is a substantially large one and cannot be navigated without a map, so clear directions are provided at strategic points inside the campus as to how to make their way from one center to another. 

Those interested can submit a visit form online, and a customized visit will be scheduled for them. Arrangements are there for individuals as well as small groups, and all those who have visited it for the first time come away with a feeling of awe of having seen up-close such a landmark institution.

After reading about the cornucopia of events and activities that the University has for its students, faculty, and administration, is it any surprise that the University’s student strength is growing every year? The fact that the University survived a war and even after being burned down in 1877, rose like the proverbial ‘Phoenix’ out of the ashes, clearly indicates that this is one institution that will have a very long inning. 

Not merely because of academic excellence, not just because of its hand-picked faculty or the students who while coming from diverse backgrounds show incredible versatility and aptitude, but because of its endearing motto which in Latin is spelled out as “Non Nobis solum nati susmus” or in other words – “Not unto ourselves alone are we born”. 

So what are you waiting for anyway? Pick up your bag and baggage and book your ticket by bus, train or plane to Salem so that you also can become part of this endearing legend, and eventually one of esteemed Willamette alumni!

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