Getting to know Willamette

September 1, 2011

Dear Willamette faculty and staff,

September 1st marks the 60th day of my presidency, and as we embark on the new academic year, I wanted to welcome everyone back to campus and share a few thoughts.

I have deeply appreciated the warm welcome my wife Rachel and I have received from the Willamette and Salem communities.  Although, due to my life-long association with Willamette, many aspects of the campus community seem familiar to me, looking at the University through the eyes of a president, I know I have much to learn about Willamette's challenges and aspirations.

Getting acquainted with the people and programs of Willamette is high on my list of priorities, and there are a number of ways I hope to accomplish this:  I have a variety of events and activities planned that engage students at CLA, AGSM, GSE and the College of Law and, in addition to the reception that occurred soon after my arrival in July, I have been attending faculty and staff retreats across campus, and I have scheduled orientation sessions at each college, school and administrative unit.

I also will continue to host dinners for small groups of faculty at Bishop House, the residence of the Willamette president, and hope to attend faculty colloquia, department meetings, and faculty-sponsored or initiated lectures, performances and conferences as my schedule permits.  I am continuing the Administrative and Classified Forums, presidential lunch chats, and the annual holiday party.

Also, various public aspects of my calendar and other information about my activities and initiatives will now be posted online, so you can see where I am and what I am up to:

As I mentioned at the CLA faculty retreat, I will be working with the deans and vice presidents to form  'listening groups' -- small groups of students, faculty and staff -- that I hope will further inform my understanding of the campus culture.  These listening groups are simply an additional way for me to get a feel for the campus, its strengths and traditions and potential, as well as its challenges and obstacles. There will be no anticipated follow-up or outcome beyond that.

Basically, the idea is, Willamette talks; I listen, but let me briefly elaborate:

What listening groups are:

  • A means to acquaint and orient me to Willamette’s campus culture;
  • A means for me to engage the university community and start conversations; and
  • A way to identify common themes.

What listening groups are not:

  • They are not anything beyond an initial conversation starter.
  • They are not a basis for making decisions.
  • They are not intended to be a scientific or methodologically sound basis for formal planning.
  • They are not a form of – or substitute for – a comprehensive and inclusive strategic planning process. 

I am happy to have joined such a lively, vibrant community, and I look forward to a wonderful and productive academic year.

See you soon,


President ThorsettPresident Thorsett