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VIDEO: Bill Nye delivered the College of Liberal Arts commencement address. (0:35)


VIDEO: Willamette President M. Lee Pelton speaks at the College of Liberal Arts ceremony. (1:05)

Other Paths

Here are more examples of what Willamette’s College of Liberal Arts 2011 graduates are doing next:

  • Lily Busher is heading to Spain through a national U.S. Student Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.
  • Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz will participate in a Willamette archaeological field school program in Scotland before beginning a master’s degree in geography.
  • Gabi Esser heads to Thailand for an internship exploring GIS surveying and development issues. She eventually plans to earn a master’s in geography and urban planning.
  • Marco Fiallo, a Kemper Scholar, and Dan Meloy will open a hostel in Ecuador that educates tourists and supports the community through mini-grants and micro-credit lending.
  • Lauren Gold will work as reporter at The Outlook newspaper in Gresham, Ore., through the Snowden Journalism Internship Program.
  • Luis Guerra accepted a job with CAUSA, the Oregon’s immigrant rights coalition where he interned last summer.
  • Hannah Harper, a Truman Scholar, heads to Ghana to conduct global health research with Professor Joyce Millen. She will eventually pursue a MD/master of public health or MD/PhD.
  • Tucker Mottl earned a Fulbright Grant that will take him to Spain to conduct research and master’s work at the University of Cádiz.
  • Charlotte Osborne, a Goldwater Scholar, will enter the chemistry PhD program at University of California, Irvine.
  • Christopher Propst will head to South Korea through a U.S. Student Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship.
  • Kaeley Pruitt-Hamm accepted a job with the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Seattle, an interfaith organization that promotes nonviolent conflict resolution.
  • Phil Taylor, who earned the national BMI Student Composer Award, will enter the music composing PhD program at University of Chicago.

Current News

Willamette University celebrates Class of 2011 at commencement

The key to the future of our planet is to find ways to do more with less, Bill Nye the Science Guy told Willamette University’s College of Liberal Arts graduates during his 2011 commencement address.

With his trademark sense of humor and a Willamette bowtie around his neck, Nye detailed the environmental problems the graduates will face — including a world population racing toward 12 billion and a planet showing the effects of climate change.

“You and your contemporaries are going to have to come up with new ways for many, many people to live,” Nye said. “And I think you can.”

The graduates, many of whom grew up watching Nye on his famous children’s science television show, interrupted the speech multiple times with applause and with laughter as Nye offered some of his other advice, including: “Wear sensible shoes, especially if you work in a thumbtack factory.”

Commencement, on May 15, was celebratory in multiple ways, not the least of which was the awarding of 420 bachelor’s degrees to the Class of 2011. The graduates hail from 23 states, 60% are female and 18.5% are multicultural. The top five majors are economics, politics, Spanish, psychology and history, and 60 students have double majors.

Other important festivities were the awarding of three honorary degrees, including an honorary doctor of science to Willamette alumnus Dale Mortensen ’61, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Economics; and the transition of the Willamette presidency from M. Lee Pelton to Stephen Thorsett, who was announced the university’s new president on Saturday.

Pelton, who delivered his final commencement speech of his 13 years at Willamette, was upbeat — jokingly donning his trademark sunglasses — but also sentimental about leaving the university along with the graduates.

“I thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president,” he said. “I love you. I will miss you. So now let us, you and I, walk in the light of a new day.”

New Opportunities for the Graduates

That new day will begin in a wide variety of ways for the graduates, who are heading off to everything from internships abroad to service programs to graduate schools.

Biology and pre-med major Tyler Runyon ’11 is going to Providence Medical Center in Portland to work in the emergency room — building on his student experiences directing the Willamette Emergency Medical Services (WEMS) program. His eventual goal is to head to medical school and become an ER doctor.

“My experiences with WEMS and my close interactions with faculty, students and staff at Willamette helped me develop and use skills that led to such a great job,” he says. “The sense of community that is fostered on our relatively small campus has been so much better than any other campus environment I’ve experienced.”

Graduate school is also in the future for music composition major Brent Hengeveld ’11, who is heading to the University of Southern California in the fall for the Scoring for Motion Pictures and Television professional program.

At Willamette, he studied music and computer animation and worked with two other students to create an internet browser-based game. He hopes these experiences and the graduate program will help him work as a soundtrack composer in either the video game or film industry.

“The passion for personal refinement at Willamette is palpable,” he says. “I would not have had nearly the same returns from my experiences here were it not for the many enablers among the students, faculty and staff.”

Economics major Geneva Hooten ’11 will continue working for the Oregon Department of Transportation, a job she began as a student, where she’ll be studying public transit services and proposing new services in the state.

Hooten developed her interest in transportation through several internships during her time at Willamette, including one last summer with the Columbia River Crossing project through C-TRAN, a public transportation agency in southwest Washington.

“I will always value the relationships I’ve made with students, faculty and staff at Willamette,” she says. “While here, I have made amazing friends and learned from brilliant people, for which I am truly grateful.”

College of Law

The College of Law awarded 131 Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Laws (LLM) degrees. The commencement speaker was Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr., who serves on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Aaron Jeffers JD’11 was one of the graduates who benefited from the Willamette University Public Interest Law Project (WUPILP), which paid for him to have a summer fellowship at the Public Defender of Marion County office. He continued working there through the law school’s externship program and later as a law clerk — experience he hopes to build on to become a criminal defense attorney.

“I have built strong relationships with my classmates, co-workers, professors and administrators at Willamette,” Jeffers says. “WUPILP and Moot Court also hold special places in my heart. The people I met here made law school a great experience for me.”

Atkinson Graduate School of Management

Atkinson Graduate School of Management awarded 104 Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees to early career and career change students. The commencement speaker was Chris Anderson, publisher of The Oregonian newspaper. Atkinson also awarded 53 MBA degrees during the year to graduates of the evening MBA for Professionals program.

Jenessa Meng MBA’11, one of the early-career graduates, is heading off to a position in the Human Resources Leadership Development Program at Raytheon, a major defense and aerospace systems company. She earned the position, which will have her traveling in rotational positions for two years as she works her way up to becoming an HR strategic business partner, after a successful internship with the company.

“During my undergraduate experience I didn’t have near the opportunity to network like I did at Atkinson,” Meng says. “Discovering how to network and leverage relationships when planning my career goals was a huge learning point for me. I also value the small community feel at Atkinson. I have made lifelong friendships and connections who I will keep in touch with for the rest of my life.”

Graduate School of Education

The Graduate School of Education will award 89 Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) and Master of Education (MEd) degrees in June. The commencement speaker on Sunday was Kris Gutierrez, a University of Colorado, Boulder professor who is a national leader in education with an emphasis in literacy and learning.

Graduate Justine Hynes MAT’11 plans to go on to teach in an elementary school. She says her classroom experiences in the MAT program — including student teaching assignments in two classes and a job teaching reading and writing at a local enrichment academy — “opened doors of opportunity that I never anticipated.”

“I am eager to start using my knowledge of child development and the teaching strategies and skills I learned here to encourage and motivate students to learn,” she says. “The values, attitudes and cooperative spirit of the faculty, staff and my peers created an environment that fostered lasting relationships. I anticipate always being a part of the Willamette graduate community — a network of knowledgeable, professional and compassionate educators.”