How has Whitworth Changed Your Life

by Stephie Saracco, '15

Ten years from now, what will you remember most about Whitworth? Will it be watching your Core 250 professor dressing up like Aristotle? Will it be catching a falling pine cone? How about breaking one too many dishes in Sodexo? You would have to wait until your reunion to share moments like these, because no one else could understand their significance.

Sure, most schools have experiences that makes their school unique. But Whitworth seems to have its own exclusive culture that has an impact on each student. Pride comes to students through building relationships with their professors, becoming involved in campus life, and engaging in service to their communities. This culture soon becomes a part of who the students are, and long after they graduate, the essence of Whitworth's service and passion can be found in many of the alums' lives. Past students have gone on to serve in ways that they never would have imagined had it not been for their choice in schools. Whitworth's impact goes beyond Community Building Day or having coffee with a professor. It becomes a part of students' identity and influences their lives beyond graduation.

Elizabeth (Milliron '02) Case fell in love with the way that professors would cater to what the students needed. Case received her B.A. in speech communication and took many of the classes offered by Communications Professor Mike Ingram. She would even go around telling peers and teachers that she majored in "Mike."

The day after George W. Bush was elected to office, Case attended one of Ingram's classes. She posed a question about the 2000 presidential election as to why the popular vote went one way, yet the Electoral College went another. Instead of following the agenda for the day, Ingram spent the entire class teaching the students the power behind the Electoral College and its impact on elections. She says this was a typical example of real-life application that she learned from her professors. Moments like these showed her how much her Whitworth professors cared about her as more than a student, but as an individual. Even after she graduated, she called Ingram after the next presidential election to discuss, once again, the Electoral College.

The relationships that she built with faculty at Whitworth have influenced how she engages with others in her everyday life. Case has used her skills as a speech communication major in order to be self-employed as a marketer. Case even met and married someone at Whitworth, who now is a member of the Whitworth Board of Trustees, Jeremiah Case, '01. Through the relationships she developed at Whitworth, she and her husband were able to stay connected as alumni and eventually were selected to serve on the Whitworth Business Advisory Board.

Teachers are one of the largest contributors to a student's positive experience at Whitworth. Whitworth alum Jillian (Watts, ‘07) Ellingson shares another example.

Ellingson recalls moments from her time at Whitworth that have followed her in to her teaching career. One of them involved Professor Margo Long, who founded the Center for Gifted Education and Professional Development at Whitworth University nearly 40 years ago. She has inspired countless students, like Ellingson, along the way. Once when Ellingson walked in to Long's class she was stunned by the tiara and pink glitter all over Long. No, it wasn't Halloween. It was just Margo, Ellingson recalls.

Ellingson remembers that her teachers' energy and passion got everyone in the classroom smiling and engaged in the lesson. She learned that students remember the information of the class not by the facts, but by their professors' efforts to engage students and make learning fun. Instead of following a humdrum curriculum through countless lectures, Long inspired the people who would soon inspire many other as a teacher.

Ellingson recalls, "It's easy to get caught up in work and to think that it needs to be business all the time. But it's good to remember that students are just kids, and school can be fun!" It is these memories and lessons that Ellingson learned at Whitworth that followed her to her job today. She says she tries to emulate the joy and unique teaching methods that she experienced at Whitworth with her students at Spokane's Northwood Middle School.

Ilse Braun, '00, also works with kids, but in an entirely different way. Braun is a social worker at Seattle Children's Hospital, where she interacts with families who are facing unimaginable challenges.

After debating about becoming a teacher, a psychologist, or a pediatric nurse, Braun finally found her passion after taking a sociology class. Once she graduated from Whitworth, Braun attended the University of Michigan in order to earn her master's degree in social work. Braun says that the foundation of faith and service that was built at Whitworth followed her to her time in Michigan. She recalls that "Whitworth encouraged students to think outside the box, and to be able to have discussions around different points of view, while still being fully grounded in the mission to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity." With this unique foundation, Braun says that she was able to represent Christianity in a positive way during her time at the University of Michigan to other students, professors and colleagues.

She emphasized the importance of community that she experienced while she was at Whitworth and how this in turn has led her to give back to the community. She added that the experiences of service and engaging with others are reflected in her everyday work at Seattle's Children Hospital and with her volunteering at churches and mobile medical units. Braun says that "Memories from Whitworth are too numerous to pick just one favorite. Whitworth's culture is more than catching pine cones. It entails being moved to live one's life in accordance with faith, service, and individuality."

There's much that George Whitworth wouldn't recognize about the school he founded a century and a quarter ago. But seeing the contributions of graduates like Case, Ellingson and Braun, among thousands of other alumni, he probably wouldn't be that surprised.