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Rand Biersdorff
Hometown: Eugene, Oregon
Major: Religion
Favorite Professors: Walter ’Walt’ Wyman, Weyerhaeuser professor of biblical literature; Julia Ireland, assistant professor of philosophy
Post-grad plans: Accompanying husband Brian Cutter ’09, who will earn his Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin

Chelsea Bissell
Hometown: Bozeman, Montana
Major: English
Favorite Professors: Theresa DiPasquale, associate professor of English; Elizabeth Vandiver, associate professor of classics; Dana Burgess, professor of classics
Post-grad plans: Traveling to Azerbaijan over the summer to work for an Armenian women’s resource center, teaching and writing for their newsletter. Then traveling to Korea to teach English

Nat Jacob
Hometown: Kalispell, Montana
Major: Politics
Favorite Professors: Jim Hanson, professor of forensics; Jules Boykoff, assistant visiting professor of politics
Post-grad plans: Still deciding

Aakanksha Veenapani
Hometown: Mumbai, India
Major: English and economics
Favorite Professors: Gaurav Majumdar, assistant professor of English; David Glenn, professor of music
Post-grad plans: Returning home to work in India for a year, then plans to attend graduate school for either public policy law or journalism

Throughout four eventful years at Whitman, the class of 2009 has navigated a diverse, memorable, and unique college career. They have formed the relationships, opinions and ideas that will permanently impact their outlook. According to Nat Jacob ’09, it is the “ability to think and reason, rather than just knowing what your career path will be, that’s the most important, and is something that Whitman really gives to you.”

Four Whitman seniors recently reflected on their experiences:

How would you characterize the Whitman experience, and what have you learned from it?

“Whitman has taught me how to be myself a little bit more. It’s such a great school, in part because of its small size. If you want to be involved, you will be involved. I have friends who are so concerned about the environment and the planet, and they know so much about it. My housemates regularly compost, they work in the organic garden, recycle. It’s the things that they integrate into their daily lives that show their passion. Then I have friends who are just brilliant economists. You have all of these academic interests and you have the athletes … there’s just so much here.”
      — Aakanksha Veenapani ’09

“I think you actually have to try hard not to have friends here. It’s kind of thrust on you from the beginning.”
      — Chelsea Bissell ’09

“I think a lot of Whitman students have to learn how to chill out [in balancing academics with relaxation time.] It’s a really good skill.”
      — Rand Biersdorff ’09

“Whitman is a place where you just have to recognize that there are a lot of really bright, accomplished people thrown together, but whatever you want to be a part of at Whitman, you can be. If you make good friends and good connections, it will serve you well.”
      — Nat Jacob ’09

What would be your advice to an incoming first-year student?

“I would recommend that you don’t get stuck in the Whitman bubble, or the mentality that there’s nothing to do outside of Whitman, because Walla Walla is actually a really cool place. There are a lot of things to do that don’t involve just going to the wheat fields. The community is really cool and diverse.”
      — Chelsea Bissell ’09

“Hang out with people that initially annoy you.”
      — Rand Biersdorff ’09

“When I came to Whitman, there was a negative stereotype associated with America because of George Bush, and there was not very high public opinion around the world. But it’s important to not buy into American stereotypes unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I would advise other international students to get involved, because it’s the best way to meet people.”
      — Aakanksha Veenapani ’09

How would you describe the academic culture at Whitman?

“All my good experiences have had things in common, like a professor that really cares about the subject and knows about it. Professor Majumdar in the English department has not only a wide breadth of knowledge but a lot of depth to it too, and I think Professor Alker is in that same pool of professors who are experts in their fields. And not the kind of experts who have to flaunt it, but just in talking to them you can just tell, because their classes have this energy to them.”
      — Aakanksha Veenapani ’09

“I get to have the best homework in the world. I get to read the best literature ever written and that’s my obligation, that’s my academic obligation. So while most people are suffering through articles on politics or the environment or doing economics problems, I get to read Virginia Woolf.”
      — Chelsea Bissell ’09

“I’ve learned so much here. The professors I’ve had have been outstanding with very few exceptions, and I think it’s just a thriving intellectual community. I hope it exists this way for years to come. I think people who leave Whitman with a degree regardless of what their major is or who they are will be pretty much set for life, at least, and I think this is the most important thing about education, just peace of mind.”
      — Nat Jacob ’09

“I think that we’re really blessed with the professors and the community that we have. I think the academics makes it all worth it.”
      — Chelsea Bissell ’09

What’s next for you?

“I think it’s kind of the liberal arts condition to put off the inevitable for as long as possible. I know that I will have success in whatever I do though, and I think that Whitman has prepared me for that.”
      — Nat Jacob ’09

“I’m going to Azerbaijan this summer to work with the Women’s Resource Centre of Armenia. I’m going to be placed in Shushi – a small, recently war-torn village. There’s very infrequent running water, no stores, no shops, no jobs. I’m helping to teach the local women about issues in women’s rights, writing for the organization’s publication, and making a movie about my experience. I’ve always been interested in feminist issues. It’s something that’s important to me and I’m lucky that I get to explore it more in an area where these issues especially matter. I love that I get to write about and document my time there. Writing is something I plan to eventually pursue, so going to Azerbaijan will give me a jump start in that particular venture.”
      — Chelsea Bissell ’09