Screenshot of Zoom meeting participants
Zooming in on issues. In the fall of 2020, Sociology Professor Michelle Janning’s students connected with Walla Walla organizations to understand the effects of COVID-19 and presented their findings in the virtual classroom.

Whitman Students Continue the Tradition of Serving

Amid a global pandemic, Whitman—which draws students from around the world—felt a particular responsibility to protect not only the campus, but the wider Walla Walla community. That’s a big part of why the college made the difficult decision to shift the fall semester to remote learning.

Yet that didn’t stop the spirit of cooperation between the college and community. From writing letters to pen pals at Washington Odd Fellows Home through the Adopt-A-Grandparent program to recording children’s books in Spanish through the Storytime Project to mentoring elementary students virtually, Whitties continued the tradition of community engagement despite distance learning.

Connecting to the Here and Now

A new sociology course—COVID-19 in Walla Walla 2020: Community, Place and Organizations—even made it into the fall curriculum. Through conversations with community partners, students learned about important local issues such as health, business, faith, housing, food security and more.

“The students got to see Whitman and Walla Walla as a set of interrelated communities, including how they may see themselves engaging in these communities either virtually or in person,” says course professor Michelle Janning.

Professional Partnerships Persist

Internship experiences also needed to adapt in a COVID working world, but the essentials remained the same: Students bring passion and fresh perspectives in exchange for the chance to learn from dedicated professionals. 

In the fall, Whitman’s Community Fellows Program placed students in virtual roles with Walla Walla organizations, including the City of Walla Walla, Pioneer United Methodist Church and Blue Mountain Land Trust. Whitties also interned remotely at places ranging from the Walla Walla County Prosecutor’s Office to the Blue Mountain Humane Society.

“I am truly amazed and have so much gratitude for the relationships with our community partners,” says Mitzy Rodriguez Camiro, assistant director for internship programs in Whitman’s Student Engagement Center. “Their willingness to invite, support and celebrate our student goes beyond what I can say.”