What is it Like to Attend Whitman College?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jeremy is a Houston tutor and 2011 graduate of Whitman College where he studied Biology. He specializes in many subjects such as Anatomy tutoring, Government tutoring, and SAT prep tutoring. See what he had to say about his alma mater:


VT:  Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Jeremy: The campus is small and impeccably maintained, with beautiful gardens, handsome buildings (late 1800’s-present), and a liberal sprinkling of pleasant art installations. On campus, one can get by with or without a bike. Cars are nice to have for weekend escapades and big shopping trips, but certainly not a necessity. If you don’t have one, a friend will. If you do, you’ll have no trouble finding parking, and no trouble paying for it, seeing as it’s free. 

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Jeremy: Professors and academic advisors are extremely available. So available, in fact, that there is no such thing as a teaching assistant at Whitman. There is no need; professors are easy to find and happy to help. This accessibility is a component of a campus culture where students are, in some respects, treated much like PhD students at universities. Professors often go by first names, and will personally mentor students. Visiting a professor’s house or working side by side with a professor on research, is commonplace.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students? 

Jeremy: Dorm life is excellent. Rooms are mostly very comfortable, there are plenty of scheduled social activities, and RA’s are generally very good. Food services at Whitman are superb. You will feel spoiled. 

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Jeremy: Whitman has an excellent Biology Department, and Biology is often the most popular major. Other areas of strength include Chemistry, Biochemistry, English, and Drama. Personally, I went with Biology because it appealed to me, and because there was abundant overlap between the Biology major requirements and pre-med requirements. Overall, I have nothing but praise for the Biology Department. The faculty was universally excellent, and I got to do all sorts of awesome things that I imagine students at larger schools never get to do, simply as a consequence of logistical issues. For instance, because my Pathophysiology class was small, the professor, who was good friends with the county medical examiner, was able to take me and seven other students to an autopsy. It was macabre, but also so fascinating and cool.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Jeremy: Campus programing is carefully constructed to facilitate the development of friendships, and it shows. I had friends within a day of arriving on campus. Add to this a fantastic Greek life that features prominently on campus and recruits aggressively, and you’ll feel socially connected in no time.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Jeremy: The Career Center is something of a weak link. It is decent, but by no means an area where the school excels. There are job fairs, but the small size and remote location of the school means the recruiters tend to be somewhat local. Other student support services are superb. Need to talk to someone? The counseling center will set you up with a therapist for several months free of charge. Feeling sick? Student Health is staffed 24/7 by at least one nurse, and a doctor visits every weekday morning. These services are also free, save for prescription drugs. 

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious? 

Jeremy: Campus facilities are spacious, modern, and, often quite aesthetically pleasing. Many of the newer buildings on campus are designed according to a Northwestern Modern aesthetic (lots of glass, exposed wood, etc.). The library is well-stocked with books, couches, a café, and modern computers, and is open 24/7, 7 days a week, anytime school is in session, and many times when it’s not. My only complaint would be that some of the dorm lounges can seem a little… dorm lounge-ish. 

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Jeremy: Whitman College is located in Walla Walla, Washington. Picture verdant temperate rainforests, a Northwestern coastline, and sleepy weekend afternoons spent in the café reading a book while the rain patters on the roof. Now expel these images from your mind, because, for better or worse, Walla Walla is not part of the coastal Northwest, nor does it feel like the coastal Northwest. Rather, the town is situated near the Southeastern corner of Washington State, and, in terms of landscape, climate, and culture, it has much more in common with parts of Idaho than it does with Western Washington. The Cascade Range creates a rain shadow that keeps the area fairly arid, and the landscape features rolling grass covered hills and pine forests. Walla Walla’s inland location contributes to cold winters and hot summers. With regards to recreation, outdoorsy types will find no shortage of things to do. But don’t expect much else. Walla Walla plays host to a burgeoning wine industry, and some genuinely good restaurants and art galleries exist to cater to the wine tourists who show up during the summer. Otherwise, one could be forgiven for imagining that the Cascade Range not only creates a rain shadow, but a culture shadow as well. Downtown is dead by 6pm on Fridays, and culturally speaking, little goes on in the town most of the year (outside of what happens on campus). Though the Whitman campus is gorgeous, the surrounding area is relatively impoverished, and crime is definitely a concern. Overall, without the rich campus life Whitman offers, Walla Walla would feel very isolated. Indeed, it is very isolated; it is not random that the state elected to put the maximum security prison on the outskirts of the town.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Jeremy: The school has approximately 1,600 students. Personally, I enjoyed the small size. It’s rather nice to constantly run into people you know. The typical class size ranges from 50 for a popular introductory course to as few as 10 for upper level major courses. I think Whitman’s consistently small class size is one of its strengths. Small class size facilitates discussion and collaboration, and affords a level of access to professors that students in larger schools would marvel at. One of my classes had one of our three weekly meetings on Thursday evenings at my professor’s house!

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most. 

Jeremy: I had numerous incredible experiences in my classes. One of the best was my experience in Organic Chemistry. It began with sincere disappointment. One of the professors who had been teaching the class for several decades had just retired. Ordinarily, this would not have fazed me, but this professor, L. G. “Skip” Wade Jr., was particularly exceptional. In addition to being the author of a widely used and extremely well-reviewed organic chemistry textbook (search “Skip Wade Chemistry” on Google), Professor Wade was regarded by students as a tremendously gifted educator. The fact that I had just missed the opportunity to have him teach me organic chemistry was more than a little irksome. Fortunately for me, it turned out that Professor Wade was as competent at hiring a replacement as he was at teaching. His successor, Professor Marion Götz (indeed, she’s German), was my favorite professor out of all the many fantastic professors that I had while at Whitman. An eminently gifted educator, Professor Götz was a smart, engaging, funny, and dedicated teacher. She provided weekly tutorials (supplemental practice sessions) two evenings a week, completely of her own volition. These sessions were attended by nearly every student in the class, both because they were fantastically helpful, and because Professor Götz would frequently show up with home baked goodies. She expected a lot of her students, and her tests occasionally featured strikingly difficult questions, but more so than any other professor I had, she reciprocated for the commitment to learning she demanded of her students with an equally strong commitment to teaching them.

Check out Jeremy’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.