Natalie Dean is a 2021 graduate from Eugene, Oregon. She is an English major with a concentration in Writing, and she is an award winner for WOU’s Leadership Recognition Month, where she was recognized for earning a Leadership Certificate.
What has your experience been like as a first-generation student?
I was so nervous to even apply to universities. I knew how much work and time it would take to get my degree, and it felt like I didn’t even know where to start. It took a lot of effort, and trial and error, before I found stable footing as a first-generation student.
What have some of your extracurriculars been? How did those impact your time on campus?
My sophomore year at Western, I founded the writing club for students, Writer’s Crucible. The goal of this group was to provide thoughtful and critical feedback for any genre of writing. We frequently explored personal and creative writing, all ranging in their lengths and subject matter. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had at Western, and I feel very thankful to have met such talented writers, and kind people, along the way.
Do you have any advice for current and prospective students?
Don’t be afraid to ask for support from friends, family, and professors. The most important thing is to be aware of the resources available to you, like the Student Health and Counseling Center, the gym, or the food pantry, campus garden, emergency funding, scholarships, assignment extensions, anything. Keep yourself sane and really nurture yourself while you’re here; nobody has to handle things alone.
What has been the highlight of your time at WOU?
I’d say the highlight of my time at Western would be trying out different clubs, organizations, and opportunities at Western. One of my favorite memories was working as a script writer in the 2019 History and Mystery in Monmouth. It especially stood out to me because my work was read by Monmouth’s Mayor, Cec Koontz, and city councilors Roxanne Beltz and Christopher Lopez; the whole team was such a blast to work with.
Who stands out from your time at WOU and why?
Lars Söderlund is one professor who has really put up with me since the beginning; he’s been so supportive of my writing and has always encouraged me to keep pushing myself to do better. He helped me create the writing group, Writer’s Crucible, and has taught me invaluable lessons, for both writing and for tackling life.
What will you miss the most about WOU?
I’ll miss grabbing a coffee five minutes before class, the [third] floor of the library, the crazy campus squirrels, the smell of the ceramic room, the sitting room in the back of Todd Hall, and going to Gentle House in the spring and summer. I’ll also miss taking Henry Hughes’s writing classes, and the elaborate conversations on nature and fish.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in college?
My junior year, I was able to participate in the Academic Excellence Showcase and read one of my memoir pieces aloud. I was beyond nervous, and I probably read a little too fast, but I felt so proud of myself for sharing and for the way my writing came together.
What do you know now that you wish you knew your first term in college?
That no matter where you go, there you are. Which is both a blessing and a curse sometimes, but it’s true. No matter what, you can’t outrun yourself, so just keep yourself happy and healthy, and the rest will fall into place.
What are your plans for after graduation?
I’ll be working full time for a while, otherwise I’ll be gardening, reading, and celebrating being done with school. I want to have a full time writing job, probably for a newspaper, magazine, or organization as I start in the field. Eventually, I’d like to publish my own memoir and poetry. For now, I’ll keep writing as much as I can, I’ll spend time with my family, and try to take it easy.