Grace Ralston

Grace Ralston BA '21



Degree and Class Year

BA ’21


Spokane, Washington




Assistant Trip Leader for College Outdoors, Resident Advisor in Hartzfeld Hall

Overseas study

New York (fall 2018), Australia (spring 2019)

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Environmentally Conscious, Knowledgeable, Creative

What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?

Principles of Economics with Professor Aine McCarthy. Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one class, but I have to say that Principles of Economics made a huge impact on me and it even convinced me to change my major! Although this class was an intro course, it pushed me to work hard and understand new content I was not familiar with. I took this class originally to fulfill a requirement for a different major, but after taking this class I fell in love with econ. Before this class, I did not know what econ was. I didn’t even know where I would start if someone were to ask me about the economy. After this class, I learned how much I enjoyed a mix of the social sciences and quantitative reasoning skills. I fell in love with learning how to explain human behavior through the use of graphical models that explained so many of the things I had either wondered about my whole life, or I had never thought about before. Professor McCarthy was so outgoing and enthusiastic in teaching this class that it was hard to not enjoy the material. She is really passionate about the subject and it is obvious she wants her students to develop a passion or understanding of economics. In addition, she was very supportive, yet pushed me to be the best student I could be. She even convinced me to be an econ major, something I never thought I was smart enough to do!

Who is your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?

I have a few mentors on campus. I really look up to my area director, who is in charge of my RA staff team. She is a good leader who I can always go to when I have questions or am struggling in any way at school. In addition, I look up to my photography professor and my economics advisor as they help me in their respective fields to push myself and strengthen new skills, while still listening to my needs as a student. In addition, they help me think about future plans and ideas that would be good for my goals.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

I wanted to come to Lewis & Clark because I really wanted to be in a bigger city, but still be able to access the outdoors easily, and I loved Portland! In addition, I had heard great things about international affairs and biology, which were two majors I was thinking of pursuing. The two things that really sealed the deal for me on deciding to come to Lewis & Clark were the beautiful campus I was greeted with when I came to visit for admitted students day (It was sunny and you could see Hood perfectly!) and the types of exciting trips I saw on the College Outdoors pin board outside their office.

If you have studied or will study overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience so far?

I got to go on two off-campus programs, one to New York City and one to Australia. The New York City one is focused on arts and theatre. The great thing about the New York program is that you get to do an internship for school credit with any organization or artist of your choice. I felt this would be a great way to see if I would want to work in the art world and what that would look like after graduation. In addition, it has always been one of my dreams to live in New York City, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to see if I would want to live there in the future. It was one of the most incredible experiences I have had at Lewis & Clark thus far. The program introduced me to various new career options, taught me more about art than I would have ever been able to learn in a classroom setting, and allowed me to learn more about theatre and architecture, two subjects I would not have learned about had I not gone on this trip. We had weekly field trips to museums, artist studios, and artist talks all over the city in our Art of New York class. In Architecture, we would spend Thursday afternoons exploring all five boroughs and the vast array of architectural styles New York has to offer. For Theatre we would spend one to three evenings a week attending on- and off-broadway performances and then discussing them in class the following day. In addition to all these amazing things, I even got to work at Magnum Photos, a documentary photography agency in Midtown, which was one of my dreams. The New York program allows students to try out things they are passionate about and develop connections and skills that are so important for life outside of school. After the New York program, I had a very good group of friends I would not have otherwise met, new life skills, a passion for exploring a career in art in the future, and a new sense of independence.

The next semester I participated in the Australia Regional Studies program. I chose this program because I wanted to have an overseas experience that allowed me to travel the world and would benefit me academically. This trip was optimal because I got to skip the rainy Portland winter and snorkel and learn about the biology and culture of Australia. A bonus was the biology general education requirement I got from going on this trip. I learned so much about the Indigenous culture, the biology of plants and animals on both land and ocean, in addition to current affairs. This program provided a nice balance of classroom and experiential learning where we were taught by a variety of lecturers from various universities. I was provided with a great mix of staying with a host family, camping, and exploring various Australian cities. I even got to hold a koala!

Overall, my study abroad experiences were some that will stick with me forever. I have made so many new friends with various interests that I would not have met otherwise at Lewis & Clark. I got to take classes in subjects I never thought I would be so interested in and explore my own independence. I would highly recommend going on one (or more!) of the amazing overseas and off-campus programs offered, as they truly enhanced my time at LC.

How did you get involved with College Outdoors and Campus Living? What has your involvement with these offices added to your L&C experience?

I first got involved in College Outdoors by going on a new student trip the summer before my freshman year. This trip was an amazing way to get to meet a lot of new people I would see around campus and helped me make a lot of good friends. After this trip, I realized I wanted to learn more about being involved in college outdoors because of the good experience I had on my new student trip. I began to get involved by going to the open houses CO hosts every week and meeting a lot of leaders. Through this, I applied to be a student coordinator and started leading trips. Now I lead most of the cross-country ski trips that CO offers!

I got involved as an RA because I was inspired by my RA and a couple of other upperclassmen I had met on campus who were RAs. I decided to apply to be an RA because I felt I needed another thing to be involved in on campus and I wanted to meet more people. When I got the job I was very excited but really didn’t know what to expect. I have fallen in love with the job and the amount I get to be involved on campus and be a part of people’s lives. I love that being an RA has given me a creative outlet through designing posters and being available for students when they need help or need suggestions on resources they could use. Being an RA has been a lot of fun and has been a good way to get involved in the community on campus.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus is the gazebos by the reflecting pool. I have found myself here every spring and fall as it is an amazing place to people watch and enjoy the sun and the gardens from a bird’s eye view. An added perk is that when it’s super sunny, Mount Hood will peep out from behind the flag pole.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?

I love that I am able to live in a city, but also in a neighborhood and forest all at the same time. Portland is a city but has close proximity to Mount Hood, the beach, and the Cascades. I find that sometimes it’s hard when you get wrapped up in schoolwork to remember all the cool things you have at your fingertips, but it’s amazing to be able to be in a city in 15 minutes or on a mountain in 45.

How did you decide on a major?

I decided to be an economics major after I took a class with Professor McCarthy in the and I found out how fascinating economics was. Before that class, I had no idea what economics was, but I soon realized that I liked being able to quantifiably show a connection between human interaction. I decided to become an art minor as I fell in love with the medium of film photography and the way a photographer can portray a moment in so many ways. In addition, I fell in love with learning the historical backgrounds of art pieces I had grown up looking at. Now I am able to put the content into context and transport myself to the time when the art was made.

How do you manage stress?

I manage stress by making lists, going on runs, and getting off campus. I find that the best way for me to relieve stress is to make a plan, get moving, and remind myself of things outside of campus that may be stressing me out, such as school work. I have been able to discover lots of Portland this way.

Where do you find community on campus?

I have found community within my new student trip friends, my College Outdoors experience, and through my RA staff. In addition, I have been able to create a community of friends with people I have met in my classes who are in the same majors as me and have the same interests. Being involved on campus has really given me the opportunity to create community in every way possible so that I am able to have lots of different types of friends.