Haley Wildhirt

Haley, in a denim jacket, leaning back on a wooden outdoor chair while looking toward the camera.



Degree and Class Year

BA ’22


Longmont, Colorado


Theatre, performance concentration


Voces Auream, voice lessons, theatre, orchestra

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

Collaborative, Community Minded, Verdant

Life After L&C

October 2023 Update

What have you been doing since graduation?

Pretty immediately after graduation, I moved into a duplex with a fellow LC alum and started grad school. Since June of 2022, I’ve been taking education classes and student teaching in a 5th grade classroom. It has been the most difficult year of my life––the classwork is difficult and teaching can be really overwhelming at times––but it has also been so rewarding! I’m doing the job that I’ve been dreaming about doing since I was a little kid, and that’s an incredibly cool thing to experience.

Last fall, I also got my first professional theatre job working as the intimacy director for an entirely student produced production of Hamlet. The vision for the show was queer and punk, and highlighted the ways in which queerness and intimacy are hidden and performed. In spring, I was again hired as an intimacy director, this time for Fun Home, which was performed in the most recent theatre thesis festival. It was surreal to work on a musical that I’ve been idolizing since high school, and specifically on a piece that has contributed so much to my own identity as a lesbian.

In my personal life, I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive girlfriend, an assortment of amazing friends who have stuck with me since my time at LC, a super cool roommate, and the most lovely dog, Luna. I’m in the process of looking for my first real job as a teacher (oh my god) and waiting for whatever intimacy direction job falls in my lap next.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your job?

With teaching, I was fortunate to take both Education in a Complex Society (ED 205) and Reimagining Teaching and Learning (ED 446) in my first two years at LC. The former I took as a freshman, and it solidified my plans to pursue teaching post graduation. The class gave me a comprehensive overview of the role of education in the U.S. throughout history, and also highlighted the strengths and flaws in our system. It was inspiring as far as making me want to do something about the problems I was witnessing, and also very upfront and truthful about the difficulties teachers and students face. The latter class I took as a sophomore, and it delved deeper into the systemic inequities in our education system, as well as the resistance efforts students and teachers have participated in. Going into grad school, I felt more than prepared to face the reality of our education system, and now as a teacher currently interning in a Title I school, I’m not deluded by notions of saviorism, nor do I see education through rose-colored glasses. I know what I can do for my own students, and I also know how I can advocate for change, largely thanks to the classes I had as an undergrad.

As far as my work as an intimacy director, this was also a direct result from my work at LC. My senior thesis explored intimacy direction in multiple ways: I performed a role that had intimate scenes in a main stage production (which was facilitated by a professional intimacy director), I directed and intimacy directed a student-written play called It’s All About Pumpkin, and I wrote a thesis paper that argued intimacy direction is not only necessary for performers’ safety, it actively aids performers in creating stronger art. Through being vocal about my work and my interest in this field, I not only got the theatre department to hire intimacy directors for all productions that have intimacy going forward, I also demonstrated my skills in intimacy direction, which led to the jobs in Hamlet and Fun Home that I booked post graduation. Because LC’s theatre department is so communal and collaborative, the work that you do as an undergrad can definitely lead to jobs after graduating. I am certainly not the only graduate to book theatre jobs because of the skills I demonstrated at LC, and I’m grateful to my peers and professors for providing a platform for me to talk about and engage in this important work.

Why did you major in theatre?

I was not originally planning to be a theatre major, but after performing in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd as a freshman, I was sold on it. The theatre community at LC is in many ways the polar opposite to the horror stories you hear coming from BFA programs, and for me, was definitely the opposite of the competitive toxicity I experienced as a high schooler in theatre. Everyone is so supportive of each other’s projects and successes. Feedback comes from a place of care and not of jealousy. In addition to the community I experienced, I was lucky to get to try so many different types of theatre. Even in more traditionally scripted plays, we were infusing devised art pieces that we had created as a cast. I got to belt my heart out in musicals, fall in love with the way Shakespeare monologues felt in my mouth, direct shows that I’d been an instrumental part of creating, and I got to do it all with people who I genuinely cared about, and who genuinely cared about me. While theatre is not my only love, and I’m currently investing most of my energy into teaching, I am using the skills I gained from this major every single day.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

I learned how to take up space. I came to LC as a scared, self-conscious, barely eighteen-year-old who wanted to shrink themselves down into whatever was most palatable to the general public. I’m not saying that LC cured me of all feelings of inadequacy, but especially because of my major and because of my position as an RA, I learned how to be comfortable in the space I took up physically, and to actively take up space with my voice and opinions. There were many moments when professors and peers did and said things to prove to me that what I had to say was valuable. Because I felt like I had a community at LC, I also felt like I could speak up when I saw something that needed to be changed, and that even if the authority figures weren’t the most willing to listen, that I would be supported by the people around me who saw the same issues occurring. I was taught through these experiences that my voice had value and that holding people’s attention was a good thing. Being a big presence, physically or vocally, is not something to be ashamed of.

How do you stay connected to Lewis & Clark as an alum?

Because I’m still a grad student at the college and because many of my friends still attend, it’s not difficult to stay connected. I’m frequently on campus for my own classes, as well as rehearsals for the projects I’m intimacy directing, and I also regularly see the shows that the theatre produces. I think that even once I’m no longer a student of any kind, LC will still feel like a place that is welcoming whenever I choose to visit.

Life At L&C

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

Voice and Movement with Associate Professor of Theatre Rebecca Lingafelter! This theatre class taught me so much about my body and voice, and really helped me create a foundation for my art. It also taught me to love and appreciate myself and my abilities. I learned that it was okay to take up space in the world.

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

My mentor is Sue McBerry, my voice instructor. I always tell people she’s my favorite person. She has helped me grow my singing voice a LOT (as you would expect from a good voice teacher), but she’s also always there to talk about whatever. She’s given me advice about all facets of life and constantly makes me laugh. I know I could go to her with any issue and she would be there to support me.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

My mom’s coworker is an alumna and told me she thought I would love the college. Early into my senior year of high school, I came to visit with my dad. I was initially captivated by the gorgeous scenery, and only grew more in love as our tour guide talked about the small class sizes, the warm community, and the variety of programs L&C offers. When the tour was over, my dad and I were eating burgers in the Trail Room and he said, “I can really see you here. This feels like your home.” I agreed wholeheartedly, and have felt at home since the moment I arrived.

How do you describe the liberal arts?

The liberal arts allow you to do everything, which is great for people who have a lot of interests (like me). I have been able to pursue theatre, world languages, music, biology, and every other passion I have. Classes seem to have a dialogue with one another, supporting and building off of each other, and you truly get a well-rounded worldview because of it.

Where do you find community on campus?

I have found community in two main places: the theatre and Campus Living. Theatre attracts a wide variety of people, both majors and nonmajors, and the community fostered in the classes and productions is like no other I have encountered. Everyone is supportive of each other’s projects and successes.

I’ve also found community through my position as a resident advisor (RA) with Campus Living. I’ve been an RA since my sophomore year, and I’ve found some of my closest friends and a huge sense of community overall. I’ve gotten to interact with people from all different majors and backgrounds, people that I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I also get to help build communities within the residence halls, and that is a wonderful and rewarding experience.

Which residence halls have you lived in? How would you describe the hall’s personality? What is/was the best thing about living on campus?

I have lived in Copeland, Platt-Howard, and Holmes. Copeland is one of the most rambunctious communities on campus and houses mostly first-year students. If you’re someone who is really outgoing and likes to meet a variety of people, Copeland is ideal. Howard is part of the Platt-Howard complex and probably my favorite dorm. It’s a quieter, generally artistic and creative community, and also houses mostly first- and second-year students. Holmes is for sophomores and up, and is often referred to as “Hotel Holmes.” It’s very new and feels the most modern out of the dorms. The best thing about living on campus is the close proximity to everything you need … the dining hall, classes, professors, the health office, all the resources in Templeton, etc. It’s also nice to be able to live within walking distance of your friends. I may be biased as an RA, but I think Campus Living does a great job of creating halls that feel like communities. That’s why I keep coming back.

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 was originally going to study abroad in Spain, but that didn’t happen because of COVID-19. I chose Spain because I wanted to fully immerse myself in the Spanish language and become totally fluent. Hopefully I’ll get to travel after graduation.

Did you choose to do all-remote learning or hybrid learning this academic year? How did you make your choice?

I chose to do hybrid learning, largely because I had confidence that my peers were as concerned about the pandemic as I was. Our low positivity numbers have affirmed this. I was also anxious to get back to living on my own in one of my favorite places, even if that meant having to sacrifice some freedoms I would have back home.

What are the main challenges you’ve faced as a student during the pandemic?

I did not realize how incredibly lonely it would be living on my own. As a resident advisor, I’m compensated with a single room and meal plan. Usually, the single room is a blessing; I get to have my very own place to come back to after a full day of interacting with classmates and professors. During the pandemic, social interactions are obviously not as frequent, and my single room can be depressing at times. This is exacerbated by the fact that most of my friends are living off campus, meaning I can only see them occasionally in a distanced manner.

What unexpected bright spots have you encountered?

The immense compassion of my professors has been a bright spot for me. They are so understanding and so willing to support us during all of this. There have been moments this academic year where I have felt very alone, and a professor’s compassion and awareness of my mood has helped me get through it.

What, if any, changes in the classroom or on campus would you like to see continued post-COVID?

I would love it if professors would continue to record their lectures and post them online for students! It makes the material more accessible, and also allows students to not force themselves to go to class when they’re sick or having a rough mental health day. It’s also great when reviewing for finals.

Did you visit campus before deciding to come to L&C? How did your visit influence your decision to attend?

I did visit L&C before committing to the school, and it definitely influenced me in a positive way. It was so apparent to me that the community was at the core of the school. The tour guide seemed to recognize almost everyone on campus, the students around us were helpful and kind, and every single interaction I had with someone was welcoming. Compared to other colleges that I visited, L&C stood out in that way. It felt like a family.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Visit! Also watch videos on the L&C YouTube channel. I watched those while making my decision, and I really think they capture the essence of our school. Know that adjusting to college life will be difficult. Even if people around you seem like they’ve found their big group of friends and their major and know exactly what they’re doing with their lives, they probably haven’t. Everyone is insecure and lost. Be okay with that feeling, and expect for your first semester (or even your first year) to feel a little wobbly and confusing and lonely. You WILL find your people and your passion. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, and enjoy whatever you end up experiencing as much as possible. Finally, breathe. You will end up in the right place! I know that college applications are difficult and stressful and scary, but it is all completely worth it.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

I love sitting on the reflecting pool lawn on a sunny spring day. There are so many flowers, everything smells wonderful, and you can feel everyone’s stress about finals and school melt away.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?

I love how close I am to a variety of environments. If I want to be in the bustle of the city, it’s a 15-minute bus ride downtown to Pioneer Square. If I want to be in nature, I can hike around on campus, or drive an hour to Mount Hood, or drive 90 minutes to the coast. Also, the food trucks are really fun to explore.

How did you decide on a major?

I was debating between theatre, biology, and English when I applied to L&C. I took a little bit of everything my first year and fell in love with the theatre department. I declared in my sophomore year. I ended up choosing the theatre department because of the professors and the community overall. The theatre major also teaches skills that are applicable to a variety of fields, which I really like.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced at Lewis & Clark?

Leaving campus unexpectedly last year due to COVID-19 was probably the most difficult part of my experience here. I had finally found close, supportive friends, figured out my major, and was happier than I ever had been. To have that ripped away was very difficult. After the school emailed students strongly advising that we leave, my friends and I met up and just sobbed. I packed up my entire room in a single night. My dad flew out the next day, and we drove the 1,200 miles home. Even though coming back to campus this fall was hard, I don’t think it even remotely compared to the pain and panic I felt last spring.

What’s your best Lewis & Clark memory so far?

My favorite memory at L&C is definitely the resident advisor staff trip we took in fall 2019. We rented a dome-shaped cabin on Mount Hood and spent a weekend bonding. We took a hike and found edible plants to turn into tea, played a million rounds of Code Names, cooked an absurd number of burritos, and wrote each other appreciative notes. It was the moment I really realized that these people weren’t just coworkers, they were my closest friends. I felt safe and loved and happy.

How do you manage stress?

I don’t! Kidding (kind of). I try to manage stress by creating lots of art, journaling, attempting to do yoga, singing my favorite songs, and communicating with my professors and supervisors when I need support. Sometimes this stuff really helps! Other times college is just overwhelming and you cry. And that’s okay.

How has Lewis & Clark changed you?

I definitely know myself more as a human now. Living on my own in a safe and supportive environment has been great for exploring my self expression and all my interests. I’m also a lot more confident and better at advocating for myself, which I think comes largely from my job as a resident advisor, and also because I’ve gotten generally positive responses when I have spoken up about my thoughts and needs. I’m also a lot more aware of the world around me. I’ve learned about things I didn’t even know existed before coming to L&C, and I feel like a more empathetic and intelligent person because of it. I know what I want to do with my life now too (become an elementary teacher), which is great!