Will Toppin

Will Toppin BA '23



Degree and Class Year

BA ’23


Conifer, Colorado


Political Science


Pioneer Log editor, Writing Center tutor, Student Advisory Committee member for the Vice President of Student Life

Overseas study

Mérida, Mexico

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

Quirky, Accepting, Outdoorsy

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

My favorite class was Constitutional Law: Civil Liberty with Associate Professor Todd Lochner. I was actually surprised to love it so much because I had heard it was extremely difficult—which it was, but it was equally rewarding. The class centers on close readings of important Supreme Court decisions, with a lot of discussion, cold-calling, and argumentation about their logic. My critical-thinking skills were pushed harder that semester than they ever had been.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

Lewis & Clark won me over because of its location and the College Outdoors program. Portland is a beautiful green city with great food and plenty of nature nearby. College Outdoors makes it easy to take advantage of that with hikes to waterfalls, visits the beach, etc.—even if you don’t have a car. I also knew I wanted to study abroad so I was attracted to L&C’s popular overseas programs, like the one I’m doing right now in Mexico!

How do you describe the liberal arts?

I would describe the liberal arts as a discipline that teaches you to think. So much of education is focused on memorization, which is why the liberal arts are so important. I’ve learned to find my own solutions to problems, to reason critically, and to adventure independently, knowing that I have a close-knit safety net of supportive professors and peers.

Where do you find community on campus?

I first found community on my New Student Trip. Going to college with a bunch of strangers is a scary experience, so I really appreciated having a group of people to eat lunch with or say hi to around campus. I also found community through trying different extracurriculars like ultimate frisbee, The Log, College Outdoors, and Model UN. I am a big advocate of the “keep throwing spaghetti at the wall until something sticks” mentality, and by trying a lot of activities, I got to meet a lot of people. I’ve found that even the people here who seem reserved are kind without exception.

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’ve lived in Ponderosa (Pondo) and Holmes. I would describe Pondo as small and quiet, with a very supportive community. Holmes is more like a fancy hotel with nice facilities, where people tend to hang out with their separate friend groups.

If you went on a New Student Trip with College Outdoors, how did it shape your experience as an incoming student?

My New Student Trip was one of the best things I’ve done at Lewis & Clark. I went on a backpacking trip, and everything that they’ll tell you (e.g. it’s a great chance to meet people and dip your toe in the L&C community) is true. I had never been on a backpacking trip that long before, and it was an incredible experience. We ate well, swam in lakes, saw some gorgeous scenery, and bonded while telling stories over the campfire. I’m still close with some of the people from that trip.

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?

Going into college, I knew I wanted to study abroad to learn Spanish. I scheduled a meeting with Kaitlin Sommerfield in the Overseas and Off-Campus Programs office my first year. Ever since that meeting, she was super persistent in helping me find the program that was right for me, even as many were canceled or adjusted due to the pandemic—ultimately helping me join the program I’m on now in Mérida, Mexico!

My experience so far has been phenomenal. I live with a host family and go to class at a local university. It’s an awesome opportunity to meet new people and have new experiences—just the other day I played soccer with friends from one of my classes here. Everything is in Spanish! I’m really enjoying taking advantage of the city and surrounding area: visiting the nearby beach every week; going to cafes, museums, and mercados downtown; swimming in cenotes; and exploring Mayan archeological sites. I’m a vegetarian and the program was very accommodating, and I’ve been able to take some really interesting classes because all overseas credits transfer at L&C.

I’m very grateful for the experience because I will be returning to campus a more adventurous, independent, and knowledgeable student—and one who speaks better Spanish to boot.

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

I was really struck by how beautiful the campus is. Even three years later, one of my favorite pastimes is to go for a walk in the gardens. There are few places as serene and peaceful.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

I had a really hard time deciding where to go to school. The best advice I got when making that choice was that there is no “right” decision, you just have to trust yourself and know that wherever you end up, you will be able to be happy and successful. It may not be the case for everyone, but for me, that’s how I knew that Lewis & Clark was the right choice.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

The gardens are easily my favorite spot. I love to go for little walks there to clear my head—even if just for a few minutes on the way back from class—or stop by at night to look at the stars. They always make me feel at peace.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?

Personally I’m a nerd for hikes, so I love living in Portland because it gives me access to such a beautiful part of the natural world. My first year I went on several College Outdoors trips to get outside, and now that I have a car I love to drive up the Columbia River Gorge and try out a new hike to a waterfall whenever I have a free day.