Niall Gifford

Niall Gifford BA '22



Degree and Class Year

BA ’22

Current City

Portland, Oregon


German Studies and International Affairs (double)


International Fair, College Outdoors, German Club, Ski Club

Overseas study

Berlin, Germany

Job Title, Organization

Interviewing at Portland-area humanitarian nonprofit organizations

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

Productive, Friendly, Green

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

The fact that L&C recognizes Third Culture Kids (TCK)! Before coming to L&C, I hadn’t lived in the U.S. since I was little—I wasn’t an international student, but I wouldn’t be able to relate to my fellow American first years either. L&C’s support for TCKs assured me that even with my unique background, I would have no trouble fitting in and finding community.

What have you been doing since graduation?

Traveling, camping, and spending time with family! I’m excited to begin a career in the humanitarian sector this month, but I’ve cherished my time over the summer spent getting out of Portland and spending time with relatives.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your job?

Whether during my time working on a ship in Alaska or tutoring Academic English Studies students on campus, L&C helped prepare me for the workplace by developing my practical skillset and enhancing my ability to be confident and enterprising.

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

I think the most important thing I learned at L&C is that when trying to accomplish some task or goal, there isn’t necessarily one perfect recipe to follow. Having the confidence to forge one’s own path is incredibly valuable.

Why did you major or minor in German studies?

I have always loved learning languages, and having already studied Spanish and French in the past, I took German 101 on a whim without any knowledge of the language. I enjoyed the class and Associate Professor Katharina Altpeter-Jones so much that I didn’t hesitate to enroll in German 102 the following semester, a path that quickly led me to declaring German studies as one of my majors. Although I was already set on being an international affairs major and the idea of double-majoring seemed daunting, the German department was an incredible support network that helped me along every step of the way.

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

One of the greatest gifts L&C left me with was the friends I made during my four years at school. As an alum, keeping in touch with continuing students and my fellow alumni both casually and professionally is an important part of staying connected to the college.

How do you describe the liberal arts?

Open-ended! I came to L&C with the impression that I should know exactly what I want to study from the get go, and in my first year, I sought to pursue a major in economics. I quickly realized that not only was economics not my calling, I could take a plethora of different classes in vastly different areas of study and determine then what it was I wanted to major in.

What was your favorite class? How did it expand your knowledge?

My favorite class was Transitions to Democracy by Associate Professor Leah Gilbert. Professor Gilbert is passionate and engaging, and her class informed me a great deal about definitions of democracy, transition theories, and other important concepts in political science. It was also seminal in the inspiration for my senior international affairs thesis, where I researched democratic backsliding in Hungary.

Where did you find your community on campus?

I found my community on campus with L&C’s international student body. As a TCK, I attended international student orientation with the international students, and it was there that I met some of my best (and, without a doubt, lifelong) friends. Some of my best memories from L&C will forever be sitting at a long table in the Bon over dinner, joking and laughing with people from all over the world.

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

Associate Professor Therese Augst was an incredible guiding figure for me during my time at L&C, and someone I would consider my mentor. From my first class with her in German 201 to her German art and culture class in my final semester, Professor Augst was always a wonderfully kind and supportive figure. I felt comfortable approaching her with any questions or concerns I had, and I learned immensely from her during my time at L&C.

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

As a German studies major I would normally have studied abroad for a year in Munich, Germany. Unfortunately COVID-19 canceled that experience, and for a time I worried that I wouldn’t be able to study abroad at all. However, with the help of Professor Augst and the German department, I was able to spend the first semester of my senior year in Germany on the Berlin program. It was an amazing opportunity to put the German language skills I’d developed to work and integrate with German culture. My overseas study helped me develop my confidence and independence, and gave me invaluable international perspectives that I could never have gained without going abroad.

German Studies International Affairs