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Thor Retzlaff

Thor Retzlaff ’18

Class Year: 2018
Hometown: Truckee, California
Major: Sociology and Anthropology
Minor: Economics
Extracurriculars: Football

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

Close to (Mount) Hood

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

My older brother Stein Retzlaff BA ’16 was attending LC at the time. After I went on my prospect trip, I couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful campus and opportunities that were available to the students here. I figured attending two more years of school with my brother was the last bit of convincing I needed. A year later, we were playing side-by-side on the football field. Forever grateful in my decision.

“I like to think of all my peers as a collective community. There is a community that will support any of your interests here.”
What three words would you use to describe the Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership?

Revolutionizing ideas, here

What has been your favorite Bates Center class or program? How has it expanded your knowledge?

My sophomore year I enrolled into Methods of Entrepreneurship. This was my first entrepreneurship class, so I was a bit skeptical about what was in store. As it turned out, entrepreneurship is not nearly as daunting as the 16 letters make it to be. This class opened the world of entrepreneurship to me. By studying successful business ideas, failure of other endeavors, and an overall look at the volatility of ideas entering the world and markets, I was able to gain confidence in any and all of my ideas. One of the biggest impacts the Bates Center and the programs offered has taught me, is to embrace failure. Not just accept failure as it is, but use the lessons learned from failure to plant new seeds for success.     

How do you feel that entrepreneurship and leadership integrate into and enhance a liberal arts education?

A liberal arts education is unique because it teaches a vast ocean of knowledge. I use this analogy because the curriculum here is about exposure to many different disciplines. The required class for all first-year students is called Exploration and Discovery. A class like this exposes a new student to the ocean of knowledge, encouraging them to sail to different waters and explore ideas that previously would not have crossed their path. The principles that entrepreneurship and leadership instill in a person allow for more control over the path one might travel on the ocean. To elaborate, the fundamentals of entrepreneurship teach someone to think and value their ideas. The fundamentals of leadership teach someone to recognize, respect, and communicate with other people on their journey. When the traits of leadership and entrepreneurship integrate with a liberal arts education, (1) the size of the ocean shrinks  because of the courage in your ideas; and (2) the speed at which you are sailing increases because of the collaboration. The vast amount of knowledge other people can contribute makes navigating the ocean an obtainable endeavor.

What are your plans for the Seed Grant funding you received from the Bates Center?

My business partner, Noah Avery-Navickas BA ’19, and I are very grateful for the Bates Center and the Seed Grant funds. We have created a website called 3Reads. We plan on using the funds to support some of the more technical web development needed to get our site fully functioning. Additionally, we will use the funds to launch some of our first marketing campaigns.  

I hear that you lived in a van on Mount Hood last year. How did that come to pass?

For the past three summers, I have been flying falcons for bird abatement purposes on organic blueberry farms. In other words, while I was working, I had a lot of time to plan how to live an alternative lifestyle. I decided to mobilize my life to maximize my free time doing what I love most: skiing. I filled my one free day from work a week fixing up a 1987 Toyota New Horizon into a manageable living shape. Once I installed a 150w solar panel on the roof, I was able to fully function off grid. From then on, I would live on Mount Hood from Thursday night until Monday morning. This mobile freedom didn’t just allow me to freely ski as I pleased, but the environment acted as a catalyst to some of my most productive times for research and studying. I was able to immerse myself into an environment that demanded the most from me, and this setting encouraged me to freely think and incubate ideas that I might have otherwise neglected. I would not have been able to see this lifestyle as possible if it weren’t for the free thinking and lessons that I learned at Lewis & Clark.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Read books. The knowledge is waiting for you to consume.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

The Bates Center

What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?

Skiing at Mount Hood

How did you decide on a major?

I realized that I had to declare something or else I would fall behind in class credits. I chose my major by reflecting on which class had the most interesting material. This happened to be my first-year anthropology class, so I submitted my application. I also had an interest in economics, so I figured I would minor in that.

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

One of the biggest challenges that I have faced at Lewis & Clark was my first two years on the football team. We had low numbers, minimal excitement, and an overall complacent approach to the sport. The many times I showed up to a workout with only a few other players resonates with me. The greatness of a game like football relies on the strength of the bonds and commitment that are held by every player on a team. The eight other seniors and myself set out to rebuild a program, with the help of Coach Locey and his staff, that would make a name for itself in the future. I can confidently say that one of the biggest challenges in college has also been one of the most rewarding.   

How do you manage stress?

Stress is a state of mind. I distract myself by going skiing so I can focus my thoughts in a more productive manner later on.

Where do you find community on campus?

I like to think of all my peers as a collective community. There is a community that will support any of your interests here.

How has Lewis & Clark has changed you?

In every way. Everything happens for a reason, so I would not be the person I am today if I didn’t attend Lewis & Clark College.

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