Jason Kowalski

Jason, sitting on the ground in front of a garden and leaning forward in a light blue collared shirt, smiling on a sunny day.



Degree and Class Year

BA ’23


Vancouver, Washington


International affairs and art history (double)


College Outdoors student coordinator, Garden Club, Equity Inclusion and Justice Committee, treasurer of Triathlon Club, Climbing Team, Chess Club participant, flamenco guitar

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

The Way Forward

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

My favorite class is Global Resource Dilemmas with Professor of International Affairs Bob Mandel. The class is designed to make us think critically about other people’s arguments, and reflect on our own beliefs. That course has helped me become more open and understanding of opinions that directly oppose my own.

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

I’d consider my flamenco guitar instructor, Julia Banzi, to be a mentor to me. She takes into consideration the nuances and difficulties of my course load outside of guitar, she has experience with Arabic, and she understands my prior background as a music student.What I’ve learned from her and all we’ve discussed helps me outside of the scope of our classes together. She’s taught me to be a more consistent and dedicated student while encouraging me to be inspired and take time to relax.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

My home situation necessitated that I move out at 16, and I’ve been living with friends since. I attended one term at a culinary school in California, but the constant wildfires and a desire to do something more focused on academics led me to leave. Before I came to Lewis & Clark, I was living with a friend whose family encouraged me to come here, and I finally felt properly at home somewhere. Coming to L&C felt just as liberating as when I first moved out. I had room to breathe, and finally felt like I was on the right path.

How do you describe the liberal arts?

The liberal arts train you to explore the world in your own way. Liberal arts goes beyond problem solving—it gives students the foundation to be successful in every aspect of their lives. It teaches you new ways to think, rather than what to think, which lets one learn and find meaning everywhere, not just in our course material.

Where do you find community on campus?

I’ve found a lot of community through clubs. Being very involved with Chinese Club and College Democrats has made me friends I wouldn’t have made otherwise. I’m taking difficult courses at the moment, so having an obligation to be social has been the primary thing keeping me from isolating myself in my room studying all the time. I’ve also found the Bates’ Center’s Lunch With a Leader series to be very inspiring and reaffirming to my goals.

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

It was really amazing getting to move onto campus for the first time and already recognize people. There were multiple people from my virtual new student trip that were in my New Student Orientation group as well, and seeing the familiar faces made me feel more comfortable and willing to be open. Even before I met anyone in person, it reassured me that I’d be able to make friends at school.

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’ve been accepted into the Morocco overseas program for next spring. I’m already studying Arabic because I want to expand my worldview and increase my value in international affairs, and the Morocco program seems to be a very hands-on way to experience an area of the world that I know nothing about. The Morocco program paired with the international affairs and Arabic courses I am already planning to take means that I only need one extra course to fulfill my Middle East and North African minor requirements. I also think that it could be really engaging for me to do my capstone project overseas. The fact that my girlfriend is going as well is just a cherry on top.

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

Staying in my room so much has been nauseating. I sleep, eat, study, practice, exercise, and (try to) relax, all in the same space. While I’ve actually enjoyed remote options, some hybrid courses had poor audio quality, making it difficult to hear people in the classroom over Zoom.

What unexpected bright spots have you encountered?

Being forced to stay in the dorm by the pandemic and the fire led me to talk to my dorm neighbor, with whom I’m now in an amazingly mature and healthy relationship. Having them in my life has been a substantial improvement, but I’m not sure that it could have happened without all the changes the pandemic brought. I also consciously appreciate being outside much more than I used to.

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

I’d really love to see remote or hybrid options continued after the pandemic. Sometimes my schedule is just exhausting, and being able to attend a class from my room takes off a lot of stress and helps me focus more on what’s being said. That’s not to say that I don’t want to have in-person classes anymore!I like to have the option to stay home but still attend, when otherwise I’d show up to class kind of miserable.

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

I’d pretty much decided that I was going to attend before I visited, but the thing that made me genuinely excited to come was my admissions interview and getting to see the observatory. My interview was the first indication that I’d be in a genuinely good and supportive place, and being in the observatory with the entire thing moving to find stars was a really beautiful experience.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

My advice to prospective students is to reach out to the community! The people at L&C have been kinder than I expected, even though I thought I knew a fair amount coming in. It’s easy to find people to answer any questions or say hi to when you visit.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?

My favorite spot on campus is Watzek. It’s such an open space with lots of windows and tons of resources for any courses or interests. It’s both motivating and relaxing to be there.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?

My favorite thing about living in Portland is how low pressure the city is. Nobody expects anyone to be anything, and instead of not caring about what people do, we embrace it with encouragement. Portland is not indifferent, and it has room for everyone.

How did you decide on a major?

I’m a double major in international affairs and art history. I decided to study IA because I felt it was something that I’m well suited for, and I could really make a difference in the world and try to help people. However, operating with a sense of responsibility can sometimes leave me a bit burned out, even when there are many topics to be excited about. That’s what led me to add art history as a second major, because I genuinely love art appreciation, going to museums, and learning the stories behind works. The classes seem fun to me and really interest me, and I’m excited to take them for my major even if I’m not sure what I’d like to do with it yet.

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

My biggest challenge has been adapting to communal living. I can get burned out from a lot of social interaction, but that’s not terribly difficult to manage. What is terribly difficult to manage is when people don’t clean up after themselves in the bathrooms or kitchens, or when people decide to be loud late at night or…odorous. This has been an opportunity for me to adapt though! I’ve learned to be more patient and understanding but also to be more aware of and firm on my boundaries. Everyone has largely been very understanding and communicative, which makes me optimistic about living on campus.