Pacific Northwest College Road Trip: Lewis & Clark College

Want to know what it's like to attend this school in Portland, Ore.? Read on.


A walk through the 137-acre campus of Lewis & Clark College can be an explorer's treat. Not only does a lush ravine, part of nearby Tryon Creek State Park, cut across the grounds, but the snow-capped peak of Mount Hood can be seen in the distance. The campus, located in southwest Portland, runs uphill from the academic buildings to the residence halls. "We're all about scaling," says senior Zachary Holz of New Windsor, Md.

Whether that means cresting the hill to their dorms, studying environmental preservation in Ecuador, or pursuing biology in East Africa, Lewis & Clark students tend to be mindful of what lies beyond campus. More than 60 percent of the undergraduates participate in study-abroad programs during their time at the school, and international students make up close to 10 percent of the student body.

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An "international element is woven so deeply into what we do," says Greg Caldwell, who retired as associate dean of students this spring after 35 years at Lewis & Clark. "It's accepted, it's welcomed, it's celebrated." That celebration might take the form of an international symposium, cultural fair, or simply living in Akin Hall, the school's multicultural dormitory, which houses about 60 students from the United States and around the world. It all makes sense at an institution named for two pioneering 19th-century American explorers.

When Lewis & Clark students study abroad, they tend to do so in groups—and often with faculty members—so they can let those overseas conversations carry back to Portland. The school has developed about three dozen such semester-long programs, with additional shorter-term opportunities available from particular professors and campus groups. Total costs per year for students run about $48,500. And those who study abroad generally have to pay only about $500 more.

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For more recreational getaways, the College Outdoors club organizes hiking, river rafting, and cross-country skiing trips at locations across the Pacific Northwest. For those who want local entertainment, downtown Portland is about 30 minutes away by the school's free shuttle bus. (Some students say the school could benefit by having a few more on-campus recreation spots.)

Lewis & Clark's close to 2,000 undergraduates can choose from 28 majors, which can be a bit limiting; for example, there are no business or accounting programs. But students can devote roughly one third of their classes to electives.

Overall, though, it's the college's emphasis on multi-dimensional cultural awareness that sets it apart. As junior Matthew Rugamba from Rwanda wryly notes: "I just wanted to be with students who knew that Rwanda is not a hotel."

More From the Pacific Northwest College Road Trip:

Reed College

University of Oregon

University of Washington

Whitman College

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