By Heather Pearson
On the KWU radio show “Wistory,” alumni reflect on their experiences at Willamette. “Wistory” — a combination of ‘Willamette’ and ‘History’ — seeks out the stories of alumni who affected change at Willamette.
“Students have always cared and have always had diverse experiences,” explained the show’s host, Emma Pringle. By streaming the stories of individuals who shaped Willamette’s past, she hopes to take a closer look at Willamette’s student activism, and create a collection of oral histories about diverse student experiences on campus.
“It’s important to me that the alumni [on the show] aren’t just white, straight and cis,” Pringle emphasized. She hopes to captures narratives that aren’t told within the mainstream stories of Willamette’s past.
Guests so far on “Wistory” include Kristi Billuni from the Gay and Lesbian Association (GLA) in the 1990’s and Donald Sims, a 1974 graduate who served in the Black Student Union shortly after it was first founded.
Pringle also interviewed Emilio Solano, who serves as executive director of Willamette Academy, a college-access program for mainly first generation local Latinx students. A 2009 graduate, on air Solano spoke highly of his time at Willamette, but Pringle stresses that this is not a prerequisite of participation.
The point of the show is not to “say that Mother Willamette encourages moral growth in everyone that attends here,” she stated. Rather, she understands that some WU students have difficult or challenging experiences, and wants to show how students throughout Willamette’s history have rallied for change, especially about the things that have affected them.
For example, one year during Bullini’s time at WU, several students on campus burnt a GLA poster. The campus rallied in response to this act of homophobic intimidation. Students showed solidarity, condemning the hate crime, and in this way GLA was brought to the forefront of campus politics. However, Bullini explained that years afterwards, she was attending an alumni mixer when a past classmate approached her. Appearing a little drunk and apologizing profusely, he explained that he and his friends had burned the poster, and that they had been just some “dumb stoner kids” and didn’t even realize which poster they were lighting on fire —they could’ve just as easily burned a different one. Apologizing again and again, he explained that their intent had not been an act of homophobia. Yet despite their innocent arsonist intention, their action had impacted GLA and the entire Willamette student body, leading to dialogue and action to support queer students on campus.
By telling stories such as these, Pringle helps students and staff alike learn Willamette’s heritage, straight from the mouths of the the students who lived it.
“Wistory” airs every Saturday at 4 p.m. on KWU, Willamette’s premier radio station. Those interested can stream KWU from http://willamette.edu/org/kwu/home.html Anyone with suggestions or questions about “Wistory” can reach Pringle at <erpringle> or find Wistory Channel on Facebook.