Willamette’s proximity to the Oregon State Capitol is something that Willamette students often hear about, both as prospective students and current students of the University. But it can be so often brought up, along with the obvious proximity to the campus, that the actual benefits of living near the capitol building can get lost.
Being next to the capitol building allows students unique opportunities to participate in internships and politics, all just a quick walk away.
The physical architecture of the building is one perk. Most students will receive this piece of advice upon arriving on the Willamette campus: “If you ever get lost, just look for the Golden Man!”
While delivered partially in jest, it’s not a bad idea. The ‘Golden Man’ sits atop Oregon’s capitol building at a height of 23 feet and a weight of 8.5 tons (according to Only in Your State). This is on top of the capitol’s dome, already at an impressive 145 feet tall, according to Oregon Encyclopedia. The iconic Oregon landmark also happens to be directly across from the Willamette campus.
According to the Willamette website, the University was officially founded in 1842. This preceded the building of the first capitol building which, according to Oregon Encyclopedia, was designed by Justus Krumbein and W.G. Gilbert in 1876. After that building burned down in 1935, the capitol we know today was built in 1938.
Junior Cameron Taggesell noted that being close to the capitol means that she always has a general idea of the Oregon political environment.
“It’s a great way for me, a busy student, to keep up with things while still doing school,” she said. The physical proximity alone and occasional presence of capitol building workers on campus or even in Goudy is enough to give even students not actively paying attention to the capitol a sense of what is going on.”
Perhaps this was never more true than on Feb. 6, when a group of protestors drove semi and logging trucks in circles around the capitol for several hours in protest of a cap and trade bill hitting the legislative floor. The sounds of trucks honking was audible from classrooms, particularly those closest to the capitol, all morning and into the afternoon.
While this wasn’t exactly a perk, it did demonstrate how close students are to the political center of Oregon.
“[Being near the Capitol] provides such a unique opportunity to witness the actual proceedings of state government, as well as being able to participate in marches, rallies and protests for the things I care about,” said junior Claire Johnson.
Besides being able to exercise their right to protest by crossing the street separating the campus from the capitol, students also have the chance to intern inside the building itself.
“Legislative internships offer students of all majors the ability to immerse themselves in political processes that affect their respective professions through laws and policies. The legislative knowledge, professional skills and powerful networks legislative interns gain will serve to propel graduates towards their vocational goals, regardless of their occupational field,” states a page on the Willamette website describing internship opportunities. The website offers steps on applying for internships at the capitol as well as information about which area of government might be best for you based on your future career goals.
While there are other colleges located in their respective states’ capitals, from Sac City in California to the University of Texas in Austin, it’s hard to beat how physically close WU is to the actual capitol building. Whether it’s using the proximity to take advantage of internships or the right to protest (or using the Golden Man as a homing beacon), there’s likely something that every student can gain from being close to the Oregon capitol building. Even if you aren’t a politics major, there’s no doubt there’s something to be gained from living so close to this state’s government center.