Educating Inquisitive Minds

Why do some people like cilantro and other people don’t? What are the elements of a potentially successful New Year’s resolution? Why are stop signs red and streets signs green?

Humans are curious, and we often ask intriguing questions. It turns out that curiosity — the mother of invention — is also quite possibly the beginning of an exceptional college education, not to mention a fulfilling life. Research is showing a student whose curiosity is piqued is more likely to remember what they learn in subsequent lectures and conversations.

To nurture and support the inquisitive minds of college-age students in the North Pacific Union Conference and beyond, Walla Walla University offers 104 areas of study. Many students choose to combine these diverse areas of study in interesting ways to prepare for unique career goals or simply to satisfy their desire to learn. During the 2017–2018 school year, 103 of WWU’s 1,825 students are pursuing more than one major, and 83 students are working on more than one bachelor’s degree. We think you will find them as interesting as we do.


Balancing Art and Science

Evelyn Ouro-Rodrigues

Majors in bioengineering and French

Hometown: Long Island, New York

As a native New Yorker, Evelyn Ouro-Rodrigues grew up surrounded by people from wide-ranging backgrounds and cultures, but it was during a year studying abroad in Collonges, France, with the Adventist Colleges Abroad program that she developed a full appreciation of what it’s like to be a foreigner in another country.

“Your whole life you’ve been inside of your little bubble. Then you go somewhere else, and you have to adapt to other people’s customs and norms. You don’t know the language, and you’re just trying to grapple with that,” she says. “Once you’ve experienced being the outsider or the foreigner, you tend to see when other people feel that way, and it’s a lot easier to empathize with them.”

As a pre-med student working on majors in bioengineering and French, Ouro-Rodrigues counts building empathy as one of the principal reasons for studying another language and culture — and an indispensable quality for a physician. She says finding balance is another reason. “It’s just so nice to have this balance between really intense science classes, but also classes that challenge you in completely different intellectual ways. I’m so glad to have the STEM classes [science, technology, engineering and math] but also the humanities side, having classes where I can just sit down and talk about literature and philosophy. It is so refreshing to have both.”

It was her interest in math and engineering that initially drew her to Walla Walla University. “When I came out here and I visited, I saw all the engineering labs, and I was like, wow! This seems like exactly what I wanted,” she says. It was WWU’s bioengineering program — an opportunity to combine her love of math and biology — that sealed the deal.

Ouro-Rodrigues has thought a lot about her college experience in terms of potential mission work afterwards. “I know there are a lot of Adventist hospitals in French-speaking countries in Africa,” she says, and she looks forward to exploring the options for mission service.

A curious and determined student, Ouro-Rodrigues says, “I think my quality of life would be diminished if I was denying the part of me that loves French. By completing two majors, I get to do both,” she says. “It’s hard for me to believe that everyone just has one thing they like to learn about. I’m sure that most people have a wide variety of interests, and we have the opportunity to be at a school where you can take lots of different things.”

Students can schedule a visit to the WWU campus at We’ll cover meals, lodging and half of travel costs up to $250.


Embracing Our Differences

Isaac Arakaki

Majors in health science and music

Hometown: Marysville, Washington

As a home-schooled student, during high school Isaac Arakaki embraced the opportunity to enthusiastically explore a wide array of subjects. That curiosity has translated well to college life at Walla Walla University, where he is working on majors in both health science and music with the ultimate goal of going to dental school.

“At one point music was something I considered as a career path, but right now I’m focusing on dentistry and music is something I like to do on the side,” says Arakaki. “Having the variety between my two majors has really helped me. When I hit a wall in a science class, it is nice to work on something with music that is difficult in a different way. I also think there are elements in music classes that will help me later on in dental school.”

Arakaki sings bass in the University Singers and the select choir, I Cantori. “I think that has been one of the greatest ways I’ve met people. Students in the choir have different majors and think differently, but even though there are differences we still have similarities between us, and we all love to make music together,” he says.

A self-described quiet person, Arakaki is not shy. He participates in intramurals, helps with the Music Club and the Asian Club, is part of the Buddy Program helping community members who have disabilities, and is choral president for both choirs. As choral president, Arakaki is developing valuable leadership skills. He helps organize choir events and tours, facilitates communication between the choir and the director, and is part of the group that interviews potential choir members and evaluates auditions.

When it comes to taking two majors, Arakaki says, “It can be difficult to figure out all the details, but it is worthwhile to study several subjects even if it is just to have a change of pace sometimes.” Now that the details are worked out, he is taking full advantage of the options available at college and nurturing his curiosity in the process.

See a full list of WWU areas of study at


Set Goals and Go For It

Auriyhani-Alexis (Auri) Yates

Majors in communication (emphasis in film and television) and Spanish

Hometown: Martinez, California

“I have always been interested in everything,” Auri Yates says with a laugh. “It’s a very hard life to live being interested in everything because logically I understand that it is just not possible to do anything and everything.” That being said, Yates is doing her best to fit in as much of “everything” as she can during college.

“I came to college to study film. That’s what I started with, and that’s what I’m still doing,” she says. Along the way, however, she took a Spanish translation class and was hooked. “I discovered it was incredibly fascinating, and it is super cool what you can do by knowing a second language.”

Now in her senior year at Walla Walla University, she has spent a year abroad studying in Spain through the Adventist Colleges Abroad program and is just a few credits shy of completing a major in Spanish in addition to her major in communication. “I would like to work for a subtitle company if I get to that stage of fluency,” she says, “or work for a Spanish film production company.”

Yates credits her freshmen mentor with planting the seed of the idea to study abroad. (The WWU Freshman Mentoring Program provides a mentor for each freshman to help them navigate the challenges that can arise during the first year of college life.) “Everyone at WWU has a mentor when they start out,” says Yates. “I didn’t really feel like I needed a mentor, but I think that it’s a good requirement. At one point my mentor asked me, ‘Have you ever considered going abroad or being a student missionary?’ And I remember thinking, ‘No, I just want to finish school, graduate and start working.’”

Yates will indeed graduate soon and is looking forward to a successful, rewarding career. Yet while her original choice to study communication, film and television has stayed rock-solid, her perspective has shifted since those initial meetings with her mentor. “I have my entire life to work,” she says. “We’re so money-oriented. I didn’t want to be that way.” She would now tell new college students: “Be patient. Don’t limit yourself. If you have goals you want to set for yourself, then try. Go for it!”

See all available locations for international study through the Adventist Colleges Abroad program at


A Launching Place for Entrepreneurship

Noah Dybdahl

Bachelor's degrees in business and product design

Hometown: Walla Walla, Washington

“I haven’t dialed it in yet, exactly where I’m going, but with these two degrees it leaves it open,” says Noah Dybdahl of his work on a bachelor of arts degree in business and a bachelor of science degree in product design. “Entrepreneurship is at the forefront — to be able to take an idea and product and be able to build a business around it.”

Dybdahl describes classes he’s taking for product design: “We’re learning 3-D imaging software, rendering software, simulation software, and three Adobe software programs. There is a lot of theory — understanding how humans relate to design as well as the psychology of consumers. Then there are also the hard skills — woodworking, metal working, prototyping, drawing.”

Dybdahl says he likes to learn, but during his senior year in high school he didn’t have a clear understanding of what he wanted to study in college. “I guess I did sort of know ultimately what I wanted to do, but I didn’t really know what majors fit into that,” he says. “I started with business because it’s applicable to every industry and it was interesting to me, but I also knew I wanted to do something creative.” Now that he’s taking classes in both areas, he sees crossovers between business and product design — marketing and design to name just two.

Even with his full academic load, Dybdahl notes the benefits of the small, close-knit campus community at Walla Walla University. Referring to a recent lunch in the WWU cafeteria sitting next to a faculty member, he says, “I talked about my summer job, which was on a farm, and then we got going down this whole rabbit trail about the best way to grow tomatoes. I probably wouldn’t have had that conversation outside of just being there, sitting next to them, and having that opportunity. That conversation would never happen in a class setting. There are opportunities for that on this campus.”

“I think it’s really healthy here,” he says, “because you get involved in things that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought of and then you find new things that you want to do or learn.” To avoid distraction, Dybdahl’s advice for students interested in pursuing multiple areas of study: “You have to be diligent, plan it out, and make sure you’ve set yourself up to be able to actually complete it and do it in time. Go into it with at least a little bit of a plan!”

Learn seven reasons to study product design at WWU at

Featured in: January/February 2018


Kim Strobel

Adventist Health project manager: religion, faith and mission