(Portland, Ore.)—Emily McCartan B.A. ’07 has been described by one professor as the embodiment of “the ideal the liberal arts seeks to achieve” for her balance of intellectual rigor and her civic engagement. In recognition of her scholastic achievements and her positive impact on the world around her, McCartan won the 2007 Rena J. Ratte Award, the undergraduate college’s highest academic honor.
McCartan, a double major in international affairs and religious studies, thrived with a diverse course load covering the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and natural sciences, and the arts. “My favorite thing was being able to make connections between the issues, theories and phenomena that came up in totally different classes,” says McCartan. “I had the opportunity to try to fit all the pieces together in an understanding of what makes human experience and society what it is.”
A member of the Pamplin Society of Fellows, McCartan graduated summa cum laude and with departmental honors from the religious studies department. She wrote her honors-winning thesis based in part on research she conducted during a semester abroad in Siena, Italy.
“It’s been really important to me to stay connected to how people live at a more ‘real’ level,” McCartan adds. In addition to her work as a scholar, she was a student leader and a community servant during her time at Lewis & Clark. “Things like leading the International Folkdance Club, volunteering with the Start Making a Reader Today program and my semester in Italy were important in engaging with the communities and people who interest me academically.”
While one of McCartan’s professors has predicted that she “will be a scholar in her own right in the not-so-distant future,” McCartan’s ambitions for the future are as diverse as her interests were at Lewis & Clark. “The next few years may find me a teacher, a law student or a policymaker,” she says. “Regardless of its specific route, I know my path will be a continuation of the scholastic and communitarian vocation that I have discovered at Lewis & Clark.”
Rena Ratte was a Lewis & Clark philosophy instructor and professor during the 1960s. Following her unexpected death in 1970, colleagues, students, and friends established the award to honor Ratte’s memory.