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Walla Walla, WA
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Wolf Boomerang Effect

April 27, 2023
Garrett Christensen

Why Walla Walla University Students Come Back

Garrett Christensen

Although many students do not come back to Walla Walla University after they graduate, some are excited to be back at WWU as professors. For two such professors, Brian Schaffner and Paul Dybdahl, WWU is a very special place.  

For Brian Schaffner, WWU is a generational home. His grandfather graduated in 1937 on WWU’s 50th anniversary, his father graduated in our 75th year, Schaffner himself graduated in the 100th year, and now his son is a student here.  

Schaffner first graduated in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and moved to San Diego to work in accounting. 

However, Schaffner said, “I’ve always loved Walla Walla. I’ve always wanted to teach here [but] I never thought I’d get the opportunity.” [1] 

When Schaffner finally returned as a business professor in 2021, it was a really reverent experience.  

“The teachers that provided me with not only an education but cared enough about me to help with resumes and getting internships and that type of thing. I just felt the weight and the expectation that they would want me to do the same.” [2]  

Paul Dybdahl graduated from WWU in 1992 with a degree in theology, not knowing he’d be back just 8 years later in 2001.  

Dybdahl said, “I was excited about coming back and it’s been a really good experience. I feel like it’s an incredible privilege to have had the chance to interact with so many students over the years.” 

Dybdahl said he has been teaching for so long that when he travels somewhere he “expects to see former students.” [3] 

As two former students at WWU, both Dybdahl and Schaffner understand how hard life in college can be. Each weighed in with their best advice for current students. 

Dybdahl’s advice comes in three parts. The first is to pay attention to your spiritual life. “Seeking to have a healthy relationship with God is really important.” The second is to “make sure you make time for the people that are around you.” Finally, Dybdahl advised, “Pay attention to your academics … after I graduated there were occasions where I thought back to classes and I was like, man, I wish I would have been more invested because what was being taught there, I could see it would really benefit me.” [4] 

For Schaffner, “When it really comes down to it, it’s not about the education, it’s about the relationships and friendships you gain.” 

He believes that WWU “creates these amazing things that last for generations.” It keeps drawing people back. “I don’t think you find that in other places,” he finished. [5] 



  1. Interview with Professor Brian Schaffner, 4/18/2023. 
  2. Ibid. 
  3. Interview with Professor Paul Dybdahl, 4/20/2023. 
  4. Ibid. 
  5. Interview with Professor Brian Schaffner, 4/18/2023. 
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