By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director
SALEM, Ore. – Andrew Lum appreciates being part of a family, whether it's his immediate family and extended family in Hawaii or his Bearcat swimming family on the Willamette campus. Lum, a senior on the men's swimming team, makes family a focus of his life.
His appreciation of family began to grow when his parents encouraged him to visit campuses before deciding on a college. Lum and his parents flew to the Pacific Northwest. The first stop was Pacific Lutheran University near Tacoma, followed by stops at the University of Portland, where his brother is a student, and at Willamette.
Although Lum was able to give Willamette very little advance notice that he would be stopping for a visit, he was greeted on campus by nearly all members of the Bearcat men's and women's swimming teams.
In addition, admission counselors arranged a campus tour and meetings with professors. Much of the visit was arranged in the 45 minutes it took to drive from Portland to Salem.
"I was so amazed," Lum said. "That was a great first impression of Willamette. It was a personalized visit. What really sold me … convinced me to come to Willamette … was when I met the swim team."
Now Lum helps arrange for the swim team to meet recruits who are on campus for a visit.
"I love it when recruits come to campus. I build my week around it," Lum said. "I really encourage my teammates to meet them, too."
Lum found that several things distinguished Willamette from other colleges. For one, the students stood out.
"Every single student is driven or passionate about something," Lum said about Willamette. "They always have this drive to succeed."
He also has been impressed with the faculty.
"I have never had an interaction with a professor where … I got a sense of negativity. I see them as mentors, I see them as role models, I see them as friends," Lum said.
And, he discovered that students were given the ability to grow and expand their lives in many ways.
"Willamette really celebrates your identity here," Lum commented.
Once he was at Willamette, Lum was ready to find a family among his teammates.
"He's from Hawaii, where they care so much about family," Shevlin said. "He brought that with him to the team. It's very important to him that the team be a family. When we have recruits on campus or when our freshman class gets here, they feel that family atmosphere from everyone."
Lum has added friendships outside of the team through his involvement as the entertainment committee chairperson of the annual lu'au at Willamette. Each year, the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Hawaii Club sponsor the lu'au, which celebrates the cultures of the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii, Polynesia, Tahiti, New Zealand and Samoa. The event includes food from the region made by Willamette students. It also inlcudes traditional dancing from the regio.
In the spring of 2015, Lum's parents decided to make a surprise visit during the lu'au. Most of the organizers of the lu'au knew his parents were coming, but they all kept Lum from finding out.
"It was the day of lu'au," Lum recalled. "They said 'surprise.' At first, I was in shock. I was speechless. I love my family for that. I can't thank them enough. I just felt really blessed. I know how much they care for me."
With such a strong commitment to family – both at home and at Willamette – Lum is a tremendous leader on the swimming team.
"He honestly cares about the team and everyone on it," Shevlin said, adding that Lum "wants to make collegiate athletics his career."
The team spends so much time together during the season that it helps build the feeling of family that Lum was looking for. The hard work has paid off in improved times.
Lum reached the consolation finals in the 100-yard butterfly and the 200-yard butterfly at the NWC Championships during each of his first three seasons. He hopes for additional quality swims at the 2016 NWC Championships, set for Feb. 12-14 in Federal Way, Washington.
"We train together, we travel together," Shevlin said. "It's a lot of fatigue they have to go through to get to the end result."
This academic year, Lum is serving as the president of Willamette's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). He is also the president of the Northwest Conference SAAC.
"He's been a captain for us," Shevlin said. "And being in SAAC gives him another way to lead our team "."
Lum has several plans as president of Willamette's SAAC. He hopes to start an Athlete Ally program that provides a safe place and inclusion for students throughout the academic community. He also wants to have SAAC sponsor more events and team contests to encourage interactions between athletes and teams. And he expects to work again in organizing, and perhaps expanding, the Athletic Career Night at Willamette.
He's also preparing for his fourth trip to the NWC Championships. "He works really hard. He always has," Shevlin said. "He came in as our fastest butterfly swimmer and swam the 200 individual medley. Now he does even more.
"He does extra training during the season … video, start-turn work. He's really a student of the sport. The class before him and his class have helped us build the best NCAA Division III men's team in Oregon."Shevlin noted that Lum is one of her strongest athletes at keeping focus during a swimming meet.
She said that team members usually take five minutes after a difficult race to cool down and re-focus.
"He doesn't need five minutes," Shevlin said. "He needs about 30 seconds" and then he's cheering on his teammates in the next race.
What goals did Lum set for himself prior to the current season?
"Having fun. Enjoying my senior season," Lum said. "The main goal when I leave Willamette is to say I helped develop that program."