by Tony Cabasco
Dean of Admission and Financial Aid
Friday, August 26, 2011 

J. Antonio “Tony” Cabasco ’90, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid

Good afternoon. It’s my pleasure to add my welcome to the new students and their families. We are delighted that you and your families are here to begin your Whitman experience.

Today is an exciting time for us at the college and for the new students and their families. After months of the college search process filled with college visits, interviews, application essays, and copious e-mails and letters, 421 first-years and transfer students begin their Whitman experience today. Congratulations and Welcome.

In addition to adding my welcome to all of you, part of my task today is to share facts, anecdotes, and tidbits of information about the new students. This discussion naturally turns to grades, test scores, and lists of accomplishments – essentially, numbers, percentages and resume fodder. Believe me, those numbers and accomplishments are impressive; you can easily find them on the Whitman web pages.

We are honored, however, to have attracted high-achieving, down-to-earth, engaging students who bring a diversity of interests to Whitman. I think the best way I can convey the personality, accomplishments, and character of our new students is to let you hear directly from some of them. The following quotes are taken from the application essays of new students as they told us about themselves and why they chose Whitman.

A first-year reacts to meeting with one of our admission officers:

Our conversation left me with the sense that if the admissions officers were to create a personal ad for Whitman, it would read, “Wanted: super-sharp students who value collaboration over competition. Leadership qualities ideal. Must have demonstrated passion, creativity, and concern for others.”

Another first-year writes about the visit to Whitman:

...After my visit I realized just how special Whitman is. Even during the summer, with most students gone, I felt a strong community vibe... Everyone, and I mean everyone, was unbelievably kind, direct, helpful, and happy from the first moment on campus to the last. I came away from my visit convinced that Whitman, not Disneyland, is the happiest place on Earth (although I’m sure quite a few students would prefer to be at Disneyland during finals week).

In response to a question about Walla Walla:

When people ask me where I’m thinking about for college and I mention Whitman, so many ask why I’d want to be in Walla Walla, in the middle of nowhere. But I just don’t think it matters all that much: everything I’m most excited for will happen in the classroom, in the dorms, on campus. The sense of committed learning, engaged students, and purposeful living-everything I’m looking for- seems to be very Whitman.

On Why Whitman?

There are also tangible reasons for “Why Whitman?” I believe I fit the mold of a “Whittie” very well. Students at Whitman strike me as bright but not pretentious, fun-loving but serious about their work, quirky and curious, and eager to try new things. I’d like to think that describes me pretty well...

Another student writes:

I also believe that I am a good match for Whitman. I can add my sense of community to the atmosphere of this school. Volunteering has been a significant part of my life since I began grade school. It has inspired in me a strong need to give back to my community. I can also add my strong work ethic to this school. My father and maternal grandfather were the first to go to college in their family. This strong work ethic was passed down through my parents who have taught me to have a sense of pride in the work I do. I am extremely diligent and am not afraid to work hard at whatever task comes my way

One first-year summarizes the college search process thus:

To narrow my search, I imagined a personal ad for the perfect college. “Wanted: relatively secluded, small Liberal Arts College, preferably outside of the Midwest. Bubble campus ideal. Must have rigorous academics, passionate and personable professors, and bright, responsible students.”

The student continues:

One Whitman student’s description of Whitties as “cool nerds,” especially resonates with me. I like to think of myself as someone who works diligently but with a laid-back and light-hearted attitude. I respond better to optimism than cynicism. I understand viscerally that growth and meaningful change occur more frequently when people approach situations with an open mind. I gravitate toward people who, when presented with ground-breaking ideas, start at “Yes.”

Finally,

I told my parents that I wouldn’t have to pay for laundry service at Whitman. They thought I should come up with a better reason to go there…

This student then goes on to enumerate a host of valid reasons for Whitman: the pursuit of a liberal arts education, the strong academic offerings in biology, English, and theatre, the renovation of Harper Joy Theatre, and study abroad opportunities.

The student concludes:

...One of my favorite parts about Whitman is the balance that students seems to possess: they care about community service, their school work, and their futures while still finding time to support their athletic teams and adventure into the wilderness on camping trips. By this time, the inquisitor’s doubt has turned to definite belief.

I know I will grow exponentially at Whitman College because it will allow me to dream big while having the academic foundation of learning how to think instead of what to think. I have discovered that this school is a feeding ground for those who truly desire to “suck the marrow out of life” (Thoreau) and tackle the most difficult challenges our generation faces. Just call me a Whittie.

All these students are Whitties.

These are just a few examples of the many wonderful essays the admission staff and I had the privilege of reading this past year. Thank you to the individuals who gave me permission to read these excerpts.

I hope that these voices provide you a sense for the bright, interesting first-years and transfer students entering Whitman. I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as the admission staff and I have during the past year.

To members of the Whitman community – faculty, staff, current students, alumni, and friends – I proudly present the new transfer students and the class of 2015.

Thank You.