WALLA WALLA, Wash. --More than 400 new Whitman College students soon will experience first-hand why Princeton Review ranks the student body second in the nation for having the “Happiest Students.”

The college celebrates the opening of the academic year with Convocation ceremonies Thursday, Aug. 24, at 1 p.m. in Cordiner Hall with traditional pomp and circumstance:

  • Opening remarks will be made by geology professor Patrick Spencer, chair of the faculty.
     
  • Eric Wehlitz, president of the Associated Students of Whitman College, will welcome those in attendance, and Tony Cabasco, dean of admission and financial aid, will speak about diversity.
     
  • Timothy Kaufman-Osborn, professor of politics as well as interim dean of the faculty, will welcome first-year students and celebrate his fellow faculty members in his presentation.
     
  • Associate professor of politics Paul Apostolidis will discuss the value of Whitman’s Core Program.
     
  • Professor of English Theresa DiPasquale will deliver the day’s Convocation Address, after which President George Bridges will officially open the 2006-2007 academic year.

The Walla Walla Valley Band will accompany the proceedings a musical interlude by solo pianist Lisa Taylor, “Malaguena” by Ernesto Lecuona, will be part of the program; and Holly’s Flowers will once again provide the onstage floral design.

Residence halls, which will open for new students on Wednesday, Aug. 23, will open for returning students on Saturday, 26, and classes will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 29. The anticipated 1,450 students enrolled for fall semester will be the first enjoy the new $10-million, 38,000-square-foot Baker Ferguson Fitness Center, which is scheduled to open in September. Other physical changes include the relocation of the health and counseling services into the Welty Center, a specially remodeled structure on the corner of Boyer and Merriam. The college expects to begin construction on the Center for Visual Arts, which will be built in the approximate location of the former Health Center, at 140 S. Park St., in the fall of 2007.

The 406 first-year and transfer students will find out why their new home-away-from-home is included in 11 of the Princeton Review’s top 20 rankings, including “School Runs Like Butter,” “Best Quality of Life,” “Best Library,” “Lots of Race/Class Interaction,” and “Their Students Never Stop Studying.” In addition, Whitman once again ranked in the top tier of the U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of national liberal arts colleges and was named a “Top Ten Underrated Gem” that offers an “incredible education” by the Students’ Guide to Colleges.

“Whitman’s increasing graduation rates are very gratifying,” said John Bogley, vice president for development and college relations. “This statistic demonstrates that Whitman is delivering on the promise of providing the highest quality liberal arts and sciences education possible. Students who choose Whitman are obviously finding what they seek and reveling in the intellectual and personal opportunities provided here on campus.”

Recent admission and graduation statistics support the rankings’ findings. More and more students are applying to the “underrated gem” and then staying on to graduate. According to statistics recently released by Whitman’s office of institutional research, the college’s overall graduation rate is 88 percent. That is the highest of any college or university in the Pacific Northwest and places Whitman solidly in the company of the top 20 national liberal arts colleges in the country.

This is especially significant, said Tony Cabasco, dean of admission and financial aid, when considered with the record number of admission applications the college received for the class entering this fall. Whitman received a record 2,818 applications for the class of 2010, a 7 percent increase of the previous year’s total. The college, with a 47 percent admit rate, also had a highly selective admission year, and applicants came from 49 states and the District of Columbia as well as from more than 50 countries. Those admitted came from 47 states and more than 20 nations, with about a third from Washington state.

In addition, said Cabasco, “We are excited that the ethnic diversity of our admitted pool has increased. The various socioeconomic, ethnic, religious and geographic backgrounds that the class of 2010 brings will enhance the learning experience for everyone. This year, nearly 20 percent of admitted students represent ethnic diversity and another 5 percent are international students.”

Although the incoming class members are academically talented, with 60 percent ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school classes, they are much more, said Cabasco. The students admitted for the graduating class of 2010 are “difference makers” in their high school and communities and bring with them an impressive list of accomplishments and a clear passion for learning.

Whitman’s tuition for the coming academic year will be $30,530, and approximately 85 percent of Whitman’s students will receive some kind of financial aid, said Cabasco.

IMPORTANT DATES:

Wednesday, Aug. 23 — Residence halls open for first-year students

Thursday, Aug. 24 — Convocation ceremonies at 1 p.m. in Cordiner Hall

Saturday, Aug. 26 — Residence halls open for returning students

Tuesday, Aug. 29 — Classes begin at 8 a.m.

Thursday, Sept. 14 — James Fallows, author and national correspondent for “The Atlantic Monthly,” will present “The U.S. and the Islamic World: Victory, Defeat or Co-existence?” part of the O’Donnell Visiting Educators Series, at 7:30 p.m. in Cordiner Hall.

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CONTACT: Lenel Parish, Whitman College News Service, (509) 527-5156

Email: parishlj@whitman.edu