Moving in

First-year students have arrived on campus to begin the transition into college, and the early signs are that they are, indeed, Whitties.

Between meeting with faculty advisers, setting up their residence hall rooms and making new friends the 401 students of the class of 2013 as well as 21 transfer students – from such places as Carnegie Mellon Middlebury, and Boston College – are diving head-first into the Whitman experience.

The class is characterized by talent and diversity. One in three students have held a leadership position, having served as either ASB presidents, class presidents, captains or co-captains of a varsity athletic team, editor or co-editor of a yearbook or school newspaper or founded a club or organization. Nearly 160 of them ranked in the top 10th of their class, and 57 – one in seven – are first generation college students. They come from 34 states and 14 countries; nearly one in four are students of color or international students.

The talent, drive and well-roundedness that characterize the Whitman student body are reflected in the variety of activities of members of the Class of 2013. Among them are students who:

  • illuminated photojournalism projects around the world;
  • raised funds for and taught in a Burmese orphanage;
  • survived cancer;
  • been selected as a 2012 Archery Olympic hopeful;
  • organized a seven week trip through New Zealand, working on organic farms around the country;
  • summited Denali;
  • ran a marathon;
  • volunteered at a summer camp for Siberian orphans;
  • competed as a successful triathlete;
  • interned for MacWorld magazine as a product tester.

The new class was culled from a record 3,437 applicants, and the admission office processed their applications in an environmentally friendly way. “This was the first applicant pool for which we read every set of application materials electronically; it’s the greenest applicant pool in Whitman history,” said Kevin Dyerly, director of admission.

During Opening Convocation, Tony Cabasco ’90, dean of admission and financial aid, reported that 1,500 of the applications were received within 48 hours of the January deadline. He asked the faculty to not look at the class as procrastinators, but rather to know they “can always count on them to come through in the end.”

It was the beauty of the Whitman campus that awed many arriving first-year students and their parents this week. And the strong, supportive community — faculty and staff seemed to always be there to help and answer questions – was mentioned by nearly all families.

“The whole community is really friendly and helpful,” said Nicholas Walmer of Tacoma, father of Stanislav Walmer ’13.

But to top all that, parents interviewed Friday said one of the things that reminded and floored them about the level of education their sons and daughters were about to get at Whitman was when Elizabeth Vandiver, Clement Biddle Penrose Associate Professor of Latin and Classics, delivered the Convocation address. The professor’s intellectual virtuosity showed clearly in her message, which received a standing ovation in Cordiner Hall. It beautifully and deftly wove together the importance of classical knowledge, World War I history and Greek Mythology and hero Achilles and the importance of tradition, evolving traditions and how that related to these first year students’ newly minted and changed two-semester seminar, which offers rigorous training in critical thinking, analysis and writing skills.

“I’m thrilled about the caliber of professor here,” said Inez Caspi of Seattle, parent of Lian Caspi ’13.

“I thought it was incredible,” said Tina Shaffer of Portland about Vandiver’s address and the Convocation event.

One father, who had studied the classics in college, expressed his admiration of Vandiver. Another said he wished he were the one attending Whitman.

And he expressed his admiration of Whitman and Vandiver with one word: “Wow.”

Pictured: First-year student Olivia Nielson puts her dad, Dave, to work as she moves into Jewett Hall after flying in from Alaska.

– Ashley Coetzee and Virginia Grantier