Two of 420 new first-year students, Melissa Lawrence '18 and Magaly Gonzalez '18 are about to become roommates in Anderson Hall. It's a hectic first day, but they seem calm enough.
"It's a little overwhelming," Lawrence says. "But I'm really excited to move in and actually get started with orientation."
From Alamo, Calif., Lawrence visited Whitman's campus as a high school sophomore.
"I really wanted a small school and I liked the liberal arts aspect of it," she explains.
Another reason to choose Whitman: like 14 percent of the incoming class, she has another Whittie in the family. Jessica Lawrence '15 is a film and media studies major, so Melissa figured "I had my sister here, so I knew it would be fun."
Parents Ted and Julia Lawrence are "veterans."
"This is our third - two Whitties and a Colorado College Tiger," Ted Lawrence explains. "I love Walla Walla. I love the downtown, I love that the college is so close. It's ideal."
The first-year class is full of high achievers. Of the 420 new Whitties, 26 were high school valedictorians and 54 percent were in the top 10 percent of their class. Students in the class of 2018 represent 34 U.S. states and 11 other countries including Bhutan, Brazil, Canada, China, Malaysia, Mexico, Norway, Rwanda, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.
Lawrence and Gonzalez both took part in the first-year Scrambles program prior to the start of semester, Lawrence in the Wallowas in Oregon and Gonzalez in the San Juan Islands in Washington State.
For Gonzalez, a native of Los Angeles, the beautiful setting of both Whitman's campus and the Pacific Northwest was an attraction.
"I visited the campus once and I just fell in love!" Gonzalez says. "I just fell in love with the nature, the outdoors - I felt it was the perfect fit."
"It's also nice to get out of L.A.," she adds.
Fitting for new roommates, Gonzalez and Lawrence are both considering majoring in biology, though they are open to other directions too.
Chuck Cleveland, dean of students, calls opening day "one of the special days of the academic year. The campus is festive and pops with the excitement and energy of both the new students and the hard-working student staff who greet them."
"One of the things I like best is meeting the parents who move boxes into rooms with smiles on their faces, reflecting an enormous sense of pride and hopefulness for their student whom they will soon be leaving behind," Cleveland adds.
At Jewett Hall, Scott Strozyk is perched on the outside window ledge of his daughter's new room. Inside, Sarah Strozyk '18 is busily unpacking.
Scott is enjoying Walla Walla. "We love it," he says. "It's drier, it's warmer - it's gorgeous over here."
Sarah Strozyk has been here for two weeks already, having taken part in a preseason soccer camp on campus.
"It was really nice to have time to meet a lot of the soccer people and just hang out," she says.
"I prospied here and everyone made me feel welcome," she says. "I prospied at other schools and I didn't have the same feeling."