As I sit writing this column in the waning days of summer, I feel a sense of excitement and cautious optimism for the coming academic year at Whitman College. As of today, we anticipate welcoming more than 500 new first-year students, our largest incoming class ever. Our completely revamped new-student orientation is focused on preparing them for the Whitman academic experience and helping each one of them develop that powerful sense of belonging to this community that so many of you have described to me over the years.
Like many other colleges across the country, we have made the decision to require all students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated prior to the start of the semester, believing this is the best way to keep our community safe as COVID-19 variants continue to plague our country. As a “fully vaccinated campus,” according to Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s definition, vaccinated people will have to follow fewer physical distancing and other coronavirus protocols, although we will be starting off the semester with an indoor mask mandate for everyone to combat the spread of the delta variant. Already more than 90 percent of our campus community is fully vaccinated, giving us confidence that we can safely reopen. As more information becomes available about booster shots, we will closely monitor recommendations and keep our community updated.
And I am thrilled to be traveling again, heading out across the country to visit with as many of you as possible in whatever configurations offer the most peace of mind—outdoor, masked, etc. I hope you will watch your email for announcements of Whitman events in your area. I have missed seeing you and hearing your stories of your life at and beyond Whitman.
I recognize the difficult times we have endured and the challenges we will certainly face going forward, but this is, for me, still a time of hope and anticipation of better times ahead.
Kathleen M. Murray