Class of 2016 explores region during orientation week at Willamette

Opening Days: Aug 23-29

More than 500 incoming students arrived on campus Aug. 23, determined to make Willamette University their new home away from home.

They hauled laptops and suitcases, bedding and backpacks. They explored the grounds with their parents, and they foraged for supplies at the Panhellenic Council’s rummage sale, a fundraiser for Greek scholarships.

There, enterprising freshmen bought everything from ironing boards and toasters to printers and wall hangings — all for rock-bottom prices.

Although the move to Salem was “nerve wracking,” Emily Romero ’16 of Cape Charles, Va. says she’s eager to start a new chapter of her life at Willamette.

Already, she’s befriended her roommate — a fellow “sci-fi geek” — who she met during Spring Preview weekend.

“It’s totally different from high school,” Romero says. “I’m looking forward to new experiences.”

These experiences have already begun for most students, each eager to see what Willamette — and the Pacific Northwest — has to offer.

Through Jump Start, many went white water rafting down the White Salmon River, hiked along the Columbia River Gorge and volunteered for service projects — ranging from feeding hungry families to reaching youths in need.

On campus, they listened to words of encouragement from President Steven Thorsett and convocation speaker Firoozeh Dumas, best-selling author of “Funny in Farsi.”

They also toured downtown Salem, visited the Oregon State Fair and auditioned for Willamette’s vocal and instrumental ensembles.

Having once been a freshman herself, Kathy Glenn ’13 knows first hand just how overwhelming the first few weeks on campus can be.

That’s why she and her volleyball teammates helped streamline the move-in process — joining football players, cultural ambassadors and American Studies Program students — to carry new students’ belongings to their residence hall rooms.

“The parents were really appreciative; they didn’t expect the help,” Glenn says. “We (the volleyball team) tried to take the light stuff and let the football players take the fridges.”

Incoming class

Of the 9,184 who applied from 2,283 high schools to attend Willamette — an all-time high for the university — this year’s incoming class is geographically and culturally diverse.

The class, numbering about 530, includes students from 23 states and four countries. Of these, 33 percent identify themselves as multicultural.

More facts about the class:

• 33 are valedictorians

• The median SAT score is 1800, and the median ACT score is 27

• 90 first-generation students enrolled

• Of the first-year students, about one in three come from traditionally underrepresented groups  — the highest in Willamette’s history.

Willamette University’s three graduate schools of education, law and management also welcomed more than 300 new students for the 2012-13 academic year.