When the Class of 2019 arrived on campus last week, Willamette welcomed them with open arms and the Opening Days program.
Organized by returning students, the program introduces newcomers to the many facets of campus life.
President Steve Thorsett greeted students and their families, while staff from many departments volunteered to help freshmen feel at home from their very first day on campus.
Freshmen toured the university, moved into their residence halls — with the assistance of Bearcat football players — and enjoyed activities such as swimming and volleyball. Later, they participated in the university’s traditional matriculation event — an evening ceremony where students float candles down the Mill Stream to symbolize their varied paths through Willamette.
About 130 students also participated in Jump Start, an optional program to connect with fellow multi-cultural students, serve the community or explore the Pacific Northwest.
This year, more than 80 students took part in the Steppin’ Out option, spending several days hiking and rafting in the Columbia Gorge and along the Oregon Coast.
For Bryan Schmidt, director of Campus Recreation, Steppin’ Out is much more than an outdoor program. Rather, it’s a chance for students who are beginning a new phase of their lives to shed old insecurities and rediscover their true selves.
“Steppin’ Out creates an environment where people can truly be themselves, possibly for the first time in a long time,” he says. “Seeing them transform in that way is magical.”