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Willamette University welcomes more than 1,000 new students

by University Communications,

  • Students moving in
    Current students help with new student move in.
  • Campus leaders sitting on stage during Convocation
    Jaime Arredondo BA’05, Executive Director at CAPACES Leadership Institute delivers the keynote address at Opening Convocation
  • A PNCA student relaxes during move in
    PNCA new student move in.
  • CAS and PNCA students participate in the matriculation ceremony.
    New students participate in the Matriculation ceremony.
  • A student participates in the rummage sale.
    The Opening Days rummage sale.
  • Students cheer on Matriculation participants
    Student leaders cheer on as new students participate in Matriculation.
  • PNCA and Willamette mascots
    The Willamette and PNCA mascots unite at Matriculation.
  • Students hold up signs with Willamette's motto
    New students learn the Willamette motto (in English and in Latin).
  • President Thorsett and Provost Long at Convocation
    President Thorsett and Provost Long lead faculty out of Opening Convocation.
  • PNCA student move in
    PNCA student move in.
  • Opening Days leaders and Blitz
    Opening Days leaders at the Welcome Picnic.

Willamette University welcomed its largest class of new students in memory as the academic year kicked off with orientation events at each of Willamette’s five colleges.

New Salem undergraduate students spent time moving into residence halls with the enthusiastic assistance of student-athletes, while Pacific Northwest College of Art students moved into their new home in the ArtHouse residence at the heart of the Portland Pearl District.

At the College of Law, Lee Ann Donaldson JD’09, President of the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors, delivered a keynote address at the Professionalism Lunch, designed to introduce 1Ls to what it means to be a Willamette lawyer.

Across Willamette’s Salem and Portland campuses, students met new friends, found their way around and geared up for the eventful year to come.

Getting a “jump start” on college

The fun and excitement began even earlier for many Salem undergraduate students who met one another during Jump Start pre-orientation programs. In S3 (Service, Society, and Self), students lived out Willamette’s motto — Not unto ourselves alone are we born — through community service and civic engagement projects. During Ohana, students of color and first-generation students created community, while Steppin’ Out participants pursued adventure in the woods and at the coast.

This year also saw the debut of linQ, an affinity-based cohort pre-orientation program for LGBTQ+ students and allies, led by the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center. “We had a really great group of participants and I'm so glad I could be one of the people to help welcome them onto campus,” said Emery Kerani BA’26, BS/MS’26, one of the program’s inaugural student-leaders. “Being queer can be isolating even in the best of circumstances, so my hope with linQ is that we helped the participants create connections that might mitigate or even fend off that sense of isolation.”

Willamette was also proud to welcome the first post-pandemic class of Tokyo International University students back to the American Studies Program (ASP) in Salem. ASP is a unique program created by Tokyo International University and Willamette University in 1989 in order to give students an opportunity to be immersed in an American university experience.

“Challenge yourselves”

At the annual Opening Convocation ceremony, President Steve Thorsett welcomed new students and their families to the Willamette community. Jaime Arredondo BA’05, Executive Director at CAPACES Leadership Institute delivered the keynote address, themed around bursting the “Willamette bubble.” He encouraged students to step outside of campus to identify the needs in the community and to take action to help fill those needs.

President Thorsett delivered some timely advice to the new students: “Challenge yourselves, embrace discomfort, and remember that as university students, you are the ones responsible for organizing and shaping your education.”

“You have come to one of the nation’s most innovative schools,” President Thorsett said to those assembled on the quad. “Make the most of that choice, and whatever you do, take the time to be really present — in your friendships, in your coursework and in the Willamette community.”

As the week came to a close, first-year undergraduate students from Salem and PNCA were formally welcomed to Willamette during the traditional matriculation ceremony.

Cheered on by student leaders, each new Bearcat and Sloth was given a candle by a member of the Willamette alumni community.

Then, under a setting sun, the students placed the candles in the Mill Stream and watched them float away into the distance — symbolizing the varied pathways that led all the students to Willamette and the journeys to come.

“As a College of Arts & Sciences and a PNCA graduate, I was really pleased to participate in the matriculation ceremony this year — my first one,” said Jennifer Viviano BA’88, MFA’17. “Not only did Willamette prove life-changing for me, the studio art practice I developed at PNCA centers on ritual. This ceremony is not only visually lovely, it creates an opening at the beginning of a time and experience that can alter a students sense of themselves. This is one of the ways we change the world.”

A historic class

Willamette University was proud to welcome over 1,000 students to its Salem and Portland campuses. Here are some highlights about the incoming students at Willamette:

Key statistics about new class. 745 new undergraduate students, 97 transfer students, 36% students of color, 28% first generation; 5 schools, 18 countries represented, 45 states represented; 297 graduate students, 125 college of law, 53 pnca, 74 mba, 45 msds

Undergraduate Students

  • 745 new undergraduate students (Salem & Portland Campus)
  • 97 transfer students
  • 36% students of color
  • Average weighted GPA: 3.7
  • Top major interest: Business, Psychology, Environmental Science, Illustration, Animation
  • 28% first generation students

College of Law

  • Total students: 123 plus 1 MLS and 2 LLM students
  • Schools represented: 68
  • Percentage of Oregon residents: 38%

Atkinson Graduate School of Management

  • 74 new MBA students

Hallie Ford School of Graduate Studies at PNCA

  • 53 new graduate students (summer and fall 2023 combined)

School of Computing and Information Sciences

  • 45 MSDS students


  • 18 countries represented
  • 45 states represented

Note: numbers reflect new population at first day of classes.

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