Over the weekend of Sept. 21-23, some 4,000 students will be moving into residence halls at Western Washington University, with fall classes starting Wednesday, Sept. 26. The new academic year at Western is an exciting time and the annual start of a wonderful journey of discovery and achievement by our students.
The campus really fills with energy, as does much of our community: new and returning students and their families throng campus walkways and fill stores, restaurants and other local businesses during the last week of September.
For fall quarter, we expect about 2,700 freshmen and 900 new transfer students. All together nearly 15,000 Western students will be attending the university.
Our freshman class will include eight prestigious National Merit Finalists, 64 students with a perfect 4.0 high school grade point average, and several students who scored perfectly on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams. While the vast majority of our students are from the state of Washington, we will have students this year from 44 states and international students from across the globe.
On campus we have many wonderful activities and continuing traditions to start the new academic year, including workshops on study skills, declaring a major and managing personal finances, as well as free bus and bike tours of Bellingham, an outdoor movie and concerts. A fun and bustling event is the Associated Students' two-day Info Fair in Red Square, where students can learn about the many student clubs and other activities they can get involved with.
As part of our Western Reads program, all new freshman and transfer students at Western receive complimentary copies of the book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," and will be invited to participate in a variety of activities during the academic year, including panel discussions, presentations by visiting scholars and a lecture by the book's author, Rebecca Skloot. Western Reads, for the ninth year in a row, is our campus-wide reading program designed to promote intellectual engagement and discourse among members of the campus community.
A signature tradition on campus, and a beautiful sight to see, is Welcoming Convocation for students on Tuesday, Sept. 25. Local residents are welcome to join Western students, faculty and staff in greeting new students to Western by forming a "human corridor" leading to Memory Walk and Old Main at the close of the ceremony. Participants will meet at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the Performing Arts Center to form the "corridor," which winds between glowing luminaries. It is an uplifting experience, and a great way to welcome students.
Memory Walk, a commencement tradition, began in 1912 when the first stone engraved with the class year was placed in the sidewalk running parallel to the front of Old Main. A stone representing every graduating class since that time is now in place in this walkway and contains a time capsule.
With the start of the academic year, exciting research projects continue, new projects begin, and faculty members and students return from summer research and service-learning projects in Whatcom County and across the state, nation and abroad. Many people often are surprised how closely Western faculty and undergraduate students work together, often on research projects you would more likely find at doctoral programs at other universities. Our students are working with faculty to break down greenhouse gases, build sustainable cars of the future, develop new ways to transform algae into nonpolluting biofuel, produce the next generation of solar panels, mentor school children and set their sights on higher education, examine causes of schizophrenia and study our congested border crossings, to name just a few.
So, come visit us on campus, enjoy our performing arts, fascinating lectures or athletic events.
Join me in rooting for Western's NCAA Division II men's basketball national champions, who will face Duke University in Durham, N.C., on Oct.27.
On behalf of the entire Western campus, I thank the Bellingham and Whatcom County communities for their strong and continuing support for Western and look forward to another great year of accomplishments and partnership.
Bruce Shepard is the president of Western Washington University.