Some 1,740 Washington University in St. Louis first-year students arrived on the South 40 on Aug. 21 ready to learn, make friends and try the Bear’s Den’s famous burgers. But many also voiced an eagerness to serve the St. Louis community during this painful moment in the region’s history.
“I already feel like I am a part of this city,” said freshman Abby Hermes, of Dallas. “I want to learn about its history and its issues and find a way to get involved.”
Freshman Kate Thorne of Iowa City, Iowa, and other pre-orientation participants arrived in St. Louis just days after the shooting death of African-American teenager Michael Brown. During the Leadership Through Service pre-orientation program, Thorne learned more about the entrenched racial and economic problems that have led to the ongoing protests. But she also got an introduction to the city’s unique architecture, great restaurants and cool attractions.
“The more I learn about this city, the more I love it,” Thorne said. “There’s the opportunity here to push for progress and make an impact. But St. Louis is also an exciting city to explore. I’ve already been to Forest Park and the City Museum, and I can’t wait to see more of what it has to offer.”
Thorne’s roommate in Rutledge House, Kristen Sze-Tu, of Long Island, N.Y., agrees. She participated in the slam poetry pre-orientation program. “Slam poetry is a lot about social justice, and the members of the slam poetry team told us, ‘Go out and be part of St. Louis.’” Sze-Tu said. “I plan to take that advice to heart.”
The Class of 2018 is the largest in WUSTL history – some 1,740 students from across the nation and some 20 countries — joining a student body representing 50 countries. More than 100 transfer and exchange students also arrived. More than 400 residential advisors, Washington University student associates and student and staff volunteers helped students and their families haul mini-fridges and microwaves into the residential colleges on this blistering move-in day.
Freshman and Ervin Scholar Trey Lampley said that sense of Midwestern friendliness drew him to Washington University. So did Wash. U.’s tradition of service. Washington University students participate in community service at a higher rate than their peers.
“It’s not enough to talk; you need to act,” said Lampley, of Cincinnati. “These problems are much older than I am, but I believe college students can make a difference. We have been given this gift — education — and we are obliged to use it.”