Class of 2026 arrives on campus

Older students experience full-circle move-in moments as they welcome next generation

Madeleine Pira of Los Angeles (center) gets some help moving onto the South 40 from sister Melanie Pira and father Manny Pira. Washington University welcomed the Class of 2026 on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 19 and 20. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

While handing out cold water and glazed doughnuts to Washington University in St. Louis’ newest students, sophomore Caleb Feaman had two revelations. 

One, it’s hard work moving 1,826 first-year students and 85 transfer students onto campus. In the past week, he and his colleagues at student-owned University Trucking have hauled hundreds of storage boxes and mini-fridges to residence halls.

And two, he has changed a lot since his own move-in day a year ago. 

“I remember that feeling — the nervousness and excitement of moving onto campus,” said Feaman, an Olin Business School student. “Now I can say this is where I belong. They don’t know it yet, but WashU isn’t just the place where we go to school; it’s more like our home.” 

Feaman was among hundreds of university employees and students who welcomed the Class of 2026 to the South 40 on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 19 and 20. Hailing from 48 states and 27 countries, this class is the most diverse in university history: 20% of students are Pell Grant-eligible, 15% are the first in their families to attend college and 51% identify as students of color.

First-year student Lance Berryman of San Antonio moves into Rutledge House with the assistance of his father, Brian Berryman. The Class of 2026 hails from 48 states and 27 countries. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

Feaman was not the only student who experienced a full-circle move-in moment.

There was Sara-Marie Reed, a Washington University Student Associate (WUSA), who led new families on the same campus tour she took a year ago. (“It was so much hotter last year. People are going to think St. Louis weather is always this nice.”)

And senior Omer Kazmi, a residential advisor who checked students in to Umrath, the same residence hall where he lived as a first-year student. (“My RA was always there for me. He is the reason I wanted to be an RA.”)

And senior Charlie Pruzan, of student business WashU Wash, who joked with the same WUPD officer who greeted him and his father when they pulled up to campus the first time. (“My dad said to me, ‘Those are real police. Don’t do anything stupid,’” Pruzan recalled with a laugh.)

But for junior Oliver Simon, this move-in day was nothing like his own. For his class, the COVID-19 pandemic meant no roommates, no in-person Convocation and no trips to St. Louis attractions. 

“This is how it should be,” said Simon, gesturing to new students wandering past. “I’m really happy and a little jealous that this class gets a real WashU move-in experience.” 

First-year student Mark Ma was happy, too. Fighting jet lag from his 20-hour journey from Beijing to St. Louis, Ma took his very first walk through campus, stopping at the bookstore to buy a WashU baseball cap.

“This is a whole new world,” said Ma, who plans to study biology in Arts & Sciences. “I’m so far away from home and my family. But I am more excited than nervous.” 

Katharine Pei, director of student transitions and family programs, estimated that more than 4,500 family members — a marked increase from past move ins — accompanied their students to campus. Still, this year’s move in went smoothly in part because families, for the first time, could select their own move-in time slot. 

“Families were excited to explore campus and be part of this special experience,” Pei said. “And thanks to the hundreds of staff and students who supported our efforts, we were ready to welcome them to the WashU family.”

First-year student Maile Smits (left) of Fort Wayne, Ind., unpacks her belongings while Joe Steensma, a Residential Life faculty fellow and a professor of practice at the Brown School, helps carry in more boxes. (Photo: Joe Angeles/Washington University)

Fall Welcome orientation events continue this week. On campus, students will meet with their WUSAs and academic advisers, discover ways to prioritize their physical and mental health and attend programming organized by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion as well as a performance of the sexual violence prevention production “The Date.” Students also are invited to join classes at Sumers Recreation Center; walking tours of campus art; and group runs; as well as learn about different affinity groups and attend late-night social programming.

This year’s “In The Lou” excursions will introduce students to St. Louis history and culture with trips to attractions such as the Old Courthouse and the National Blues Museum and neighborhoods including South Grand and Cherokee Street. Fall Welcome concludes with a tailgate party and football game Friday, Aug. 26, and Convocation and party in Tisch Park on Saturday, Aug. 27. The first day of class is Monday, Aug. 29.