Welcome address to the Class of 2017 on Arrival Day, Friday, August 23, 2013 by Martha C. Merrill '84, Dean of Admission & Financial Aid

Welcome to Connecticut College! To all newly enrolled students, first years and transfers, I am delighted to welcome you and your families to campus!

My staff and I have had the pleasure of meeting many of you in person, but we were introduced to most of you through your application. And many of you have already gotten to know each other via FaceBook, Twitter or other means of social media. However, don’t let your electronic “friending” replace the tangible friendships you will make while here at Connecticut College.

We are a residential living and learning community. Take advantage of that fact while you can. Get to know your faculty, the staff, housemates and members of your classes in person. Take time to sit down with a new friend and share your music tastes in person; discuss your favorite novel, your political point of view or Red Sox vs. Yankees opinion over a cup of coffee at Ruane’s Den or the Blue Camel Café; or invite your Freshman seminar professor and a few of your classmates for dinner in a dining hall to discuss that day’s class conversation. True friendships take time and nurturing, and I would argue that true intellectual discourse is best when exchanged in person.

And I’d like to add that among all of the NESCAC and Ivy League colleges and universities, we are the only one with an ocean view. Put down your electronic devices from time to time and enjoy it. We were, after all, identified by Newsweek this past year as one of the top ten most beautiful campuses in the country.

Before I officially turn the Class of 2017 over to my colleagues in the deans’ office, allow me to introduce you to your class. You come together to New London with your collective life experiences which bring vitality to the campus. As important as your professors will become, your classmates also ensure that you are not just inspired in the classroom, but over meals, sitting with friends on Tempel Green and in your daily conversations. You are an amazing class and I am pleased to share your accomplishments.

  • 4,702 students applied for admission this past year and 36.7 percent were offered admission. Of those 490 of you who chose to enroll, six students who were admitted a year ago chose to defer enrollment until now. An additional 15 selected to defer their enrollment until January or August 2014. Fourteen transfers also join us this afternoon.

  • You applied to eight colleges on average (likely more!) and were offered admission to three of them. (That’s a guess.)

  • 219 of you made your “first choice” declaration as Early Decision candidates. That also means that 4,483 applicants competed for the remaining 271 spots in the class during Regular Decision. In other words, there were nearly 17 applicants for each place in the class, so each student’s presence here is an accomplishment of significant merit.

  • For those who come from high schools that rank, nearly 90 percent ranked in the top quintile.

  • You hail from 372 different high schools. The smallest high school attended had a senior class of 7 (unless you want to count the few homeschooled students who graduated from a class of 1), while one of you graduated from a high school with 1,301 seniors.

  • Top anticipated majors include biology, economics, psychology, English, international relations, history, environmental studies, government, math and behavioral neuroscience, with nine percent of you "undecided" – or clueless – but that doesn’t surprise us,  and nearly five percent who wish to self-design their own major.

  • Twenty-two percent of the class is made up of domestic students of color (106 in total) – the largest percentage and number in the College’s history; 39 of you are foreign citizens and 76 students (or 16 percent) have an international background representing 31 different countries.

  • Twenty-eight students in this class are children or grandchildren of Connecticut College alumni and several of you have or have had brothers or sisters in attendance. Sixty-nine students, or 14 percent of the Class, are in the first generation of their family to attend college. This deserves recognition.

You come together as Connecticut’s 98th class from 37 states – from Maine to Oregon, Tennessee and Nevada as well as 16 countries, including Honduras, China, Maldives, Italy, Sweden, Lebanon and Pakistan to name just a handful.

Members of this Class speak dozens of languages including Urdu, Greek, Czech, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Malayalam, French, Arabic, Bengali, Korean and Hindi.

You are the children of the famous and the not-so-famous. Several professors, teachers, CEOs, architects, farmers, mechanics, engineers, writers, a shiatsu practitioner and numismatist all have children in this Class. Quite a few lawyers, nurses and doctors, business owners, college administrators (including some of our own!), screenwriters, film producers, an interior decorator, rabbi, school bus driver and a food stylist are your parents.

Interestingly, many of these parents were drawn to the same name. Sarah (with and without the “h”), Elizabeth (or Elise or Eliza), Emily (plus four Emmas), Alexander, Michael and Ryan are the most common in the first-year class.

And your first and last names create some interesting patterns. For the history buffs, we have a group of national and international leaders with a Kennedy, Johnson, Chavez and Castro. And other leaders of a sort join us with a King, Sargent and a Bishop. There is an obvious botanical theme with a Zinya, Yasmin, Marigold, Lotus, Holly, Ivy and Flores – ready to Bloom in the Brier and Grove. And they will all rely on Sun and Skye, but less on their classmate Storm. And to be completely nonsensical, you and a Friend can spin a Webb of Hope and ask your Butler to drive your Diamond to the Bank in your Bentley. We have an active and outdoorsy group with a Farmer, Hunter, Mason, Forrester, Fisher and Swimmer. And since very few if any of you are of age, I beg you not to Chugg Beers. Better to stick to the Twining (tea that is) and Seltzer.

And who exactly are the students that make up the Class of 2017? Ice cream scoopers, bloggers, organic gardeners and playwrights. A nationally ranked free-style skier, another international ski competitor, a race walker and a student who worked at MIT’s Draper laser labs. A student who summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro and another who appropriately climbed Camel’s Hump in Vermont are in this Class. You are Eagle Scouts and Girl Scout Golds and an African refugee. One of your classmates participated in Boy’s Nation (and included a photo shaking President Obama’s hand to prove it). Another was a research assistant at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. And one of you is a “Sneaker Head” – who buys, sells, and trades shoes with others for their respective collections. He’ll be the guy wearing a different pair of sneakers every day.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize the birthday today of two of your classmates – Happy Birthday, Bryn and Karan!

In this Class we have budding filmmakers, ER volunteers, novelists, a volunteer firefighter, the Scruff Club President (facial hair club – apparently this is a school spirit booster!) and someone who set the New England record in RPS Power Lifting in his specific weight and age class. One of you is a member of the #1 high school Ultimate team in the nation, while across the country another participated in the first place world champion outrigger team. And someone in your class competed at the national level in the Business Professionals of America competition.

All of these traits we are happy to have on our campus. I am confident our faculty will enjoy engaging with each and every one of you! Thank you for allowing the admission staff and me the opportunity to get to know you through interviews, high school visits, numerous email exchanges, tweets and of course your applications. I know the busy schedules you have kept and can only imagine how involved you will be here at Connecticut.

Continue to be engaged. Seek new opportunities to stretch your mind and body. Engage your fellow students and your faculty in and out of the classroom. But don’t forget to find time for yourself and to unplug from time to time.

We intend to challenge, encourage and support you so that you continue to succeed here at the College and beyond. Enjoy the adventures that lie ahead. You took the time to share your inner thoughts, dreams and aspirations with us and I admitted you with all great hopes and expectations that you will accomplish them and more!

And now it is my pleasure to turn the Class of 2017 and the 14 transfer students over to my colleagues Dean of the College Carolyn Denard and Dean of Freshmen Andrea Rossi-Reder.