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Wildcats March Through the Arch

Northwestern welcomes Class of 2021 first-year and transfer students to campus

EVANSTON - Purple Pride was on display everywhere Tuesday as 2,100 new students, first-years with the Class of 2021 and transfers, turned out for the annual March through the Arch and received a warm welcome to Northwestern University.

Under sunny skies, the Northwestern University Marching Band led the way as students decked out in their new purple T-shirts stepped across Sheridan Road and through the Weber Arch to take their symbolic first steps onto campus as part of the Wildcat Welcome tradition.

President Morton Schapiro was on hand to greet them at the crosswalk and later welcome them at Deering Meadow. Parents, siblings, friends and an enthusiastic contingent of Student Affairs staff and student peer advisers — along with Northwestern officials, faculty members, neighbors and others — cheered and waved purple and white streamers as the throng of new students marched onto campus.

“Welcome, Wildcats!” exclaimed President Schapiro, greeting the assembled sea of purple-clad students and parents in front of Deering Library, drawing cheers and laughter from the new students. 

“We have 158 transfer students and 1,905 first-year students,” he declared, complimenting them on their choice to become members of the Wildcat family. “You’re going to figure out that this was one of the best decisions you ever made in your life.”

The President then ticked off some of the upcoming events planned for the new students, from the dash they will make across Ryan Field at Saturday evening’s football game against Bowling Green to the Sunday night trip to Six Flags amusement park, as well the upcoming chance for all of them to see the smash hit musical “Hamilton” in October.

“From the bottom of my heart, I hope you love your Northwestern experience,” he said.

“I’m excited to start,” said Aaron Senfeld, 17, of Boca Raton, Florida, a member of the Class of 2021, standing on Deering Meadow with his mother, Shelley, for the “Kiss ‘n’ Bye” moment when parents begin to take their leave. “They do a really good job of making this all feel like a momentous occasion.” 

Evanston Mayor Stephen Hagerty also spoke at Tuesday’s celebration. Hagerty spoke about the pride parents must have felt as they watched their children walk through the Arch with more than 2,000 other students, with whom they will soon “connect and collaborate with and create all sorts of things that are great for the world, great for this University.”

Hagerty told a story about how he had breakfast earlier in the day with his freshman-year roommate from Syracuse University. “I was assigned a roommate,” he said, “and he became a lifelong friend of mine. You guys are going to make lifelong friends with each other.”

Calling Evanston a “world-class city,” Hagerty welcomed students as residents of the city, saying, “You are members of our community for the next four years. You may hear, ‘Well, somehow those Northwestern students are different.’ You’ll never hear me say that.

“You are so, so fortunate to be here at one of the finest universities in the United States with one of the finest college presidents and finest faculty and staff in the United States.”

One new Northwestern parent, Dorothy Bielawski, 50, seemed to feel that more than most. She and her family live in Munich, Germany, but she is originally from Rockford, Illinois, so there was a sense of homecoming as well as coming back to America.

Standing on Sheridan Road after her daughter, Christina Goss, 18, a first-year, had passed in the procession, Bielawski noted how her daughter was an engineering major with a strong interest in linguistics, and she will be able to combine them in her studies here.

“It is impossible to do that in Germany,” she said. “It’s not as flexible there as it is in the States. There isn’t a liberal arts option there. It’s one of the main reasons Christina wanted to come to the U.S.”

An added benefit of being in Illinois for Goss is that her grandparents, Bielawski’s parents, also live here, which will be “an additional comfort” for the family, she noted.

Bielawski and her husband Horst Goss, 54, who was in Germany on Tuesday taking their son to the first day of school in Munich, were texting photos of the two new students as their separate school first days unfolded an ocean away.

“We visited here two years ago,” said Bielawski, scanning the scene of Wildcat Welcome as the students marched past. “We wanted Christina to have an American experience.”

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