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Class of 2023 marches in as orientation begins

Wildcat Welcome

Northwestern celebrates the Class of 2023 as a new year begins

Northwestern’s newest first-year and transfer students attended their first day of classes Sept. 24 after a week of Wildcat Welcome events that included a call from President Morton Schapiro for students to think of this University as their home.

“My goal for you simply is to think of Northwestern as your home, as your community, as your family, not just for the years you are here, but for your entire lifetime,” the president told the new students gathered for the President’s Convocation.

 Watch the video: President Morton Schapiro presents annual Convocation address to new students

He also cautioned them to look out for each other, respect one another and to not be afraid to ask for help when they hit bumps in the road, as all students do. 

“You’re going to have so many opportunities before you, but they are meaningless if you don’t take care of yourself, mentally and physically,” President Schapiro said.

The President and senior leaders addressed the new class and transfer students on September 22 at Ryan Fieldhouse during the President’s Convocation, which followed a week of Wildcat Welcome events, including new student orientation, a class photo and a dash across Ryan Field at the start of the football game with Michigan State.

“Here’s my hope for you,” the President said. “May we work together to understand, celebrate and appreciate our differences, to treat each other with respect and to learn from each other, and very importantly in this world, to be models — for all of us to be models — for others to emulate.

“My wish for you here is that when you graduate from Northwestern — and you will graduate from Northwestern — you’re going to cherish the friendships you’ve made here, that you’ll have the humility to realize that education doesn’t end with an NU degree, it begins with an NU degree, and that you will gain the tools to educate yourselves for your lifetime.

“Most of all, I hope and pray, that when you leave this campus you will be prepared to repair a broken and a challenging world. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the faith you placed in us by selecting this wonderful University. Go ‘Cats!”


Provost Jonathan Holloway also spoke of the importance of understanding that every one of the students in the audience has something exceptional to offer and that education is in part a path to learning the riddle of what excellence looks like – and to look for excellence in their fellow classmates and others in the world.

“Just take a look around,” Holloway told them. “You may see differences at first, but just like you, your classmates are here because they possess a particular talent that separated them from their peers in high school. For some of them, that talent will be more obvious to the consuming audience, for others that talent will be of the type that is only made manifest in small, practically invisible ways.”

Julie Payne-Kirchmeier, interim vice president for Student Affairs, told the students that Northwestern wants them all to thrive and challenge themselves while here, and she exhorted them all to trust their teammates, their training and themselves in good and bad times.

She noted that when things don’t go perfectly, students should find the lesson in the moment and learn from it. 

“I want you to strive for excellence, not perfection,” she said, asking them to remember a quote by former South African President Nelson Mandela, who once said “I never lose. Either I win or I learn.”

Payne-Kirchmeier added, “If you do fall, get up, dust yourself off, ask for help if you need it, and move forward.”

Earlier this week, students from the Class of 2023 and new transfer students moved in, moved forward and celebrated March Through the Arch, joining in jubilant Wildcat Welcome festivities to mark the start of their Northwestern experience.

With many emotional and proud parents on hand, the Northwestern University Marching Band kicked off the annual welcome ceremonies and led a procession of more than 2,000 new students through campus to Deering Library. Family members, friends, faculty and staff lined the pathways past University Hall and the Rock to cheer on the students.

“Welcome to Northwestern,” President Schapiro told the crowd, standing on the steps of Deering Library and looking out over a sea of purple on Deering Meadow. “This is the advice I am going to offer you for ‘kiss ‘n’ bye.’ To family members, when you hug our students, tell them that you love them, tell them you’re proud of them, tell them that you believe in them and tell them you will always be there when they need you.

“And for the students, whether your loved ones are here or not, tell them, ‘Thanks,’ because you wouldn’t be here without all the people who invested in you.”

Parents on hand to say tearful farewells to their students included Denisse Guerrero, mother of incoming first-year Maria Daniela “Leli” Guerrero, 18, of Weston, Fla. Her brother, Juan, 16, was among the family members cheering his sister on. Also there were her father, Bruno, two cousins, an aunt and a grandmother.

“Oh my God, I’m going to cry. I’m so proud. I’m speechless,” said Denisse Guerrero, standing in the middle of Sheridan Road near the Weber Arch just before students started their march. She added that her daughter had her heart set on Northwestern since her school days.

“She applied only to Northwestern and got in,” Denisse Guerrero said. “She was early decision.”

Juan Guerrero said the family, originally from Venezuela, came to the United States in 2011 from Valencia and settled in Florida. While Leli Guerrero is anxious about the Chicago winters, Juan Guerrero said his sister is living her dream coming to Northwestern and is determined to study chemistry, then go into medicine.

Published: September 17, 2019. Updated: September 25, 2019.

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