Prof. Sarah Schaack [left] and President Audrey Bilger [right] spoke at Convocation to welcome new students to the amazing world of Reed.
Prof. Sarah Schaack [left] and President Audrey Bilger [right] spoke at Convocation to welcome new students to the amazing world of Reed.

Reed Welcomes Class of ’25

Incoming class is more than 500 strong, the biggest in the college’s history.

By Randall S. Barton | August 24, 2021

The pennants fluttered, the horns echoed, and the big tent gleamed as Reed College celebrated the arrival of the incoming class—in person—at Convocation on Monday, August 23.

The numbers are still preliminary, but the Class of 2025, with 505 first-year students, is shaping up as the biggest in Reed’s history. There are an additional 20 spring and fall transfer students.

“I am delighted to welcome you to campus,” President Audrey Bilger told the new Reedies. “I got choked up seeing you all here.”

(See more photos and listen to the speeches on our Convocation site.)

Milyon Trulove, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, recounted some of the crises that students had weathered on their way to Reed—not only the global pandemic, but also lockdowns, economic dislocation, and social isolation. “You are trailblazers,” he said.

​​The new students hail from 45 states and 19 countries; 16% from Oregon or Washington and 7% from overseas. Some 70% went to public high school; 9% are the first generation of their family to go to college. Of the domestic students, 37% identify as students of color, making this the largest and one of the most diverse classes in Reed’s history. Reed continues to be the school to which students travel the farthest to attend out of any college in the nation.

“The students entering this year are engaged, eager to build community, and active in advocacy,” Trulove said. “They are eager to start school and the next chapter of life despite the challenges of the world. They are resilient and have succeeded beyond their circumstances. They come to Reed because they embrace how unapologetically we value learning. They arrive open-minded, ready to listen, and with a desire to contribute to changing the world for under-represented communities. They come to Reed after feeling isolated for more than a year and will thrive from your spirit of generosity and kindness. These new Reedies will have a significant impact on our community and the world.”

More students than ever expressed interest in attending Reed, with 7,010 applications for fall 2021, compared with 5,647 the previous fall semester—a 24% increase.

“It is exciting that so many of the students that we invited to be students at Reed said ‘yes,’” said Prof. Kathy Oleson, dean of the faculty.

The incoming students bring the total enrollment for fall semester to 1,560. In the next few weeks that number may shrink slightly, but it will likely top the record set three years ago when enrollment hit 1,503. Last year, about 340 first-year students were confirmed for the fall.

Prof. Oleson said faculty and staff have come up with creative solutions to accommodate the increase in enrollment. Additional sections have been added for Humanities 110; this fall there will be 31 humanities conferences, compared to 25 in recent years. Additional sections have also been added to classes in art, biology, political science, and psychology. Another change is that humanities lectures will be posted online, rather than delivered in person, to forestall crowding in Vollum Lecture Hall.

Beginning this academic year, Reed has a two-year on-campus residency guarantee/requirement and is able to offer housing to all first-year students and interested transfer students.

The keynote speaker at Convocation was Prof. Sarah Schaack [biology 2011-present], who delivered a compelling address on genetic mutation and—more broadly—the nature of change itself. Human knowledge is in constant flux, she said, because the context in which it operates is always changing. Minor mutations can have massive consequences. And while the past sets the stage for the present, it doesn’t determine the future. Recounting the career of Nobel prizewinner Barbara McClintock, she reminded the audience that in science, as in college, uncertainty is sometimes a gift.

Other speakers included Roger Perlmutter ’73, chairman of the board of trustees, who emphasized the distinctive nature of the college’s educational mission, and philosophy major Alondra Loza ’23, student body president, who talked about the ongoing work of dismantling white supremacy, and the profound sense of community at Reed.

President Bilger used the metaphor of the compass to suggest ways for the new students to find their bearings. “Your presence here matters,” she said. “We chose you. You chose us. We belong together. And if you get lost at any point, just look around. There is always someone who can help you find your way.”

Tags: Campus Life, Institutional, Students