The University of Dallas’ class of 2021 proved full of surprises, all of them pleasant.
The 427 students exceeded the school’s goal of 400, forcing the school’s Housing and Residence Life Department to scramble to find accommodations for the 383 new students who are living on campus. But after a smooth move-in day on Friday, Aug. 18, faculty and students alike seemed fully prepared for the year ahead.
This is the largest freshman class in the university’s history, breaking the previous record of 393. Though an official number cannot be given until the 12th day of class to allow for any last-minute changes, faculty and upperclassmen seem ready for a bustling year.
Executive Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs John Plotts emphasized this year’s class is impressive in more than its size. These students hold the highest average SAT score in the school’s history, 1260, ranking them in the 83rd percentile nationally.
Nearly 25 percent of incoming freshmen will also compete on at least one of the school’s Division III teams, according Plotts. He said the class is also one of the most diverse by some measurements with a record-breaking 27 percent of students claiming Hispanic ancestry.
These numbers reflect well on Texas, which half the students call home. A quarter come from the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, and 20 hail from Irving itself.
“We’ve been trying really hard to recruit in the local state,” Plotts said. “It’s slowly becoming more Texas. We used to be 56 percent out-of-state and 44 percent in-state. We consider [the percentage of local students] a success.”
Plotts pointed out that other liberal arts schools of comparable size, such as Austin College, have closer to 90 percent of the student body coming from within the state.
The Texas representation does not overshadow a sizeable national and international population though; the class includes students from another nine countries, 39 states and 250 cities. One student traveled over 9,600 miles from Sri Lanka to attend UD.
Samuel Ramirez came from Austin and plans to spend more than four years in the area as he completes the nursing program.
“[We’re] somewhere between Dallas and Fort Worth,” is all Ramirez knows of Irving, but he plans on recruiting a friend with a truck to explore the area.
Lydia Martin is an English major and transfer student from east of Dallas. She has relatives in the area and says it seems nice, but does not know Irving outside of campus.
“It’s not the same as the first time going to college,” Martin said. “I’m not nearly as explorative.”
Michael Wambsganns is also a transfer student from Saint Louis University. He and his family have not had much time to leave campus and the Las Colinas area, but are interested in the chance to use Dallas Area Rapid Transit to go downtown and reach the local airports.
Both students look forward to getting to know their fellow classmates first, and said they experienced warm welcomes so far, from faculty as well as at least 60 upperclassmen orientation leaders who volunteered to help move the new students into their dorms.
“They brought in all my stuff while I was doing the room form,” Martin said. “It was amazing.”
“I kept taking things out [of my car] and they kept taking them away,” said Lydia’s mother, Cindy Martin.
In addition to the help moving in and informational sessions on academic life, the orientation team led a social justice project Sunday afternoon, where students put together packages for local homeless shelters. Advertised in the orientation pamphlet as “a fun and collaborative way to start serving your community in DFW,” the event was in keeping with the school’s Catholic focus on charity, as well as a way to connect students to the community outside of the school.
Other popular orientation events included a school-wide scavenger hunt, panels on leadership and community involvement, wellness and spiritual life informational events, and Masses. As classes begin and clubs start their activities, Irving’s newest residents are sure to find their place in their new school and city.