MONMOUTH, ILLINOIS (August 21, 2023) — Welcome New Scots!
That was the greeting in big letters on several signs around Monmouth College, and it was also the vibe on campus, as more than 200 first-year students participated in the school's matriculation ceremony on Wallace Hall Plaza.
Many arrived on campus earlier in the day to move into their residence halls, although others had already started their Monmouth adventure by participating in the three-week Summer Opportunities for Intellectual Activities program — also known as SOFIA — or arrived earlier in August to start practices for their fall sports team or the Fighting Scots Marching Band.
One of the students arriving Saturday morning was Sabryah Fomby of Dolton, Illinois.
"I'm excited," she said. "The people moving us in were really nice."
One of the first people to greet her was her track and field coach Brian Woodard.
"I chose Monmouth because of the hospitality of the staff and coaches," said Fomby, who plans to major in physical education and become a teacher and coach.
"She's a lot more confidence than I was," said her grandfather, Fred Fomby, who began his time as a student at nearby Western Illinois University more than fifty years ago. "She gets that from her father."
Fifteen minutes later, two more of Woodard's recruits pulled up to begin moving into Winbigler Hall — Xavier Camper of Grayslake, Illinois, and Brody Bledsoe of Wataga, Illinois. Among the eager helpers in Camper's move-in crew was Monmouth President Clarence Wyatt.
"I knew I didn't want to go to a big school," said Camper, a sprinter who plans to major in engineering. "I liked the atmosphere here. I liked the feel, and I liked the team. This is a great welcome, a great crew."
Bledsoe's mother is former Fighting Scot standout Tricia Kalb Bledsoe ('95), now an instructional coach in the ROWVA school district.
"I'm excited for him," she said. "Brody's other two siblings went to Olivet Nazarene. Last summer, he said to me, 'Mom, I want to go look at Monmouth.' I didn't pressure him at all. As soon as he stepped on campus, I knew that was it and that this was the place for him."
Bledsoe, who plans to study forensic psychology, is one 27 new students who are following in their family's tradition at Monmouth.
That figure was quoted by Vice President for Enrollment Management Stephanie Levenson during her remarks at the matriculation ceremony.
Levenson also shared some of her findings from an informal survey of the class that she conducted a few weeks prior to matriculation. She e-mailed the incoming students and asked them to tell her something about themselves that they thought was important, or special, or something that made them unique. She promised to keep their names confidential if she used their stories in her matriculation speech.
Among her findings were that the incoming class included Golden Apple Scholars, students who had authored a book of poetry and directed a production of Finding Nemo Jr, and a student who participated in the annual American Education Research Association meeting, sharing their research on the mental health of high school students on the south side of Chicago.
A student who arrived on campus for SOFIA shared her first impressions of her time as a college student.
"To come to Monmouth — I have never gone out of my comfort zone, which was from home to school and school to home," wrote the student. "It feels like, now that I can come to the opposite part of the planet on my own, I can go anywhere. Every morning when I wake up, and find myself in my dorm, it still feels surreal. As a student, far away from home, managing all on my own, not giving up, at this young age, this is my accomplishment. What did I gain from doing all of this? Confidence. And realized that I am brave."
Levenson concluded with a message to the Class of 2027.
"You are NOT on your own here — you have all of us to support you," she said. "You are in your 'Monmouth Era.' Are you ready for it?"
That sentiment was echoed by several of the speakers who followed her to the podium, including Dean of the Faculty Mark Willhardt.
"Your professors will be there alongside you at every step," he said. "This is why a Monmouth College education is so special: you have teachers dedicated to the prospect of your improvement. . . Why? Because you're worth it. In you — in all of you — your professors see potential: the potential to learn more, do more and achieve more."
"Take risks," advised Scot Senate President Luis Castillo ('24) of Chicago, who congratulated the students on what he called "achieving college."
"This is the first step of your college journey," he said. "It's OK to be nervous, but you are not alone."
Alumni Board President Mark Tupper ('94) welcomed the incoming students to their "lifelong adventure" with Monmouth College, adding, "Monmouth is a special place, as you have no doubt begun to see."
Levenson shared that she was a first-generation college student, just like 44% of the incoming students. So, too, was Wyatt, who shared a story of a professor who encountered him six weeks into his first semester of college. The professor told Wyatt that he knew the type of work he was capable of, that he expected to start seeing it, and that he would be with him every step of the way.
"And he was," Wyatt told the incoming students. "And we, too, are ready to walk that path with you," as the students continue to live what the poet Mary Oliver called their "one wild and precious life."
Fun facts about the Monmouth Class of 2027
The most common names in the incoming class are Michael, Natalie, and Nathan, although there are also various forms of Nicholas and Zachary, along with a Braden, Brandon, Brendan, Brennan, and Brennen. The average modified grade-point average of the incoming freshmen is 3.36, and for transfers, the figure rises to 3.43.
Founded in 1853 and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), Monmouth College provides a transformative educational experience within a caring community of learners. A residential liberal-arts college that is the birthplace of the women's fraternity movement, Monmouth College empowers students to realize their full potential, live meaningful lives, pursue successful careers, and shape their communities and the world through service and leadership.