Story by Clint Kelly
Photos by Jimi Lott

Size of class

Average high school GPA

Average SAT score

National Merit Scholars

in top 10% of high school class

in top 20% of high school class

Religious denominations and affiliations

U.S. states of origin (Top 6 besides Washington: California, oregon, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, hawaii)

Top five intended individual majors: Business Administration, Psychology, Communication, Biology, Nursing

Plan to attain A graduate degree

Have alumni parent(s

The Class of 2005 is the largest freshman class in the history of Seattle Pacific University. For the first time ever, admission of freshmen was cut off on June 1 because of an enrollment rate that would have exceeded capacity.

So who are the 647 freshman students who arrived on campus this September?

They include a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, a Sons of Norway Borderfest princess, a volunteer rescuer of the USS Missouri, a participant in Upward Bound and a student who holds a black belt in Taekwondo.

They have traveled to places about which their parents could only dream. Collectively, the members of this year's incoming class had been on more than 300 mission trips — to distant locales that include Chile, Nepal, Slovakia and Trinidad — before they ever even arrived on campus.

They are the products of an affluent society. Many have grown up not only with their own rooms, but also with their own computers, TVs, bathrooms and cars. Ninety-eight percent could access the Internet from their homes.

They are also young adults who want a university education that is academically and culturally sophisticated. Their high school grade point average (3.58) and SAT scores (1146) hint at the motivation they display in the classroom. A full 38.6 percent of them arrived with a grade point average of 3.76 percent or higher. "I am teaching at a little higher level, and my mean scores are going up," reports Ken Moore, professor of biology and coordinator of the pre-med program. "This speaks to the increased abilities of our students."

The single largest group of freshmen, 18.7 percent, anticipates choosing majors within the fields of science and engineering. Some students have come in search of SPU's niche programs that are found at few, if any, Christian schools — programs like dietetics, apparel design, theatre or exercise science. "We are the only Christian college in the country with a gymnastics program," says Laurel Tindall, head coach and director of the Falcons Gymnastics Center. "I have freshman athletes who chose Seattle Pacific based solely on gymnastics."

Representing 61 different religious denominations and affiliations, these students say that a career for the sake of monetary gain is not appealing. For most, their vision of the future is rooted in a commitment to the Christian faith, and so they seek higher education that is a "mission-fit" with that faith. They are attracted to the concept of "engaging the culture" with the gospel — if it means more than worship and Bible study. They want to take action through urban and overseas ministry.

In many ways, members of this year's freshman class are especially well-suited for the complex world they have inherited. They have experienced more of everything and come to campus arguably more savvy and worldly wise than any class before them. They are technologically adept and possess a cultural awareness perhaps unprecedented in American history. "In significant ways, they illustrate the biblical standard of 'to whom much is given, much is expected,'" says Vice President for Academic Affairs Les Steele. "We hope to help equip them for the vocations of their choice, through which they can give back."

It is at a much deeper level that the incoming freshmen's true colors — and potential for making a contribution — may best be gauged. Studies suggest that today's students arrive at U.S. universities like Seattle Pacific a bit wounded. They have been through the emotional mill to a greater degree than earlier generations. Many come having experienced family break-ups, substance abuse, emotional disorders or other significant stresses, often in combination. They also sense a loss of innocence and emotional fatigue since September 11 and harbor unnamed fears born of terrorist attacks, anthrax, war and economic uncertainty. Because of their wounds, they come to higher education wary of the "easy path." To Kathleen Braden, dean of students, this year's freshman class is "the exact right group at the exact right time" to make a difference in the world of today. "They need the wisdom and timelessness of SPU's mission," she says. "We, in turn, need their energy, street smarts and strong shoulders." She says she senses that this is a class of students able to judge what is real and sincere, and who stand ready to respond.

Steele echoes that assessment. "From my experience with the freshman class, these students are both vulnerable and looking for deeper, more thoughtful ways of living. They are seeing the violent realities of intolerance and hatred, and want to bring about positive change."

Though sobered in many ways by the world situation, the Class of 2005 brought to campus a youthful idealism, healthy intellectual curiosity, and hunger and thirst to serve. SPU, they say, has presented them with a challenge in learning and service they are eager to accept.


Charisse Everett
Seattle, Washington

Charisse Everett thought she pretty much had her ducks in a row. The hard-working student at Seattle's Franklin High School had settled on Washington State University during her junior year. She planned to major in education, and even took college prep courses with the goal of becoming a teacher.

But she worried that WSU would not be an ideal match. Increasingly, "mission-fit" tips the scales when it comes to college choice, especially for the Christian high school students who comprise SPU's largest applicant pool. Will a university respect and enrich a student's religious and moral convictions? Will the campus atmosphere promote growth in these areas?

"I saw right from the beginning that Seattle Pacific values the Christian faith — from the institutional mission statement, to the application essay topics, to the Christian Faith Exploration options," says Everett, who as a high school senior participated in the University of Washington's "Young, Black and Gifted" program. "I was looking to strengthen my relationship with God, and SPU has done that, even in the busy first quarter. Anywhere else in society, the topic of religion is hush-hush. But here you can express yourself freely."

Mission-fit applies to other areas of campus life as well. One of Everett's goals for college was to build personal relationships with her professors. "It's happened!" she exclaims. "They all know me by my first name. Do you know how encouraging that is?"

For Everett, who wondered if college would be too hard to handle, the University's helping atmosphere is a godsend. From her peer advisors to the tutors in the Center for Learning, she has found "someone to help me, to motivate me. I'm shocked at how well I'm coping. I can do this!"

Now Everett has decided to major in sociology and become a social worker. "I like to help people with their problems," says the former junior high and high school peer mediator. Since SPU offers majors in sociology, social service and social science education, it would seem that the mission-fit for Charisse Everett is tailor-made.


Greg Edvenson
Moorhead, Minnesota

National Merit Scholars are among the top academic achievers in the nation. Of the more than one million high school seniors who compete for the honor each year, only about 8,000 receive a National Merit Scholarship in recognition of their academic record, personal character and scores on the PSAT, a nationally administered test. Twenty-six of these scholars now study at Seattle Pacific University.

One of nine National Merit Scholars in this year's freshman class, Greg Edvenson receives a scholarship of $10,000 a year, 80 percent funded by SPU and 20 percent by the National Merit Foundation. His primary academic interest is computer science. "I've always liked to take things apart, to experiment," says Edvenson. "I like learning a lot, and with computers, I think it's easy to see how they work."

As a National Merit Scholar, Edvenson was a desirable candidate for any number of schools and had at first narrowed his sights to the excellent computer science programs at the University of Wisconsin at Madison or the University of Minnesota.

But then he heard about Seattle Pacific from a friend, fellow freshman and National Merit Scholar Britt-Marie Lorenzen, who heard about it from SPU alumna Joy Friedberg. Edvenson visited campus, sampled some classes and liked what he saw: quality computer science and computer engineering programs; a prominent faculty; a new science facility under construction; and a challenging University Scholars program with a "faith and science" sequence not to be found at a state school.

The options afforded by a major city were another draw. "Seattle has lots of possibilities for computer internships and exploring the field," says Edvenson.

In order to be challenged intellectually, Edvenson wanted to attend a university that could stimulate on several levels. Because his family had lived for a year in Bangladesh, he particularly enjoyed the University Scholars program's first-quarter emphasis on "encounters between different cultures." He regularly attends a cadre for children of missionaries in partial fulfillment of the Christian Faith Exploration requirement.

It can be difficult to keep a National Merit Scholar challenged. But as Greg Edvenson will testify, his studies at Seattle Pacific are off to an invigorating start.


Katie Eaton
Steve Muscolino
Emily HadDad
Anthony Bastone
(From left to right) Whitinsville, Massachusetts

More than four out of every 10 members of the Class of 2005 hail from outside Washington state. There are students from 28 other states, including four close friends from Massachusetts.

Emily Haddad first had the itch to go west for college. She enjoys change, and Seattle sounded perfect — different weather, different attitude, lots to do. She had three friends at Whitinsville Christian High School, an hour outside of Boston, who were close as family. They'd hung out together for years, so why wouldn't they consider going to college together? A year ago, the four flew to Seattle and visited the SPU campus.

They came away impressed. Katie Eaton could pursue exercise science. Anthony Bastone could study business. And Steve Muscolino and Haddad, who are still undecided about their majors, could begin general studies and see what unfolded.

The two women are now roommates in Ashton Hall, and the two men are just a couple of doors down from each other in Emerson Hall. Moving together has made the transition from one coast to the other much easier on all of them. They say they love the city of Seattle and getting away from life "in the middle of nowhere" in small-town Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Four particularly appreciate the Christian commitment at SPU. "There are so many ways here to grow in the faith," says Haddad. "I wanted a college that was academically sophisticated, yet involved in people's lives both inside and outside the community."

Bastone likes the mix of people and expressions of the Christian faith at the University. Some students have been "doing church" all their lives; others are new Christians; and some aren't Christians at all.

One student on the men's floor is a practicing Muslim. After September 11, his mosque was defaced and someone threatened worshippers with a gun. As a hall service project, Emerson residents, including Muscolino, rallied behind their friend and worked at the mosque cleaning, raking and clearing the neighborhood of litter.

Muscolino wasn't surprised. He's personally experienced the same kind of respect since arriving at SPU.

Information used in this story was drawn from these sources: Premiere survey (first-time freshmen responses) on August 27, 2001; the SPU Office of Institutional Research; and the SPU Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Statistics are from Autumn Quarter 2001, 10th day.

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