Meet the Class of 2023: ‘Exceptional Scholars and Citizens’

A singing gondolier, an accomplished slam poet, an aspiring biomedical engineer and an award-winning social activist help make up the University of Virginia’s Class of 2023, the most competitive in school history.

More than 40,000 people applied to be part of UVA’s class of 2023; as of Thursday, 3,927 first-time first-years have enrolled, with about a third coming from 46 states outside Virginia and 80 different countries. Nearly three-quarters of the new students attended public high schools. Just over 500 are the first in their families to attend college.

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By the Numbers: Class of 2023

3,927

Enrolled

640

Transfer Students On-Grounds

504

First Generation (20% Increase Over Last Year)

Look beyond the numbers, though, and you find some pretty interesting individuals.

Jack Schwarz in his red-and-white-striped gondolier shirt. (Photo submitted by Jack Schwarz)

Jack Schwarz of Long Beach, California, is deeply musical and had an unusual profession in high school: He was a singing gondolier. Surprisingly, Long Beach is home to the largest fleet of gondolas outside of Venice. A water polo player, Schwarz said lots of his teammates “go do the gondolier thing” in high school, so he followed suit.

Schwarz said he helped with many marriage proposals on the gondolas he would steward. “We do this thing called ‘a message in the bottle,’ in which the person who is proposing writes a note, slips it in a bottle and the gondolier drops it in the water,” he said.

By the Numbers: Class of 2023

2,205

Women

1,722

Men

2,580

Virginians

“We stop under a bridge, and I start to sing to them, and them the couple stumbles across the bottle,” Schwarz said. “That’s a cool part of my job.”

The first-year student is also academically talented. He was president of his high school’s Model United Nations club his sophomore, junior and senior years, and was the lead researcher on a study of the effects of meditation on cognitive functions (the paper is under submission to the Journal of Educational Psychology.) He hopes to double-major in political philosophy, policy and law and in creative writing.

Olivia Keenan is an acclaimed slam poet. In her favorite piece, “This is America,” one of the lines reads, “I’ve become your picture-perfect black girl and yet I haven’t won.” (Photo submitted by Olivia Keenan)

This year marks 50 years of co-education at UVA and more than half of UVA’s newest class is female.

Wisconsin native Olivia Keenan is one of those women. In 2018, she was recognized nationally for her slam poetry and invited to perform at the Brave New Voices competition in Houston.

In slam poetry, the performance as just as important as the writing, Kennan said.

“What I have found is that it’s a lot about how you pronounce things as well as your volume and even your rhythm,” she said. “I’ve been told that sometimes it seems like I am singing, even though I am not.”

By the Numbers: Class of 2023

1,408

Mean SAT Score

32

ACT Composite

499

Pell Grant Recipients

One of this year’s 38 Jefferson Scholars – exceptional students who are selected to receive the full cost of attending UVA – Keenan said she plans to continue her poetry at UVA.

“During the Jefferson finalist weekend, I and a few other of the finalists for the scholarship went to a meeting for UVA’s Flux club,” which promotes spoken-word and slam poetry, she said.

Keenan said she will look into joining the UVA Slam Poetry team. She is also considering going pre-med, “but I’m pretty undecided,” she said.

Alvaro Crisanto of Los Angeles is the first in his family to attend college. (Photo by Dan Addison, University Communications)

Speaking of scholars, Alvaro Crisanto of Los Angeles is a Questbridge Scholar. The national program identifies exceptional students from low-income backgrounds and matches them with partner universities like UVA.

Crisanto, who is enrolled in the School of Engineering and hopes to become a biomedical engineer, said he was drawn to UVA because of its blend of academics and extracurricular activities like athletics.

“I found the Ivy League schools really emphasized their academics, whereas UVA is a perfect balance between sporting events and academics. That really impressed me,” he said.

By the Numbers: Class of 2023

73%

Students with Public High School Education

46

States Outside Virginia Represented

80

Countries Represented

Crisanto is a first-generation student. He spent three weeks at UVA this summer participating in the Engineering School’s Summer Bridge program, which helps first-year students prepare for their new lives a UVA.

“We took a class together and were taught a lot about the available resources and opportunities,” he said.

Crisanto is a huge football fan and is especially looking forward to seeing fourth-year cornerback Bryce Hall play before he enters the NFL draft.

Cutter Huston won a $15,000 grant from Clorox in recognition of his work to offer free laundry services to struggling families and individuals. (Photo submitted by Cutter Huston)

Cutter Huston, another Jefferson Scholar, was born in Charlottesville. His military family has moved 10 times during his childhood; Missouri, Colorado, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Florida are just some of the places the Huston family has called home.

His passion is something called “The Laundry Project,” a national program that provides free laundry services to struggling families and individuals. Huston volunteered with the project when he was a freshman lived in Florida.

Top 5 States

StateStudents
Virginia2,580
New York146
Pennsylvania101
Maryland97
New Jersey96

One man told him that when he wore dirty clothes, people looked past him, but that when he wore clean clothes, “people finally saw him as a person.”

“That was when I really understood that this is an impactful opportunity,” Huston said.

When Huston’s family returned to Charlottesville in 2018, he started a local branch of The Laundry Project. He has held several “projects,” including at Preston Suds Laundromat, where he and his team give out free laundry supplies, helping do more than 1,000 loads of laundry.

His work attracted the attention of Clorox, which recognized Huston in its “What Comes Next Project,” granting him $15,000 to continue his work. Huston used some of that money to fund laundry projects in the Bronx, Las Vegas and rural Georgia this summer.

He hopes to continue doing projects in Charlottesville and maybe even start a club at UVA.

Greg Roberts, UVA’s dean of admission, said this new class is filled with good people who will do great things for UVA and the surrounding community.

“Students are the heart of this university. They come to UVA with high hopes and big dreams, for themselves and others,” he said. “We take it for granted that enrolling classes are filled with smart, accomplished students, but what we really like to see cannot be found on a transcript or through a standardized test.

“We’re looking for students who are compassionate and caring and honest and friendly,” he continued. “This class is filled with exceptional scholars and citizens who will make our university and community better on every level.”

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications