The potential exists for a couple of enrollment records to bite the dust as the Western Carolina University community prepares to welcome new and returning students for the start of the fall semester 2016.
Current indicators point to possible high-water marks for both WCU’s total enrollment and freshman enrollment, said Phil Cauley, director of student recruitment and transitions. Fall classes start Monday, Aug. 22, but WCU’s official student headcounts will be an unknown until the end of the 10th class day Friday, Sept. 2, which is “census day” as specified by the University of North Carolina General Administration.
The university’s current record for total enrollment sits at 10,382 students, a mark set in 2014. WCU’s all-time record freshman class numbered 1,859 students and dates back to 1972 and the post-Vietnam enrollment boom. The freshman class has grown steadily since 2007, when it included 1,250 students. “Commitment and registration numbers for first-year students point toward a record entering class, but payment and registration deadlines mean that enrollment numbers will remain in flux until census day,” Cauley said.
WCU students are required to live on campus for their first two academic years, and incoming freshmen will have help in moving into their new homes Friday, Aug. 19, from a Welcome Team composed of current students, faculty and staff, and local community members. Volunteers are still being sought to help the new students move their belongings from the curbside to their rooms.
Becoming a member of the Welcome Team represents “one of the most critical opportunities to make a life-lasting impression
that we will ever get,” said Keith Corzine, assistant vice chancellor for campus services in the Division of Student Affairs. In addition to a T-shirt, water and snacks, volunteers will receive “all the smiles and thanks they can handle from strangers who really mean it,” Corzine said. “You’ll also get that feeling of being appreciated for help that you didn’t have to give, but chose to,” he said.
Annaleise Comacho, a residential living assistant director, is coordinating Welcome Team efforts this year. Anyone interested in volunteering who has not yet registered is asked to report to the volunteer tent in front of Scott Residence Hall on Aug. 19 to receive a T-shirt and be assigned to a building.
New Student Convocation
After they get settled in their new homes on Aug. 19, WCU’s freshmen will join new transfer students and the parents of those groups of students for New Student Convocation at 5:30 p.m. in Ramsey Regional Activity Center.
R.J. Mitte, co-star of AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and an equality and diversity activist, will be the featured speaker for the event, which is open to the general public. Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, will speak on the topic “Overcoming Adversity: Turning a Disadvantage into an Advantage.” Other participants in the event will include Chancellor David O. Belcher, WCU first lady Susan Belcher, Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar, Student Government Association President Baron Crawford, football Head Coach Mark Speir and WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band.
Week of Welcome and Valley Ballyhoo
The New Student Convocation kicks off Week of Welcome, a series of events for new and returning students that continues daily through Sunday, Aug. 28. Following the convocation and the taking of the Class of 2020 photo on the football field, Week of Welcome events will continue Aug. 19 with the Resident Student Association’s “First Night,” featuring inflatables, free food and the movie “Finding Nemo” at 9 p.m. First Night will take place in the Grandroom and theater of A.K. Hinds University Center.
WCU’s big welcome-back event for all students, Valley Ballyhoo, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, on the Central Plaza and University Center lawn. More than 5,000 students typically attend the celebration each year to pick up freebies among the dozens of information tables set up by campus and community organizations. The event also offers music, inflatable yard toys and food vendors. Later that day, a comedy show will be presented featuring Jacob Williams of MTV’s “Wild ’N Out” at 9 p.m. in the Grandroom.
On Tuesday, Aug. 23, WCU’s Department of Intercultural Affairs will present Unity Fest, a three-program event designed to bring awareness to tragedies occurring across the nation and to spread the message of human equity and love. A kickoff breakfast at 8:30 a.m. at Illusions in the University Center will feature a dialogue with Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, who will discuss how to build unity through tragedy. Other speakers include photographer Cendino Teme and speaker, actor and recording artist Wess Morgan. More information is available by calling 828-227-2924. RSVPs are requested by Thursday, Aug. 18, by contacting Holli Stillman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other activities on the Week of Welcome schedule are a presentation by Rajiv Surendra, who portrayed Kevin G. in “Mean Girls,” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24, in the Grandroom; a sand volleyball tournament at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26, at the Village volleyball court; the First Friday 5-K race at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26; and a concert featuring SoMo at 8 p.m. that day at the Central Plaza.
More information about Week of Welcome events is posted at wow.wcu.edu.
Freshman move-in on Aug. 19 will result in several thousand additional vehicles in the central campus area. On that day, the areas surrounding Scott, Walker, Balsam, Blue Ridge and Albright-Benton residence halls and the new Noble Hall will be especially congested. One street, University Way, will be modified to one-way traffic during move-in, and numerous parking lots around the residence halls will be closed throughout the move-in period.
WCU employees who work on the upper (east) side of WCU are advised to access campus via Old Cullowhee Road.
Questions should be directed to the police department at 828-227-7301 or parking operations at 828-227-PARK.
By Randall Holcombe