More than 700 new students were welcomed to Samford University Thursday on the first day of Connections, the new student orientation workshop that precedes the beginning of the fall semester.
According to university officials, the day went smoothly as new students and family members began descending on the campus before 8 a.m. Cars and trucks loading with student belongings snaked their way around the campus to the three primary freshman residence facilities, where hundreds of volunteers met them to unload and help move belongings into rooms.
Volunteers included Samford faculty and staff, student-athletes and members of Birmingham area churches. By noon, virtually every new student was unloaded and settling into their rooms.
"Through the amazing efforts of so many volunteers, we were able to provide a wonderful welcome experience for our new and returning students," said Sarah C. Latham, Samford's vice president for operations and planning. "As with any massive process, there were some facilities concerns that we will continue to address over the next few days. But, we're very pleased with how well things flowed throughout the day."
Latham especially praised the efforts of Samford staff, who worked hard to get Smith, Vail and Pittman halls ready for the annual move-in. About 80 employees and the university's residence life staff had spent Friday, Aug. 15, cleaning the freshmen residence facilities to get them ready for new students. Construction of new air and ventilation systems on campus had closed roads near those facilities for most the summer, but crews were able to open the roads late Wednesday afternoon.
Latham also noted that Samford was able to recycle about 100 yards of cardboard from discarded boxes.
Among the parents involved in move-in day were Samford President Andrew Westmoreland and his wife, Jeanna. Their daughter Riley is a freshman.
Also being welcomed were the first 40 students to participate in Samford's new University Fellows program, a highly selective academic honors program being launched this fall.
Parents and students participated in a special late afternoon service in the Leslie S. Wright Center concert hall that included welcomes from university officials, presentations on university traditions and prayers. Following what were tearful goodbyes for many, students were whisked away to their first Connections sessions.
New students will participate in a series of events through the weekend. Returning students move into residence halls on Saturday and Sunday, and the "dinner on the dirt" back-to-school event is scheduled for Sunday evening on the University Quadrangle. The picnic and concert annually launch Welcome Back week-long activities.
Fall semester classes begin Monday, although Cumberland School of Law started classes earlier this week.