Combine perfect weather with a virtually flawless operation,and you have a successful first day of classes at Samford University.
The university's 171st anniversary academic session began Monday (Aug. 27), and university officials expressed consensus agreement that it was a success. Samford's law and pharmacy schools had started classes earlier in August, but Monday was the first official day of classes for most undergraduate and graduate programs.
Although official totals will not be available for a few days, university officials tentatively project another record fall enrollment. Last year's record was 4,758. The total includes what is projected as the third largest freshman class in university history, with more than 720 first-year students.
The university's residence halls are overflowing with more than 2,100 who moved in over a three-day span. This is a record for student occupancy, according to Lauren Taylor, Samford's director of residence life. Construction is progressing on a new residence village on the west side of campus, with the first building scheduled for occupancy in January.
Students were greeted by 26 new faces among the 320 full-time faculty members.
Even before most students and employees were awake - 5:35 a.m. to be exact -- Samford University President Andrew Westmoreland was celebrating the start of a new year in his weekly "Monday Mission" email to the university community.
"For most of our programs, this is the first day of class," Westmoreland wrote. "Faculty members will arrive early to put the last elements into place on their syllabi and march to class to practice their craft, staff members in our various offices will prepare themselves to answer old questions and address new problems, and students will begin to see how their lives will be changed because of the experiences of this semester. Marked by excitement and anxiety, this day marks the restoration of life to a university, and it is a celebration of the prospect of new growth. It is a great day."
Academic and facilities officials said late Monday afternoon that they were not aware of any significant problems during the day. Although lines were long during the day in the bookstore, dining hall and business office, students and employees generally were upbeat about the start of a new year.
The first day of classes followed a weekend of events for new students and the annual "Your School, Your City" welcome back event for all students.
A record number of new students participated in "Connections," the beginning of the year experience the weekend preceding the start of classes. R. Phil Kimrey, vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, said that student feedback on their experience was "outstanding" based on social media posts.
During the weekend, students participated in small group learning experiences, theme parties, community service activities, an ice cream social at the Westmorelands' home, and a Sunday morning worship service.
Kimrey noted that about 2,000 students attended the third annual "Your School, Your City" event on Sunday evening. The concert and festival had record participation from community vendors and churches.
Kimrey said that summer activities positively impacted a successful start to the semester. About 800 freshman and transfer students attended a series of new student orientation sessions during the summer. The Office of Orientation and Parent Programs hosted send-off parties in 14 cities for new students and their parents to become acquainted with each other and current students and parents from their city.
The first week of classes continues with several events. A formal academic convocation Tuesday morning will feature remarks by Westmoreland and presentation of several annual awards. Beeson Divinity School also will have an opening convocation Tuesday.
Several welcome back events are planned during the week for students, including a picnic and recreation "bash" Wednesday at the Samford outdoor recreation complex and the first football game of the season on Saturday.