The excitement of students returning to campus, apparently in what will be record numbers, provided the backdrop for the first day of Samford University's 172nd anniversary academic session Aug. 26. Near-perfect weather brought most students outside when not attending classes, with groups mingling on the university's central quadrangle and Ben Brown Plaza, popular gathering spots.
Although official numbers will not be available until early in September, university officials anticipate a record total enrollment that could approach 4,900. A record 750+ freshmen are part of that total, according to R. Philip Kimrey, Samford's vice president for student affairs and enrollment management.
Kimrey said projected enrollment in graduate and professional programs also is very strong. A larger than anticipated first-year law class of 172 students began their Samford experience two weeks ago, and pharmacy and graduate nursing students began classes last week. Some graduate programs begin classes in September.
The totals also include a record number of on-campus resident students, according to Lauren Taylor, director of residence life. Two additional residence facilities in the new West Village opened over the weekend, and 2,214 students are living on campus. This is an increase over last year's record of 2,079, and marks the fifth consecutive year with an increased number of students living on-campus.
Taylor noted that move-in activities over the weekend were very successful, with a one-day record of more than 600 moving in on Friday.
Kimrey echoed the success of the weekend. A record number of students participated in Connections, the beginning of the year experience for first-year students. During the weekend, students participated in small group learning activities led by upperclassmen, community service projects, an ice cream social at the home of Samford President and Mrs. Andrew Westmoreland, and a Sunday morning worship service.
Several thousand students attended the annual "Your School, Your City" picnic and concert on Sunday night. The back-to-school event draws a variety of vendors and churches from across the metropolitan area, who were on campus to greet new and returning students, Kimrey said.
Academic and facilities officials said late Monday that they were not aware of any significant problems during the day. Lines were long throughout the day in the bookstore, business office, student records and dining hall, but students and employees seemed positive about the start of a new year.
Greeting the students were 25 new faculty members in a variety of academic disciplines. They joined more than 300 other colleges who participated in back-to-school workshops last week.
The year ahead also will bring some significant new changes to the university's academic landscape, according to Provost J. Bradley Creed. A new College of Health Sciences and revamped programs in the Evening College are among new programs launching this fall. The 2013-14 academic year also marks the 100th anniversary of coeducation at Samford, and several activities are planned during the year to commemorate the anniversary.
Westmoreland was up early to greet the new academic year, sending a university-wide message before 6:30 a.m. He relayed the story of a parent who moved his son to campus over the weekend and had written Westmoreland to express his appreciation for the move-in experience. "The world is better and brighter this morning because Samford is welcoming a new generation of students," Westmoreland wrote. "Let's give them our best."