Welcome Week brought in over 960 new students, a number significantly higher than recent years.
Eric Gumm, director of the First Year Program, said several changes had to be made to accommodate this larger class. Because Sikes is housing freshmen, the hall had to be added to activities involving residence halls. Two new sections of Cornerstone were added which required more group and peer leaders to be hired. Gumm said a few growing pains were felt as well.
“We definitely stretched our feeding capacities,” Gumm said.Â “And in terms of having enough rooms for people to meet in, we had to find more. But it’s nothing huge and nothing we can’t deal with. We love having new students, so we’re happy to be flexible with that.”
Gumm said a large number of freshmen at Welcome Week is indicative of an even larger number once school begins. Dr. Phil Schubert, president of the university, reported over 1,060 freshmen currently enrolled on campus. Enrollment numbers will be finalized once twelfth day numbers are released.
Though Gumm is excited for the large number of students, problems could arise in the future if enrollment and retention numbers continue to grow.
“When we bring in a big class, if they retain at the same rate we’ve seen historically or higher and then we bring in another big class, then we’re going to see a challenge there for housing, meal service and around the campus in general,” Gumm said. “This year we had some flexibility with housing because the sophomore class was a little bit smaller, but when these freshman become next year’s sophomores and they don’t become smaller, then we have some problems.”
Gumm said the increase in numbers might require changes to be made to class requirements or scheduling.
“We’ll have some challenges I imagine in some courses that are traditionally taken at the sophomore year,” Gumm said. “We’ve made changes with the Core class that creates some flexibility already.”
Freshmen are noticing the effect of their large class first hand, especially during Welcome Week activities.
“It’s definitely been crazy, but I love having a large class because I’m meeting tons of people everyday. Every day is an adventure and a fresh opportunity,” James Churchill, freshman English major from Abilene, said. “The events were very crowded, which forced me to break out of my comfort zone. There wasn’t enough space to ignore the people next to me, so I had to converse. Welcome Week events pushed me to talk to new people, and I’m glad for that.”
Gumm thinks that this year’s freshman class will effect the university in years to come. He said this class is energetic and will add something to the campus.
“I think there will be a lot more energy on campus this year,” Gumm said. “And when people are visiting on campus, that could create a buzz for next year’s group.”