The celestial bodies aligned perfectly for the Western Carolina University community to experience a memorable start to the 2017 fall semester, with the first day of classes coinciding with a once-in-a-lifetime solar eclipse and anticipation rising for all-time records to be set in total enrollment and freshman enrollment.
Before the calculation of official enrollment numbers occurs, WCU students joined university faculty and staff in observing the phenomenon known as the “Great American Solar Eclipse,” which passed through the Cullowhee Valley on Monday, Aug. 21. The 67-mile wide path of totality moved over the campus beginning at 2:35 p.m. and produced nearly two minutes of darkness, with stars twinkling in the sky. A big crowd gathered around the center of campus, hoping some passing clouds would not obscure the view. Mother Nature cooperated and the beginning of totality inspired an audible gasp among the viewers.
More enrollment records?
Even though classes started Aug. 21, WCU’s official headcounts will be an unknown until the end of the 10th class day – Friday, Sept. 1 – which is “census day” as specified by the University North Carolina system.
The WCU community celebrated new records for total enrollment and freshman enrollment in fall 2016 – 10,805 and 1,913, respectively – but what about this year?
Before census day arrives, final enrollment numbers will be affected by factors such as schedule adjustments, late registration and payment deadlines, but expect more of the same, said Phil Cauley, WCU’s assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate enrollment.
“Current registration trends and activity point to a record entering first-year class and a record total enrollment this fall,” Cauley said. Total freshman enrollment is likely to approach or exceed 2,000 students when final numbers are tallied, and total enrollment appears destined to surpass 11,000 students, he said.
Week of Welcome and Valley Ballyhoo
The New Student Convocation, held the evening of Aug. 18 and featuring remarks from comedian Jordan Carlos, was the first happening in a jam-packed slate of Week of Welcome events that continue through Sunday, Aug. 27.
On Friday, Aug. 25, the free Week of Welcome concert sponsored by the Department of Campus Activities will feature The Ready Set with opening act Saluda at 8 p.m. at the Central Plaza. Saluda, formerly known as Rescue Party, is an alternative rock group from Spartanburg, South Carolina, while The Ready Set is the stage name for Jordan Mark Witzigreuter, a singer-songwriter from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Best known for the single “Love Like Woe,” The Ready Set has released four studio albums, including “I Will Be Nothing Without Your Love” in 2016. He performs with a back-up band while touring.
More details about WCU’s Week of Welcome activities are available at wow.wcu.edu.
Changes in campus dining
All this start-of-fall-semester activity could lead to some enhanced appetites among WCU students, faculty and staff, and Scott Lamond, resident district manager for Aramark, WCU’s food service partner, has some good news. All campus dining locations are expected to be fully operational by their respective opening dates, including the new dining options located in WCU’s recently renovated Brown Hall.
The 56-year-old Brown Hall, located on Central Drive across from Cullowhee United Methodist Church, has been transformed into a contemporary dining facility with a “mountain lodge” feel. It includes the first Steak ’n Shake west of Asheville, a full-service Starbucks and The Lodge at Brown, a food court with up to eight service stations offering complete meals.
Steak ’n Shake’s operating hours for fall semester are 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
With the expansion of food service options that are available in Brown Hall, university officials have decided to close the food court in A.K. Hinds University Center, the location of a popular express Chick-fil-A. Plans are continuing to relocate Chick-fil-A from the University Center to Courtyard Dining Hall, where it will be operated as a “full service” eatery, but until that move happens, the restaurant will continue to operate at the UC, Lamond said. When it moves to Courtyard, Chick-fil-A will occupy space formerly occupied by McAlister’s Deli, which closed at the end of the spring semester.
More information about campus dining options is available at http://westerncarolina.campusdish.com.