Western Carolina University begins the fall semester and the 2019-20 academic year with a new chancellor, new residence hall, new opportunities ― and new enrollment numbers, possibly exceeding 12,000 students.
The first step will be establishing residence, with freshman move-in day scheduled for Friday, Aug. 16. Upperclassmen will return to residence halls Saturday, Aug. 17, and Sunday, Aug. 18. Classes begin Monday, Aug. 19.
Hundreds of volunteers, known as the “Welcome Team,” are expected to be on hand Aug. 16 to help the new students and their families move the students’ belongings from curbside to their residence hall rooms. The goal is to have everyone moved in by 4 p.m. so they can attend the annual New Student Convocation beginning 5:30 p.m. at Ramsey Regional Activity Center.
Chancellor Kelli R. Brown, who took office July 1, and Provost Alison Morrison-Shetlar will provide remarks, and Student Government Association President David Rhode will serve as master of ceremonies. The dean of each college and a student representative from each college will participate in a candlelighting ceremony, and the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band will perform.
The convocation’s keynote speaker will be CNN political analyst Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina legislator who is among the youngest African-American officials ever elected in America. The convocation is open to the public, with parents, as well as WCU faculty and staff, invited to attend. Following the ceremony, students will gather for a group photo on the football field at E.J. Whitmire Stadium and then sign the student creed banner as they exit the field.
University officials are predicting that, based upon current counts and historical August enrollment patterns, WCU should experience record total enrollment for the eighth time out of the last nine years. Gains are expected in student populations such as transfer, distance and continuing students.
“We will see total head count approach, and quite possibly exceed, the 12,000 mark for the first time ever,” said Phil Cauley, WCU’s assistant vice chancellor for undergraduate enrollment. “WCU should also experience record total undergraduate enrollment. Last year, the undergraduate total eclipsed the 10,000 threshold for the first time, and last year’s record of 10,027 will be broken. Currently, head count is up on graduate and distance enrollments as well.
“Successive record total enrollment is a testament to the sustained, collective efforts of the entire campus community. It’s a great way to welcome Chancellor Brown to this special community. On Aug. 16, she will see first-hand how we literally roll up our sleeves and sweat to move in our new first-year cohort. And move-in day is representative of the sleeve-rolling sweat equity that goes into attracting, enrolling and servicing our students,” Cauley said.
The official fall enrollment numbers will be established Friday, Aug. 30, the census date as specified by the University of North Carolina System.
The newest fixture to open on campus is the 614-bed Levern Hamlin Allen Hall, a residential facility named for the first African-American student to attend the university. Allen made history when she chose to attend WCU to seek a post-secondary certification in 1957, just three years after the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.
WCU’s welcome-back celebration, Valley Ballyhoo, will be held Aug. 17 from 4 to 6 p.m. on the lawn of A.K. Hinds University Center and Central Plaza. Other “Week of Welcome” activities for students continue through Sunday, Aug. 25. Activities include:
- Standup comedy at 4 p.m. Aug. 17 in the UC Grandroom
- Bob Ross Painting Party at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, in the UC Grandroom
- National Geographic explorer Mike Libecki at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, in the UC theater
- Concert by lovelytheband at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, on Central Plaza
More information about events at WCU is available at wow.wcu.edu.