New school year begins with diverse group of first-year students

By Chuck Gordon

About 900 new undergraduate students started their first full week of classes at Wingate University today.

The class is more diverse, with a higher proportion (47 percent) being students of color than last year’s new-student class. More students are also coming from out of state, with 55 percent hailing from North Carolina, compared with 61 percent a year ago.

In addition, the average academic profile of incoming students, in terms of SAT score and grade-point average, is higher this year than last.

“The average profile of our first-year students, both academically and demographically, is encouraging,” says Liz Biggerstaff, director of undergraduate admissions. “This class shows that Wingate resonates with and attracts a wide range of students.”

The University expects to have 3,563 total students (including graduate/professional students) enrolled this fall, including 2,542 undergrads.

Volunteers help move a new student into her residence hall

Wingate has made the transition to college life easier for a particular subset of undergraduates: those who are the first in their family to attend college. A grant from the University’s Board of Visitors helped establish First-Generation Orientation, a special bridge program in which 50 first-generation students arrived on campus a couple of days before their peers for special programming to help them learn their way around campus, meet faculty/staff members and generally get acclimated to living at Wingate.

Monthly workshops will be held throughout the year to assist students in the program with their study habits, time management and other aspects of college life. More than 30 of the participants in First-Generation Orientation are living together in a “living/learning community.”

When incoming freshmen get around to declaring a major, they’ll have a new health-sciences option this year: Wingate began both bachelor’s and master’s programs in public health this semester. The master’s program is fully online.

The public health program is a timely addition to Wingate’s group of health-sciences offerings. With the pandemic still causing problems around the world, public health is certainly in the spotlight, especially as the Delta variant continues to spread. As a result, although the University is not requiring students to be vaccinated, it is taking a cautious approach to the semester.

Face coverings are required for everyone indoors, except for professors who are vaccinated and can stay an appropriate distance away from their students. Students are being strongly encouraged to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and those who don’t are subject to weekly random Covid testing. Vaccinations are offered free of charge in the Health Center. Students attending this evening’s Street Fair can also receive either a Moderna or a Johnson & Johnson vaccine on the spot.

For all students, the academic year promises a return to something that more closely resembles a typical college experience after over a year of pandemic-induced restrictions. Classes are nearly all in-person, more events will take place on campus, and athletic events will be at full capacity for spectators. As with most things related to Covid, the circumstances could change, especially considering the Delta surge, so students are being asked to remain flexible and understanding as the University continues to navigate the pandemic.

Students might also find themselves learning in the glass-walled classroom in the newly renovated Crowder Welcome Center, housed in the Dickson-Palmer Building. The CWC is the new home of the Admissions Office and will serve as the first port of call for prospective students. The Dickson-Palmer Building also houses Wingate Outfitters, Starbucks, the Student Veterans Organization, the Academic and Career Development Center, and the Office of Marketing and Events, and also has space for student organizations to meet.

August 23, 2021