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University welcomes large class of first-time students

by Chuck Gordon

Beds are bunked and made, clothes are put away, goodbyes have been said – and 800 newly minted Bulldogs are officially moved into their residence halls for the start of the fall semester. Incoming residential and commuter students who did not move in early went through the check-in process today as the University welcomed first-time Wingate students to campus for the 2022-23 academic year.

With roughly 170 first-timers commuting, Wingate has an estimated 975 first-year students this fall. That is about 100 more than were welcomed a year ago, a sign not only of Wingate’s continuing attractiveness amid a struggling higher-education market but also of a more optimistic outlook among potential students as Covid fears wane.

Students moving into their dorms

“The impact that Covid had on enrollment the past several years was significant, so certainly some of the increase this year is due to operating in a more typical admissions environment,” says Dr. Eva Baucom, vice president of enrollment management. But she said that other factors played a role too, including Wingate’s recently signed partnerships with three local community colleges, which have led to the most incoming transfer students (105) in the past seven years.

It also didn’t hurt that Wingate’s admissions office recently moved into a renovated Crowder Welcome Center, where staffers greet potential students and begin campus tours in a spacious, inviting environment.

First-time Wingate students will spend the next few days getting acclimated to college life by participating in Bulldog Beginnings, an extended orientation period in which they will meet their orientation group, learn about campus resources and connect with their peers. Returning students can move into their residence halls beginning on Tuesday. Convocation, a religious service aimed at first-time students that marks the start of the academic year, will be held on Wednesday afternoon, and classes begin on Thursday.

Mother hugging her daughter

Wingate begins the semester with an unofficial total of 3,370 students, including 2,452 undergraduates. Forty-six percent of first-time Bulldogs are non-white students.

Over half of first-time students come from North Carolina (512 total). The next-most-represented states are all in the Southeast: South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Virginia. There are 101 international students, up 37% from last year.

With Covid-19 appearing to enter the endemic phase, the University’s Covid-related protocols for the start of the fall semester have changed compared with the past two years. With space for isolating and quarantining being extremely limited, students who contract Covid will be asked to return home if possible and to isolate for the recommended period of time (five days for vaccinated individuals; 10 days for those who are unvaccinated).

Health Center staff will also no longer conduct contact tracing, and random Covid testing is no longer required for the unvaccinated. The Health Center will still offer Covid testing, regardless of vaccination status. If campus Covid numbers begin to rise, the University will alter its policies accordingly.

Incoming students have a new major to consider. The biology major with a concentration in agricultural food systems, which begins this fall, will appeal to students who want to work on small family farms, for large agricultural concerns, for food-insecurity-related nonprofits, in food packaging and distribution, or in a number of other fields. With its focus at the graduate level on the health sciences, biology has become the University’s most popular undergraduate major. Wingate has also instituted a new minor: coaching.

Aug. 14, 2022