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Wingate sets another enrollment record

by Luanne Williams

The fall semester starts Monday. But first, Bulldogs spend time settling in.

Staggered arrival times, 350 helpful volunteers and a new protocol for families accompanying students to campus made for a smooth check-in process at Wingate University this week. Add the 1,000 new Bulldogs who checked in on Wednesday and Thursday to the athletes and others who checked in early, and the total student population is 5 percent larger this fall, at close to 3,800 – another record for the University.

There were few hiccups in getting all those new Bulldogs settled in.

Students and parents stand in line.

“If families have taken care of what they need to from home, the check-in process has been taking less than 10 minutes,” said Dane Jordan, director of the University’s Center for Vocations, Internships and Career Services and one of the first smiling faces to greet families at the McGee Health and Wellness Center on Thursday.

To help shorten lines, students were asked to take only one friend or family member with them as they went from table to table in Cuddy Arena, working through any last-minute red tape (picking up a parking decal, ensuring health insurance is up to date, etc.) before receiving their room key. Other family members could relax, have a snack and rejoin their student on the way to the residence hall, where volunteers unloaded cars.

“New-student move-in on Thursday was a breeze for residential students, thanks to the move-in crew and our team of student and employee volunteers braving the heat to ensure traffic moved smoothly,” said Glenda Bebber, dean of academic support services.

Commuters and students assigned to a new living-learning community at Helms residence hall had already been welcomed on Wednesday. Remaining new students arrived on Thursday, and on Saturday more than 1,000 upperclassman are expected to move in. Two hundred of them will have the privilege of settling into brand new residence halls, Wilson East and Wilson West, which were completed this month to help accommodate continuing enrollment growth.

About 1,150 freshmen and transfers were welcomed to Wingate a year ago, a 60 percent increase from 2016. This year’s new-student total, although slightly smaller, continues the enrollment-boom trend at Wingate.

Bebber commended employees and student volunteers for providing care and support for each family arriving on campus this week.

“Ultimately, our job is just to help manage anxiety, to make today as easy and exciting as possible,” Jordan said Thursday. “By the end of the process, most parents are overwhelmed by the fact that we carry everything in for them.”

A woman and two male college students move a small refrigerator into a dorm room.

The warm welcome was no surprise for Logan Williams, a vocal performance and music education major who got a 5:30 a.m. send-off from his best friend’s family on Thursday before making the drive from Asheville to settle in to JM Smith residence hall. A veteran of choral clinics at Wingate over the past four years, Williams is confident he has found the right college fit.

“The people here are always happy, bubbly, cheerful, helpful,” Williams said. He’s most looking forward to performing this fall in “Urban Legend,” an opera written by assistant professor David Brooks, who teaches piano and music theory.

In Cannon dorm, sisters Amara and Veronica Bitting, from York, Pennsylvania, were moving into different rooms, waiting to meet up with roommates.

“I was studying at a community college but wanted to start someplace fresh and new, so Wingate was actually the cheapest option and the prettiest option,” said Veronica Bitting, who wasn’t sure she was moving south until about a month ago and had never touched foot on campus until Thursday. An early childhood education major, she’ll be a sophomore by spring.

“I’m looking forward to the small class sizes, to see how we communicate with each other and how the teacher talks to us,” she said. “I like that one-on-one time.” She expects to spend some mealtimes with her sister, a pre-nursing major, but knows they’ll also both make plenty of new friends.

While their children settled in, parents got a word from Wingate University President Rhett Brown and Student Government Association President Laura Thompson, among other speakers in McGee Theatre.

“Wingate is a family, and I can assure you that your son or daughter is in great hands,” Thompson said. “We welcome you to Wingate, and we welcome you home.”

Brown challenged parents to take a long view, telling them that the students they were dropping off this week would not come home the same.

“When they walk across the stage at Commencement, we want them to be armed with two things: prospects and purpose,” Brown said. “We believe in providing an experience that changes fundamentally who they are.”

Convocation for the Class of 2022 is Sunday evening. Classes begin Monday.

Aug. 17, 2018