By Sarah Palmer
The new academic year has started, and campus is buzzing with Union’s second largest freshman class in its history: approximately 505 freshmen and 151 transfer students.
New students were welcomed to campus Aug. 20–23 for Focus, a four-day new student orientation planned in part by the Office of Student Leadership Development.
“In Residence Life, we are excited about this incoming class,” said Luke Pruett, residence director for the male quads. “They are already promising to be exceptional, and we are excited about their next four years.”
Richard Grimm, senior vice president for enrollment services, echoed Pruett’s sentiments: “They are as academically talented a group of students as any group of freshmen ever to enroll at Union. We give thanks for each one and look forward to seeing how the Lord will use them in the years to come.”
Students hail from states such as California, Minnesota and New York, all the way to countries such as the Czech Republic, India and Kenya.
Focus began Aug. 20, with new students moving into their dorms. The rest of the day was filled with activities for students and their families, including a “Welcome to Union University!” speech by Dr. David S. Dockery, university president, a worship service and, after the parents left, the traditional Focus Show.
The next three days of Focus were filled with more Union-acclimating activities for the new students, who were split into 33 Focus groups led by upperclassmen leaders.
“(Focus) helps new students become familiar with the campus facilities, services and resources,” said Karen Taylor, assistant director of the Office of Student Leadership Development. “It provides opportunities for them to interact with faculty, staff, upperclassmen and other new students. Focus also aids new students in finding a sense of belonging on Union’s campus.”
Ashley Jackson, director of the Heritage Complex, said the freshmen seem to be adjusting to Union life well, even more so than in previous years.
“I see a lot of interaction between (the freshmen), which is a great first step in building this community,” Jackson said.
She said even on the first night of Focus, when most new students are timid, many freshmen in the Heritage courtyard were playing soccer or simply talking together.
One of the residence directors’ goals has been to make sure the freshmen feel comfortable and adjusted to campus life. Pruett said the RDs are an “on-campus resource, 24/7” for students who have questions or just want to hang out.
“Anything they need, we’re here to help them, even after Focus,” he said.
Residence directors include Pruett; Jackson; Jarad Russell, assistant RD for the Heritage Complex; Ema VanCleave, RD of the female quads; Blake Pennington, intramural director and men’s assistant RD; and Kristen Wells, assistant RD for the Hope Quads.
Rebecca Blevins, freshman biology major from Dalton, Ga., said Focus was busy but beneficial. After the full schedule of Focus activities, however, she said she is simply ready for college life to begin.
“I’m just ready for classes to start, to get into my routine and for Union to become a home, not a place to visit,” Blevins said.