With hugs, smiles and a few tear-filled moments, scores of new first-year students said goodbye to their families Wednesday, Aug. 21, as they began moving into dormitories, sizing up sororities and planning classes as part of one of the largest freshman class ever to enroll at the Brenau University Women’s College.
Brenau officials estimate that there will be about 215 new freshmen on hand to start the celebration of the institution’s 135th anniversary – about 170 of them residents on the Gainesville campus. The newcomers also include an additional 130 upperclass students who are transferring to Brenau from other institutions.
“Last year we had 176 students, so this year we’re looking at one of our biggest Women’s College class ever,” said Scott Briell, Brenau University Senior Vice President of Enrollment. “We’re expecting a total enrollment for the Women’s College between 860-875. That’s exciting.”
Briell said the total enrollment for the university – last year set at just under 2,800 students on all campuses and online – is expected to increase by 2 to 3 percent this fall. He said he’s expressing some uncertainty about the number because of the implementation of some new shorter-term programs geared toward adult learners that start later this fall.
Brenau and its marketing partner, Institute for Professional Development, will start the cohort-based programs on campuses around Georgia and online in early September. They’re designed to offer adult students flexibility to complete associate degrees in liberal studies as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration, organizational leadership, education, nursing and psychology. Students will be able to complete courses during a five-week term.
“It’s an innovative program for us,” said Briell. “However, adult students typically register for classes later than, say, residential students, and since these classes start later than our normal classes, we won’t know for sure how many people will take advantage of them. But we’re expecting some good growth.
The Women’s College represents about a third of the total enrollment, and the Women’s College students include several dozen international students from Afghanistan, China, Russia and other countries. The college, founded in 1878 as the Georgia Baptist Female Seminary, celebrates a milestone anniversary this year with the theme “Tradition & Tomorrow.”
The tradition part began on Day One as the new students gathered on the front lawn for a processional through the gazebo-like Daniel Pavillion, which serves virtually as the front gate for the university, for a processional into historic Pearce Auditorium for their first convocation.
In preparation, university maintenance and facilities personnel pulled out all the stops in preparing for both the new students and returning students who are scheduled to arrive over the weekend in time for the beginning of classes on Monday, Aug. 26. They braced for the arrival of a shipment of more than 70 mattresses on Friday to furnish the near-capacity dorm rooms and put finishing touches on a $31,000 remodeling job in the serving area in the Hopkins Dinning Hall that includes new serving line countertops, a new ceiling, new lighting and flooring, a new steam well that helps maintain food temperature and historic images of the university framed and hung throughout the area.
The project continues the $280,000 total “dining hall overhaul” that Facilities Director Mike Hollimon says began last summer with remodeling the kitchen and bakery areas and a new roof.