Members of the Brenau University soccer team help move new students into their dorms during Move-in Day. (Kyle Hess for Brenau University)

Brenau University welcomes students to campus for the start of new school year

Aug 19, 2021
Brenau Staff
Tiffany Oltjenbruns, junior dance major, cheers as students check-in
Tiffany Oltjenbruns, junior dance major, cheers as students check-in. (Kelsey Podo/Brenau University)

Brenau University welcomed new arrivals to its historic Gainesville campus on Thursday, Aug. 19, during its annual Move-in Day for first-year and transfer students.

The campus welcome celebration, which was also the first day of orientation, marks the unofficial start of the academic school year with most of the university’s classes set to begin on Monday, Aug. 23.

For first-year dance major Lily Hart, the semester cannot come soon enough. Hart, who traveled nearly 12 hours from her home in Illinois to Brenau, said she is looking forward to making new friends and getting to know her fellow classmates.

“I’m excited to meet new people,” Hart said. “I really like the Brenau community. Everyone is so supportive. When we showed up today, everyone cheered for us. I also like the dance program because you can do dance but focus in other areas. Everyone I talked to in the dance department is supportive as well.”

Hart’s mother, Diana, helped her move in and was a little nervous that her youngest child was going to school so far from home.

“I want her to learn and grow into a strong woman here,” Diana Hart said. “I’m eager for her to become an empowered woman. When we brought another daughter to college, it was quiet the next few days. They just had an ice cream social at her school. It’s hard when you’re from out of state and don’t have any friends on campus. At Brenau, Lily will be so busy during Welcome Week. I’m happy to see that, and she’s going to know a lot of people by the end of the week.”

Lily Hart’s roommate, Erin Delaney, is also a dance major and said she loves the strong support system at Brenau.

“I knew I wanted to double major and a lot of schools weren’t as compatible with that,” Delaney said. “When I asked the dance faculty about it, they said, ‘Absolutely.’ And it just seemed like they could support me a lot more than some other schools said they could. I like that you can be a freshman and can still audition for shows and have a chance.”

Delaney said she looks forward to forming bonds with other strong women while she develops into her own person.

“My hometown in West Virginia is small, and I wanted to try to start all over,” she said. “I felt like this was the perfect place for that.”

Cimara Shackelford, freshman dance pedagogy major from Birmingham, Alabama, moves into her dorm room with the help of her grandmother
From left, Cimara Shackelford, freshman dance pedagogy major from Birmingham, Alabama, moves into her dorm room with the help of her grandmother, Cynthia Woodfin. (Kelsey Podo/Brenau University)

While many students arrived on campus Thursday, some have already settled into their new home at Brenau. Guangming “Maurice” Xu, a senior education major, was among 10 students from Brenau’s partnership with Anhui Normal University to arrive on campus earlier in the month. Xu and his classmates are excited to be on campus this year after being unable to come to Brenau last year.

“The United States is far away, and I’ve always wanted to visit here,” Xu said. “We’ve heard about the U.S. so many times in China, and I wanted to see what it was like for myself. The people here are so friendly and the scenery is beautiful. It’s quiet. I’m excited to meet new people and make new friends, especially with the Panamanian students. I love being at Brenau.”

Brenau welcomed 16 students from Panama in April as part of its newest international partnership. Xu said he and his Chinese classmates have talked to them about how their countries differ from each other and the U.S., and the Panamanian students have offered advice about life as an international student studying abroad.

During Thursday’s drive-through check-in, students were greeted by staff and student leaders. That included Jordyn Knight, a senior psychology major from Fayetteville, Georgia, who said she wanted to meet the newest students before they moved into the dorms. She said she also enjoyed the way check-in was set up this year because it allowed for more excitement.

“We can be loud out here,” Knight said. “I’m happy to see everyone back on campus. I took all of my classes over Zoom last year, so I’m glad to be able to walk into the classroom, talk to professors face-to-face and have class discussions in person.”

Amanda Lammers, vice president of student services, also helped welcome students back during check-in and orientation.

“Move-in Day is like my work Christmas,” Lammers said. “Few things are better than today. Everyone I’ve seen so far has been so positive and ready to start the new semester.”

Brenau University President Anne Skleder said that Move-in Day is one of her favorite days of the year.

“I am eager to welcome back students to campus for another traditional academic year, and to get to know our new students and their families throughout Welcome Week,” Skleder said. “Each student helps to move our university forward and brings their own perspective, talent and energy. That energy is present everywhere I go.”