When the final numbers are tallied, University of Southern Mississippi officials expect this year’s freshman class to be the largest in school history.
The number of incoming freshmen at the university is up 12 percent from this time last year, and with the late registration period extending to Aug. 29, that figure is expected to climb, said Southern Miss Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul. In addition, the percentage of transfer students is up six percent from last fall.
Paul credits an aggressive effort to promote the university and its quality academic programs for the increase. “More and more students and their parents are recognizing the uniqueness of Southern Miss, that it is a comprehensive university, but yet a place where students can still get personal attention,” he said.
“We have stellar degree programs, talented faculty, small class sizes and a friendly, caring and energetic campus community located in a great city. It’s the perfect combination.”
Paul said that not only is this 2008-09 freshman class potentially the largest in school history, but also one of the most academically talented. More than 50 are Presidential Scholars enrolled in the university’s prestigious Honors College with ACT scores above 30, and nine are National Merit Finalists.
“These students come to us with exceptional academic records, a record of service to their communities and great leadership skills,” he said.
Wynde Fitts, director of the Office of the First Year Experience at Southern Miss, said she’s impressed with this year’s freshman class. “It’s one of the most positive and spirited groups of freshmen I’ve encountered at the university,” she said. “They’ve come in understanding what’s expected of them inside and outside of the classroom, and they understand what it means to be a Golden Eagle.”
Many of the incoming freshmen participated in Golden Eagle Welcome Week, an orientation program designed to help them become acclimated to the campus and prepare them for their first year at the university. The program included activities designed to help them not only get to know each other, but also learn teamwork and leadership skills through a variety of planned activities.
“We hope we’ve helped inspire them to believe in themselves, get involved in campus life and reach for their goals,” said Southern Miss junior Tim Finnigan, a GEWW crew leader.
Freshman Austin Russell of Mobile said the orientation process was beneficial in getting him prepared to be a Southern Miss student. “It was a great experience,” said Russell, who plans to study biological sciences. “It helped me get acquainted with the university and plan out my degree program.”
Paul said all Southern Miss residence halls are full, adding that the university has made plans to accommodate future growth with the addition of a 900-bed freshman residential community set to open in the fall of 2010.
“It’s clear the word is out about Southern Miss,” said Southern Miss President Dr. Martha Saunders about the large freshman class. “We have a lot to offer students and they want to be a part of it.”
The Southern Miss freshman class is expected to be the largest in school history, according to university officials. Fall semester classes started Wednesday. (Southern Miss Marketing and Public Relations photo by Steve Rouse)
About The University of Southern MississippiThe University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.