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Greenville bustling with students' return

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Students and family move belongings into College Hill to start the new school year at ECU on Aug. 19, 2016 (Joe Pellegrino/The Daily Reflector)

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Holly West

Sunday, August 21, 2016

After three months of relative quiet, Greenville is abuzz with East Carolina University students settling in on campus and hitting local businesses to prepare for the start of another year. 

Nearly 29,000 students, including 4,400 freshman and 1,800 transfer students, have reported to campus for the start of classes on Monday. On-campus students moved in Wednesday through Saturday and off-campus apartments are continuing to fill up.  

Several events this weekend give students a chance to celebrate before classes start Monday. Saturday, country singer Eric Church headlined Carolina Kickoff, which also featured rock ’n’ roll artist Kid Rock and singer-songwriter Margo Price, at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The fun continues today with new student convocation at 4:30 p.m. in Minges Coliseum, followed at 5:30 p.m. by Pirate Palooza, a welcome back celebration featuring food, games, inflatables and prizes, at Dowdy-Ficklen. 

Andrew Schmitt, executive director of the Greenville-Pitt County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the big move-in weekend is just the start of ECU students’ contribution to the local economy.

“You look at move-in weekend and what’s going on with the Eric Church concert and things like that, it’s a huge kickoff weekend for sure,” he said.

Students’ presence is healthy for the economy all school year long, Schmitt said.

“You have your parents coming in, especially for freshman, and they're staying in the hotels,” he said. “The students themselves, once they get here, as far as the Visitors Bureau looks at it, it’s extra discretionary income. They’re not leaving like visitors are.” 

For University Book Exchange, this is the busiest weekend of the entire year, said General Manager Yvonne Perry. Perry said there’s a three-week spike in business around the beginning of school.

“This week it’s been building up, next week is full on, and then the week after it starts going back down,” she said. “The second day of class is always the busiest day. They’ve had a chance to go to class. They know what they need.”

Perry said her staff has been working all summer to prepare for the surge and has recruited some extra help from ECU’s Alpha Omicron Pi sorority. 

The store’s biggest business this time of year comes from textbooks, with apparel a close second. Perry said the store is already stocking up on tailgating supplies in advance of the September kickoff of Pirate football. 

Freshman Danielle Thorne was checking out UBE’s apparel with her sister Emilie, a senior, Friday afternoon and said football games are one of the reasons she chose to attend ECU.

“I’ve gone to a lot of the football games with her,” she said. “I knew I kinda wanted to come here, but that made it for sure, just the energy of the stadium and the school spirit they have.” 

Emilie, who is graduating in December, moved back home to Clayton for her final semester to be closer to the facility where she will complete her nursing clinicals, but she said she’ll always consider ECU home, too.

“When I came to open house, it just kind of felt like home. It felt very close and everyone seemed so happy to be here,” she said. “Over the past four years, it’s definitely grown in my heart. I love Greenville.” 

Quay Wembley just moved to ECU Tuesday, but by Wednesday it was already a home away from home for him, too. He’s living in Gateway East as part of the Biology Living Learning Community. 

“Having people to fall back on and having a sound system to work around and having people who know their stuff, it’s a good environment to be in,” he said of the LLC. 

Wembley, a New Jersey native who attended high school in Fayetteville, said he’s been looking forward to college his whole life, but he’s a little nervous about how he’s going to balance everything he wants to do.

“I’m planning on being very engaged and involved on campus, so I don’t want to put too much on my plate the first year,” he said. 

New students aren’t the only ones who are nervous. Parent David Jones said moving his first child to college is making him “a little bit anxious.” He said he’s not too worried because his home in Chapel Hill is only an hour and a half away.

“He’s close enough that if he needs to he can jump in the car and head back,” Jones said. “He tells me he’s not going to come back home all too often. We have bets on whether or not the first phone call’s going to come in a week or if will we go into a second week.” 

His son, Kyle, is looking forward to the freedom. 

“I’m excited,” Kyle said. “It will be nice being able to make our own decisions.” 

Freshmen aren’t the only ones new to campus. Friday morning Chancellor Cecil Staton addressed faculty for the first time since beginning his role on July 1.

Staton said the university will set a total enrollment record this year, with almost 29,000 students expected to be registered by census day. “For the first time since fall of 2008 we will have graduate enrollment growth,” he said.

Staton also told the faculty that he will be launching an intentional effort related to the branding and image of the university.

“ECU is a hidden gem in higher education in this country,” he said. “But there is no virtue in being hidden.”

As part of that effort to increase awareness of the university, he said ECU must emphasize research and internationalization, including bringing more international students to ECU and sending more ECU students to study abroad.

“For those of us committed to the world of higher education, there is no more optimistic time than the beginning of fall term of each year,” he said. “New students bring new dreams, new questions, new teaching challenges and fresh opportunities to impact the next generation.”

 

Contact Holly West at hwest@reflector.com or 252-329-9585.

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