Davis & Elkins College freshmen are settling in after their first month of classes and the administration has high hopes for them as the year continues.
The college announced strong enrollment figures, which demonstrate its continuing sizable growth and marks the fifth consecutive year of increased enrollment; D&E has experienced a total growth of 65.8 percent since 2008.
The Office of the Registrar reported the official figures for the new academic year totals 847 full-time students, comprised of 318 new students and 529 returning students. This exceeds the most recent high enrollment of 838 full-time students in 1983.
D&E President Dr. Michael Mihalyo attributed the rise in enrollment to various factors including the Highlands Scholars program, recent upgrades in facilities, the highly credentialed faculty and staff, and the revision of curricular and co-curricular programs.
"This effort to increase enrollment cannot be credited to one particular group on campus. Each person has played their part to make this possible," Mihalyo said.
While an increase in enrollment is always good news for any college, D&E remains focused on the quality of each student's living and learning experience. Again this summer, as in the past five, enhancements were made to the campus to further fortify students' quality of life.
"The personal attention and family atmosphere certainly is an overarching theme that permeates our campus community," Mihalyo says.
Administrators saw an influx of students participating in the institution's athletic programs which include baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis and volleyball.
Student athletes, 26 percent of the student population, were welcomed into the new academic year with upgraded facilities. Men and women soccer players are competing on a new $600,000 synthetic turf field this season. The Senator Natatorium Pool Locker Rooms in the Hermanson Center have been refurbished with new flooring, lights and benches. The new lockers now sport swim team members' names.
Phase II of the Myles Center renovations were completed in the Art Department located in the lower level of the building. The Ceramics Studio has been outfitted to include clay mixing and kiln rooms, 12 new pottery wheels and new lighting.
The adjacent design studio now has a more private space to allow students to concentrate on their creativity.
Davis & Elkins is also renewing its emphasis on the performing arts with the addition of a Dance Program and an arts and entertainment season for students and the public, featuring pop, country, classical and jazz concerts, lectures, theater and dance. Renovations also are underway in the Myles Center for the Arts lobby.
D&E's close relationship with the arts, including hosting the Governor's School for the Arts for its third year and the Augusta Heritage Center, has helped build up the school's arts programs, including starting a dance major program that is slated to start in January.
Joey VanDevender, assistant director of admissions for D&E, said that the popularity of the summer programs helps spread the word and inform potential students of exactly what D&E has to offer.
"Anytime you are able to be a part of hosting popular summer programs it helps strengthen the relationship between the institution and the public," VanDevender explained.
"That's one of the strengths of the institution."
One aspect that has set this year's new class apart from other years is that several of the academic programs have maintained or gained a new level of popularity.
"Our nursing program is always a draw, but we have seen a large increase in pre-professional programs and sciences like biology this year," VanDevender said.
D&E's pre-professional programs include pre-dental, pre-law, pre-medical, pre-ministerial, pre-pharmacy, pre-physical therapy and pre-veterinary.
One of the major academic honors that the institution awards some of its incoming students is the Highlands Scholar Program, which if students qualify, offers students in seven surrounding counties (Randolph, Barbour, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Tucker, Upshur and Webster), with at least a 2.5 cumulative GPA a significant amount of scholarship money ($11,000 for commuting students and $14,000 for those living on-campus).
More than 100 Highlands Scholars will benefit from more than $5.4 million in the program this year, cutting the cost for many local West Virginia students to attend a private school.
Contact Chad Clem by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.