Aug. 25—The first day of USC Aiken's fall semester was Thursday, and students swarmed the campus going to and from classes and gathering to talk with new and old friends.
This year, the school boasts a record number of enrolled freshmen. Last year at this time, around 550 freshman were enrolled.
"Right now, we're looking at about 600, 650," said Thayer McGahee, interim provost and executive vice chancellor for Student Affairs. "This campus feels more vibrant already with more students."
Sophomore Andrew Towner was taking a break after his morning microbiology lecture when he stopped to talk about his school experience in the library.
"It's nice being able to meet and connect with people," he said. "There's also plenty of new people to meet. It's really cool meeting new people and hearing their stories."
Another student, Jacob Mastromonico, mentioned that he likes USC Aiken's atmosphere. "The professors here are really great," he said. "There's a lot of clubs and stuff. There's a place for everyone here."
One freshman, Cheyanna Hyder, is nervous but excited. "It's just very nerve-wracking, but everybody's nice and I really like it so far," she said.
USC Aiken currently has foreign exchange students from 22 countries. One of these students is Hippo Denis from France.
"The experience as a student athlete is pretty cool," said Denis, who is a senior and member of the university's soccer team. "I think college in America, it's a great experience." Denis plans to return home after graduation and work toward earning his master's degree in sports management.
Students aren't the only ones excited about the start of the year. Professor Elizabeth Webb from the communication department talked about her love for interacting with students: "I'm excited to see the students that I've had in the past and to get them again and see how they're doing. But I'm also excited to meet the new students."
Professor Webb will be teaching Pacer 101 this semester, a class for new USC Aiken students.
"It's really fun to interact with first-year students," she said. "This is all new to them."
According to McGahee, several new STEM-heavy programs are in the works at the school.
"About 60% of our new students are currently choosing degrees in the sciences, health care, cybersecurity and engineering. We want to fill the workforce needs of South Carolina in this region," McGahee said.
"We've got a lot of things going on right now on campus, a lot of different groups really focused on student success and student retention," McGahee added. "We want to bring our students here, we want to keep them here, we want them to stay, and we want them to graduate."