PARKERSBURG- Like the elementary and secondary schools in Wood County, local college students began a new semester of classes Monday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, while Ohio Valley University students get ready to start their new year on Wednesday.
Katie Wootton, director of marketing and communications at WVU-P, said the first day of classes got off to a good start Monday and registration will continue through Friday.
"Everything seems to be going smoothly so far," Wootton said Monday afternoon. "We had our new student orientation last Thursday and also on Saturday and we had a great turnout for that. The students seem to be finding their classes pretty easily and seem to be excited about fall semester."
Students at Ohio Valley University began moving into campus dorms over the weekend in preparation for the fall semester. Student registration began Monday and classes start Wednesday.
Mandatory for new students to attend, the New Student Convocation will be 11 a.m. next Monday in the multi-purpose room at WVU-P. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Geoffrey Cousins, an innovative West Virginia heart surgeon and pioneer of robotic assisted heart surgery in the U.S. He has been selected as an "Inspiring West Virginian" by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
With the start of the fall semester, Wootton said there are two new course offerings available to students. One is a 3-D Modeling program at the associate degree level and there is a Bachelor of Applied Science degree with a major in child development.
WVU-P won't have final enrollment numbers for several days, but early indications seem to be that fall enrollment is remaining steady, Wootton said. The last couple of falls have seen large increases in the number of students coming in and while this year isn't reaching those levels, it is still showing growth.
"It's looking good for the fall," she said.
WVU-P is having activities and giveaways through the week to welcome students back. WVU-P's Jackson County Campus is holding a Welcome Back Party from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Ripley site.
The Student Engagement Activities Committee works to get new students oriented and to provide activities and programs for new and returning students, said SEA vice president Jessica Wright.
"The first week is usually very busy because we have a lot of new students coming in and we have tables set up at the front to help them find their classes," she said.
The SEA was offering free water bottles and other items to students Monday and today and will be holding poster sales through the rest of this week.
Wright said college officials have set a period from about 11 a.m. to noon each Wednesday when no classes are held as a time for the SEA to hold activities. As examples, a sundae giveaway will be Aug. 31, live music will be featured Sept. 7, a cookout with inflatables is planned for Sept. 14 and a club fair will be Sept. 21.
Parkersburg resident Mary Ellison was one of the older non-traditional students on campus Monday at WVU-P, getting ready to begin her second year of work toward a sociology degree. She said the SEA and the college "go way above and beyond what they need to do" to help new and returning students kick off the new semester in a positive way.
Ellison said she found the services helpful last year when she started attending classes and was glad to see them working again this year.
At OVU, classes don't start until Wednesday but students have been making their way back to campus over the weekend and on Monday.
With registration for the fall semester running through Aug. 28, officials won't have final attendance figures for a week or so. However, Jim Bullock, vice president of OVU's academic affairs, said he expects a record number of freshmen this year.
"We will be housing several male residents at Wingate by Wyndham in Vienna to begin the term," said Jason Doughtery, dean of students at OVU. "We are grateful for the cooperation of the hotel's management, but are hopeful that this will be a temporary arrangement."
Activity on the campus began Saturday as parents assisted students moving into the dormitories. First-year OVU president Harold Shank and his wife, Sally, greeted families as they arrived. Members of the faculty and staff, as well as alumni, were on hand to help carry students' luggage and other items.
Vice President for Enrollment Larry Lyons credited the increased enrollment to a high retention percentage of continuing students and an all-out effort in new student recruiting that focused on working with churches throughout the region.
As part of the orientation process for incoming freshmen, the "OVU Expo" was held Monday night in the alumni gym on the OVU campus. The student fair featured local businesses, banks, churches and other vendors joining with the college's departments and programs to show freshmen what is available at the school and in the community.