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Fall semester begins with largest freshman class, record enrollment

Freshman Jeremy Isbell (right) and his his brother, Kevin, a Union graduate, joke while putting a mattress pad onto Jeremy's new bed in his on-campus apartment. (Photo by Sarah Palmer)
Freshman Jeremy Isbell (right) and his his brother, Kevin, a Union graduate, joke while putting a mattress pad onto Jeremy's new bed in his on-campus apartment. (Photo by Sarah Palmer)

JACKSON, Tenn.Aug. 24, 2009 – Jesse Myers thought he had his future planned out. And it didn’t include Union University.

Myers, of LaGrange, Ky., was all set to attend another university and study mechanical engineering, with plans to join the Air Force after graduation and become a pilot. But while attending orientation, something happened.

“God sort of redirected my life, and he showed me that engineering isn’t where he wanted me,” said Myers, now a freshman at Union.

Myers had been on the Union campus previously to visit a friend, and he said it became a plausible choice of schools for him to attend.

“Everything that I’ve experienced has backed up that decision,” he said. “I have that peace that kind of tells me that I’m in God’s will right now.”

Myers is just one of the record-high 545 freshmen at Union this year, and the freshman class constitutes part of the 1,200 total new students at Union this fall. Classes for the fall semester began Aug. 25.

All told, Union expects a fall enrollment of about 4,000 students. Though final numbers won’t be official for a few more days, this is the 12th straight year for an enrollment increase at Union. Last year’s fall enrollment was 3,770.

Alyssa Karr, a freshman from Larkspur, Colo., is another new Union student. She originally planned to play basketball for the Lady Bulldogs, and visited the campus early in her high school years. She met with Coach Mark Campbell, looked at the gymnasium and liked what she saw.

But then Karr broke her back in an accident. Four discs in her back were crushed. Doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to play basketball anymore.

“I kind of just forgot about Union a little bit,” Karr said.

Even though her basketball days were over, Campbell and others on the Union women’s basketball team continued to call her and encourage her. During her senior year, she started thinking seriously about college again.

“I couldn’t find one that really suited me very well,” she said. “Then all of a sudden I remembered Union. It really seemed to fit me.”

David Speer, of St. Charles, Mo., had intended to attend Union, but he didn’t know if things would work out financially. He credits John Windham in Undergraduate Admissions with working everything out, and was impressed with how well Windham understood the available resources.

“At the last second, he called me to let me know that I could get the grants that I needed,” Speer said. “He made it really easy for me.”

The continued growth has put a strain on housing, and left Union’s residence life team scrambling to find rooms for all the students. The university has about 100 more student housing rooms than it did last year, and all of them are full. Union will soon begin construction on new student housing that will be ready for the fall 2010 semester.

Union has also added more than 200 parking spaces on campus.

New building projects are in progress to support the continued enrollment growth. The Katherine S. Bowld Student Commons Building -- a 30,000-square-foot facility – will be complete by mid-January. The building will include apartments for two residence directors, a large multi-purpose room, three classrooms, two kitchens, game room, conference rooms, piano room, band practice room, Internet café, TV rooms and gathering areas, outdoor built-in grills and outdoor patio space on both the first and second floors.

The facility will be almost twice the size of the old Hurt and Watters commons buildings combined.

A new pharmacy building is also under construction. Located immediately west of Jennings Hall, the three-story, 54,000-square-foot facility will house the School of Pharmacy’s classrooms, labs, faculty offices and dean’s office. In addition to the 40,000 square feet for the pharmacy program, the building will also include additional space for health care simulation education.

Union is also in the process of adding a press box and 1,000 seats of bleachers to the soccer field, which will be called the Smith Soccer Complex.

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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