Probably very little about freshmen move-in day at Western Carolina University has changed over the years: the “nervous but excited” students, the teary-eyed, mostly just nervous parents following close behind, the authoritative, no-nonsense Resident Advisors directing their new underlings, and of course, the rows of suitcases and cardboard boxes lining the sidewalks. Adding to the usual excitement of move-in day this year, WCU premiered a brand new four-story 426-bed dormitory that will predominantly house Honors College students and Teaching Fellows program participants.
Balsam Hall is part of a two-building complex where a total of about 800 students will reside. The other section, Blue Ridge Hall, has yet to be completed and is scheduled to open next fall. The cost of the complex was about $50 million.
The dorm, which students helped design, features plenty of study rooms, common areas with kitchens, offices for Honors College staff, and meeting rooms. Also new to the campus is Courtyard Dining Hall, a $17.6 million, 53,000-square-foot building.
Jeremy Cauley, a graduate of Smoky Mountain High School, is one of Balsam Hall’s first residents. A recipient of a teaching fellowship, he plans on majoring in history with a minor in physical education.
Cauley, who is rooming with one of his best friends from high school, said he looked forward to starting college life, beginning with setting up his room.
“I can’t wait to get everything where it’s supposed to be,” he said.
Marty Cauley, his father, said he knew Jeremy would be back home in Sylva sooner or later.
“For laundry if nothing else,” he said. “I try not to look at the baby pictures. It doesn’t help.”
James Hinnant, a WCU junior and vice president of the Leadership Institute, has been volunteering to help freshmen move in since he himself was a freshman. As a member of the Institute, he moved in a few days earlier to help out freshmen on WCU’s official move-in day. Hinnant said he mostly knows what to expect by now.
“I know the fridges are gonna be there,” he said. “It seems like those are getting bigger every year.”
Hannah Painter, an 18-year- old freshman from Sylva, found a welcome surprise when she moved into Balsam Hall: a private room with an adjoined bathroom that she’ll share with only one other girl.
“Wow! Nice,” Painter said, as she walked in for the first time. “Being a freshman, it’s nice to have your own room.” Painter, whose parents, grandparents and siblings all graduated from WCU, said her room was “way better” than she expected.
Across the street in Scott Hall, Monica Gatti, a WCU freshman from Nantahala, said she chose to attend WCU because it was nearby and had a great teaching program. As valedictorian of her high school class, Gatti experienced the added excitement of receiving a free laptop on move-in day.
According to Gatti, move-in day at the university had been very well-organized.
“The only thing I’m afraid of doing is getting lost,” she said. “I have a map. That’s gonna be my lifeline.”
Her mother Cindy Gatti said she would leave the campus feeling much less nervous than when she first arrived.
“I feel very secure now that I’m here,” she said. “Everyone’s been very friendly and supportive.”
WCU By the numbers
Enrolled (As of Aug. 19) 1,535
High School Academic Profile
Average Weighted GPA 3.44
Average SAT Combined 1,034
Average ACT 21
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