Students roamed the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's campus once again last week as they enjoyed the final days before classes begin Monday.
On Friday, students greeted friends and chatted with their roommates as they walked around campus. Some were still moving in, loading wagons to bring their belongings to their dorms or off-campus apartments.
Others, like freshman Adrian Senentz, mapped out where their classes are in preparation for the first day. Senentz, who lives in Apison, chose UTC because he wanted to stay closer to home.
"I wasn't ready to move away quite yet," Senentz said.
Enrollment numbers won't be released until about two weeks into the school year, but officials anticipate the numbers will at least be where they traditionally have been if not higher. On-campus residence halls are full, which Brett Fuchs, the associate dean of students, said is typically a positive sign that the university will have a good freshman class.
"We're just really excited to have folks back," Fuchs said in a phone interview. "It brings a new level of excitement back to campus. People get to see each other again. You get to meet new students who oftentimes it's their first time away from home, so it's fun and really enjoyable, especially those first few weeks of school."
Earlier this summer, UTC launched the Off-Campus Student Services program to provide support to students looking for off-campus housing, as well as educate them on their rights and responsibilities as renters.
The university also partnered with College Pads, which provides an online tool to help students find housing and connect with potential roommates. It's early, but Fuchs said the website has had a lot of traffic so far.
"We're being more intentional about the way we connect students with off-campus residences, whether it's apartments or houses," Fuchs said. "We're really excited to see that to make sure our students are not only finding good places to live but being good neighbors as well."
UTC will host its first off-campus housing fair later this fall to allow property owners to introduce themselves to students.
Similar to past years, the university is looking for ways to better help and support students. Fuchs is working to get additional donations for Scrappy's Cupboard, which provides a variety of food, clothing and household items to any student or faculty member, due to an increase in student need. The food pantry was established after a spring 2016 campus needs assessment found 43% of students had experienced food insecurity.
Fuchs also expects there will be a large focus on academic integrity this year due to the growing use of artificial intelligence.
"We're having lots of conversations on campus both with faculty and students about the positive or negative uses of AI," he said. "It can be great, especially in certain fields, but it's also not the most accurate in areas."
Contact Shannon Coan at email@example.com or 423-757-6396.