JACKSON, Tenn. – Aug. 20, 2010 – Michael Cole first became aware of Union University through an advertisement he heard on a Christian radio station in his hometown of Pueblo, Colo., about a Christian college guide.
As he looked through the guide, Union caught his attention. He researched a bit more, was impressed with what he saw about the digital media studies program and decided to come to the campus for a visit.
“The campus is very inviting,” Cole said. “Everybody I met was very open and willing to help me with anything I needed.”
Cole’s twin brother Matt came along with him for the visit. Though he wasn’t originally planning to come to Union, that campus visit changed his mind. Matt decided to come as well, in part because of the variety of academic offerings (more than 100 programs of study), giving him plenty of options as he chooses a career path.
The Cole brothers are two of more than 500 freshmen who moved onto the Union campus Aug. 20. Scores of upperclassmen, faculty and staff were on hand to help the new students unpack their vehicles and get settled into their new home.
But the Coles are also part of a more select group of new students -- seven sets of twins in the freshman class, as well as another set of twins who are new transfer students.
Jill and Caroline Miller, of Clarksville, Tenn., have a similar story to the Coles. Jill was the first one who was interested in Union, but her twin sister Caroline came with her for a campus visit.
“I didn’t feel like I was in the way,” Caroline said. “I felt like I was at home here. The people were really, really welcoming.”
A mass communications major, Caroline also said Union's solid academics were a key factor in her decision. As for Jill, a pre-med major, “I think it was the atmosphere. It’s just like a big family. I really like that about the school,” she said.
Both Caroline and Jill participated in Union’s Scholars of Excellence scholarship competition.
Rich Grimm, Union’s senior vice president for enrollment services, said final figures wouldn’t be available for a few days, but that the incoming class of freshmen and transfers would be at least the second largest group in Union’s history – with about 505 freshmen and about 150 transfers. This follows last year’s record-setting class of new students, and marks the 13th straight year for an overall enrollment increase at Union.
“It has been our privilege to serve these students and their families as they progressed through the enrollment process,” Grimm said. “We look forward now to watching them assimilate into the Union community, and we anticipate great things as they follow God’s will for their lives. May the Lord be with each of them.”
After moving into their campus apartments (including 146 bedrooms in 37 newly completed apartments in Hope Quad), students spent the rest of the day in a variety of orientation activities, such as purchasing textbooks, meeting with financial aid and business office representatives, hearing an introduction from Union President David S. Dockery and meeting with their small Focus groups (Focus is Union's four-day orientation program).
In the evening, the new students and their families gathered in the G.M. Savage Memorial Chapel for a specially-designed worship service. Greg Thornbury, Union’s vice president for spiritual life and dean of the School of Theology and Missions, challenged students to understand the importance of their education in light of Stephen’s comment in his martyrdom speech in Acts 7 that Moses “was learned in the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and deeds.”
“Like Moses, you are getting an education to take part of something far greater than yourselves ....something pretty audacious,” Thornbury said. “We are here to extend the kingdom of God by recovering the great Christian intellectual tradition that was the moral and cultural reservoir that over the course of centuries has made societies flourish. We are here to help you do what fewer and fewer men and women seem to be willing to do: lead for the sake of Christ and his gospel.”
A Union tradition completed the service. Incoming students sat in the middle of the chapel, while parents, returning students and Union faculty and staff encircled them. Dockery then led in prayer for students and their families.
“We rejoice that each one of these students has chosen Union,” Dockery said. “They will be blessed and challenged in days ahead by the outstanding teaching-scholars who make up the nationally recognized Union faculty. We certainly wish God’s best for each and every student as they begin their exciting educational journeys on the Union campus.”