RIO GRANDE — The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College kicked off the fall semester Monday with 2,225 students enrolled and an 11 percent increase in residential students.
The 386 students living on campus is the highest residency since 2009, when Rio Grande’s five residence hall were home to 393.
“I definitely like it. It feels like home; A small community where everyone knows each other and helps out,” said Tommy Staten, a freshman accounting major from Mount Sterling, Ohio. “I don’t know what to expect. I’m just going to roll with things and have the time of my life.”
The excitement of a new year at Rio Grande engulfed campus with move-in day Saturday and carried through the beginning of classes Monday.
Each fall Rio Grande welcomes students from throughout Ohio, the United State and beyond. This year is no different with students representing 18 states and 11 foreign countries — Brazil, Denmark, Canada, Chile, England, France, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Spain, Venezuela and Wales.
“It’s a beautiful place,” said Daxton Marley, a business management freshman from Norman, Okla. “I’m excited to have fun and get my degree; just meet new people and make new friends.”
The fall semester marks numerous milestones for Rio Grande: 40th anniversary of the community college, reopening of Robert S. Wood Hall, return to competition in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) and the launch of block scheduling.
Rio Grande’s has shifted to block scheduling this semester. All face-to-face and hybrid classes are now offered on Monday-Wednesday or Tuesday-Thursday groupings to offer greater flexibility for all students, as well as more consistent class meeting times. Laboratory and studio classes may continue to be offered Monday through Friday, with courses containing clinical components not required to follow the block scheduling.
Block scheduling also allows for an additional five minutes added onto each class, which ultimately shortens the total duration of the semester to 14 weeks of instruction and one week of exams. It also allows for more evening offerings with courses starting as late at 9:50 p.m., and lighter course loads on Fridays allows students for convenient interaction with faculty, advising and student activities.
Athletics also benefits from block scheduling with Fridays available for travel without the potential of missing classes. The change will help for an easier transition back into the KIAC this season for the RedStorm’s 11 scholarship sports. Leading the charge is the men’s soccer program, which enters the 2014 season ranked No. 7 in the NAIA Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 and the favorite to win the KIAC.
“There are a lot of exciting changes happening at Rio Grande and this promises to be a memorable year,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Richard Sax. “With an increased number of students living on campus and so many co-curricular and extracurricular activities, campus life will be both fun and educational.”
The fall semester also marks the reopening of Wood Hall renovation. The epicenter of education at Rio since it opened in 1988, Wood Hall was closed last year while undergoing a $3.5 million renovation of the 37,957-square-foot facility. The project included a new student lounge, computer lab, conference rooms, psychology and social work observation studios, a faculty lounge and study, new furniture, new roofing, a new heating and cooling system, a new family restroom and a host of other bells and whistles.
An Aug. 15 ribbon-cutting ceremony for Wood Hall also served as a celebration of Rio Grande Community College’s 40th anniversary. Since Rio forged its partnership with the community college in 1974, 12,756 degrees have been awarded with 5,265 of them associate’s degrees. An additional 266 certificates also have been awarded.
“Rio Grande is proud to serve as a source for life enrichment and economic prosperity for both our students and our region,” Interim President Paul Harrison said. “We have an outstanding faculty and wonderful staff who take great pride in that responsibility, and each of us are as excited as our students this time of year.”
Eric McKinney is director of marketing and communications for the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College.