GCU Marks Record Enrollment on Fall Move-In Day
By Doug Carroll
A historic day in the life of 61-year-old Grand Canyon University was capped by a rousing convocation in Antelope Gymnasium as students, parents and staff celebrated record enrollment on the west Phoenix campus.
Aug. 26, 2010, will go down as the date when a majority of approximately 1,500 new students arrived on campus, causing a line to extend from the Student Union for nearly the length of the Promenade and vehicles to back up for most of a mile along Camelback Road out to Interstate 17.
The enthusiasm of the new arrivals was high, emphatically underscoring the turnaround of a university that faced being shut down only six years ago. GCU’s campus enrollment for 2010-11 is pushing 2,900, and this year a second residence hall was built to accommodate the burgeoning student population. A third dorm will be constructed in 2011.
“So many universities are struggling, and we have been so blessed of the Lord,” said Dean of Students Mik Milem at the late-afternoon welcoming convocation, which rocked with music and cheers. “It’s amazing to watch what God is doing here.”
Faculty and staff volunteers turned out by the dozens to help student leaders with move-in. The “Luggage Luggers” have become a fall tradition at the University, their ranks including deans, professors and administrators.
The gray of their T-shirts was matched by overcast skies in the morning, providing a welcome relief from the summer heat for those in line to enter the Union, which buzzed with activity. Once inside, students made the rounds to complete their paperwork and receive housing assignments.
The day’s biggest star may have been Canyon Hall, GCU’s new, 552-bed dormitory, which has a small movie theater on its fourth floor and will have a game room on its third floor. Students raved about everything from the dorm’s roomy feel to its fresh smell.
“It’s nice, it’s big and it’s a blessing,” said sophomore Lynzy Rigby of Phoenix, a Canyon Hall resident assistant. “Everything’s going to work out. But it’s a process, and we’ll stay positive about it.”
Hegel Hall, the University’s existing dormitory to the west of Canyon Hall, will house 392 freshmen on its three floors. However, because of the extraordinary size of the freshman class, some of the new students will be joining sophomores in Canyon Hall.
“They did a great job,” Canyon Hall’s resident director, J.P. Tanner, said of the work by Pono Construction. “I’m impressed. It’s awesome.”
Clay Kysar, a junior from Farmington, N.M., who is an RA in Canyon Hall, said parking and dining space will be ongoing concerns because of the greater numbers of students. However, a new lot on the eastern side of campus will help with the former and expanded hours (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.) at the Student Union should ease congestion for the latter.
Mallory Freeman, a sophomore from Chandler, admitted to feeling “overwhelmed” but added, “Things have been surprisingly well-organized and everyone’s moving in smoothly.”
Milem, whose Campus Life staff spent months preparing for the big day, said the day went “surprisingly smoothly. We couldn’t have asked for better.”
President Kathy Player and Provost Cheri St. Arnauld addressed the students and families at the welcoming convocation, along with members of Campus Life, including new campus pastor Tim Griffin.
Arnauld asked the students to be prepared, respectful and engaged, encouraging them to “make your learning relevant to you.”
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.