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Freshman move into bright future as changes come to Augusta University

(WRDW)
Published: Aug. 13, 2016 at 11:46 PM EDT
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Saturday, Aug. 13, 2016

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Carts were at the ready as Augusta University's new students came in droves to two new dorms.

Freshmen like nursing student Jhaimee Harper got help from family members and filled carts to find their new rooms.

"Residence halls were new and nice, so I liked them." Harper says. "And I live about 30 minutes away from here, so I figured it'd just be better, knock it off, so I could get involved with the community better if I were to live on campus."

She's one of more than 700 freshman getting an upgrade once school starts on Wednesday. She says she's up to the challenge, even if it means a big change.

"It's very bittersweet," Harper says. "You know, I'm happy that I'm moving onto a new part of my life, starting a new chapter. But it's sad because I'm leaving the comfort of my own home."

The newest faces to AU used carts all day to help move themselves into their new home for the next nine months. But these dorms are one of many improvements coming to Augusta's oldest university.

Oak Hall will fit 412 new freshman this year and Elm Hall next door will fit 312. Augusta University Dr. Brooks Keel says these changes and the many more to come are needed as the school transitions from a community college to a residential university.

"You have to have this," Dr. Keel says. "If we're ever going to be the type of university we know we want to be and need to be, especially for this community, we got to have residence halls. You got to have amenities that the freshman expect, like dining facilities and recreation facilities."

Along with that are plans for more dorms and parking as renovations to the student center finish and student services operations are expanded. The school's new cyber institute opens in September, as well as a new student center and food pantries.

"We've got a long way to go to get to where we need to be," Dr. Keel says, "but this is the first of what we know to be a lot of housing on this campus."

As family say their goodbyes, Resident Assistant Reanah Gibson says they're ready to make those new students feel at home.

"The big mission would be to make this a community instead of just a place that students go after class to sleep and leave," Gibson says. "We're really trying to make it feel like everybody feels like a family, like we're connected community."

AU officials say there are also more plans for more renovations to buildings on the Summerville campus as well as a new math and sciences building on the health sciences campus.

The money needed for these projects has been raised and is ready to go. But one official does say they're always looking for donations to help with things like the food pantry.