Welcome to the 2023-2024 academic year
August 18, 2023
Dear Campus Community,
Welcome to the 2023-2024 academic year. I hope everyone had a safe and restful summer.
After a relatively quiet summer on campus, the start of Fall classes sparks a much-welcomed energy in the air. I enjoy watching our first-year students make Furman their home away from home. And sophomores, juniors and seniors, as you return to campus, the self-confidence you’ve built from your experiences, and your ambition for the academic challenges that lie ahead, are infectious.
Our 627 first-year students make up the most academically selective class since 2005. Sixty percent come from outside South Carolina; our international students hail from 39 countries. We also have near-record racial diversity – nearly a third of our incoming students are from Black, Hispanic and other racial backgrounds. The class represents diverse interests, too. There are beekeepers, entrepreneurs, the first woman to play in a North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association football game, and a giraffe expert.
Please join us as we formally welcome the Class of 2027 at Opening Convocation, 11 a.m. on Monday, August 21, in McAlister Auditorium. Our keynote speakers will be Cynthia King, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence and Professor of Communication Studies, and Brent Nelsen, Jane Fishburne Hipp Professor of Politics and International Affairs and Interim Director of Furman’s Tocqueville Program. Following the ceremony, the entire university community is invited to lunch on the Furman Mall.
Parts of campus will look different for returning students. Several North Village buildings have been renovated and modernized, giving our students amenities comparable to the newest apartments downtown. Work on the remaining buildings will continue. The North Village pavilion is also being reworked into a public outdoor space for students and group events. In South Housing, a construction crane towers over our newest residence hall, on schedule to welcome students next August.
In the center of campus, the former Counseling Center, now called the Trone Center for Mental Fitness, was renovated over the summer. Students will find more space and new furnishing, thanks to a generous gift from Congressman David Trone ’77 and his wife June.
The sights and sounds of construction on a university campus are an outward sign of its health and vitality. These projects, and others to come, demonstrate our commitment to living and working in spaces that enable us to be our best selves.
Another new development this year goes beyond brick and mortar, and will be just as foundational to Furman’s future as any physical structure.
Dr. Cynthia King and Dr. Brent Nelsen will lead an initiative that elevates and amplifies the work we do to develop our abilities to engage with uncomfortable issues.
Many universities are being painted in a negative light, mostly by people who don’t really understand what the academy is or what we do. Some have tried to paint Furman as narrow-minded. I disagree. We are, by definition, learners and seekers, open to exploring new ideas and compelled to champion a broad array of perspectives. Our faculty do an excellent job of teaching our students how to think, not what to think.
Today’s issues in our current climate have made it clear that developing the skills to think, listen, and engage across different perspectives is needed now more than ever. This new initiative, which you will hear more about in the coming weeks, will help us demonstrate our commitment to the free exchange of ideas.
As we continue to provide the best experience for our students, our Clearly Furman campaign is vital to raising funds for scholarships, operating expenses and improvements to facilities, like the Trone Center for Mental Fitness and the upcoming renovations to Timmons Arena. I will join our development officers in the coming year by visiting alumni and donor groups across the country. This gives me the chance to catch up with friends, to make new ones and to do what I like best, talk about Furman.
Thank you for dedication to Furman, and for giving all of us wonderful things to talk about. I hope to see you soon, and I wish everyone a successful 2023-2024 academic year.