HELENA — Carroll College’s campus was full of energy Wednesday morning, as students returned for the first day of classes.
“This is the day that we work for and that we wait for the entire year,” said Carroll President John Cech.
Starting at 7:30 a.m., Cech joined members of the college’s board of trustees and student government leaders outside the Campus Center. They greeted students and served them muffins and coffee. It’s an idea Cech started last year.
“I just love hearing their stories,” he said. “I love hearing why they selected Carroll College, why they’re here.”
Leaders say, this year, Carroll is welcoming its largest class of first-time freshmen in three years. The new students come from across the U.S., and from about 30 other countries.
Cech said, over the past few days, he’s heard from a number of visitors that Helena seems like a “paradise.”
“Carroll College is, I think, a jewel in this paradise,” he said. “Obviously it’s an institution that is known not only locally and regionally, but known across the country, and it’s now getting known across the world.”
Birgir Gauti Stefánsson, who is studying computer science, is one of the new international students. He came from Iceland on a soccer scholarship, after he connected with Carroll coach Doug Mello online. This month was the first time he had seen the campus in person.
“What I’ve seen so far, it’s really nice,” he said. “The campus looks beautiful; the dining hall always has good food, and they take care of us really well.”
He said everyone on the campus has been very friendly.
“Students – seniors, freshmen – they’ve all come up to me and said ‘Hi” and made conversation,” he said. “Same with the staff here.”
Cech said that welcome from the community is a key part of what makes Carroll stand out.
“Once a student who is a prospective student actually comes to campus and visits us, meets with our faculty, sits in on classes – they’ve decided this is it, this is home for the next four years,” he said.
Last year, Carroll had about 260 first-time freshmen enroll. Leaders say they’re expecting at least several dozen more this year.