A visit with a longtime friend to The W's campus changed the course of Summer Ward's life. The 18-year-old was set to attend a major college of art and design in Georgia, where she would study graphic design this fall.
"I was happy I was going—very happy," she said about being accepted into the college; however, there were some reservations, including cost and being nine hours away from her small hometown of Hernando. Also, in the back of her mind: was the memory of her visit to The W with two of her friends for their orientation in June.
"When I got here, I just fell in love with it because it reminded me of where my sister went to college at Berea (Kentucky). It's a small town, a small campus and everything is within walking distance," Ward said of The W.
"The grounds are well kept, and I thought all of the buildings were very interesting," she added. "I guess I'm a bit of a history person so I like the architecture and all of the historical value."
While the picturesque campus left an impression, Ward said it was the people she met during the visit that really sold her on The W.
"The people were very friendly. The faculty members were nice," she said.
And then there were brothers Paul Turner and Dalton Nail she met. Turner worked as an orientation leader, and Nail, a Weeks of Welcome corps member. "They were very funny, friendly and outgoing."
Ward decided to make a second trip back to campus where she attended an ice cream social and was able to meet Dr. Jim Borsig, university president, and Jonathan Cumberland, assistant professor of art.
While The W has been described as one of the best kept secrets in the state, Ward was able to keep a huge secret of her own with help from some of her new W friends.
It was August when Ward decided she would be attending The W instead of her other college choice. She did not tell her friends Hasina Haynes and Jennifer Dowdy, both from Hernando and entering W freshmen, until Move In Day.
She made surprise visits to both of their residence halls with the University Relations photographer/videographer in tow.
Haynes' initial thoughts were, "What are you doing here? We are going to the same school. That's great!"
Just two days before, Ward had the spent the night at Haynes' parents' home in Hernando.
Ward said, "The friendly atmosphere makes The W so special. I feel like everyone here will try to help me achieve my goals."