East Tennessee State University was founded in 1911 as the East Tennessee State Normal School.

According to the ETSU National Alumni Association website, there were only 29 students and two courses of study. During that first semester, in November, the university colors were chosen.

Then in 1925 the Normal School became the East Tennessee State Teachers College. It wasn’t until 1963 that the school became a university.

Since then, the school has expanded to house nearly 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Now there are, according to the ETSU website, 140 academic programs to choose from and 11 colleges and schools. With online courses and multiple campuses, ETSU studies are more accessible than ever. You’re likely to have more students in one class than the school had in a whole semester that first year.

According to Assistant Registrar Jessica Miller, ETSU has 1,576 undergraduate students and 495 graduate students set to graduate this year. These numbers aren’t entirely official until final grades come through, but regardless, it is astronomically different from the 29 students the university began with over 100 years ago.

These numbers may just seem like figures on a page, but each and every one represents a classmate, a person — someone who has worked hard for their degree. For students like Carson Arnold, who is graduating this semester, it is the beginning of an entirely new future.

“For me, the last four years at ETSU have been a blast,” Arnold said. “I’ve learned so much and met so many new people. I’m sad to go, but I know the professors here have really prepared me for what I’ll experience after graduation. Law school, here I come!”

If graduation seems like it’s a million years away, don’t despair. ETSU and the curriculum here set students up for the future. These numbers, and students like Carson, represent the power of an education.