And because this weekend is Carolina Family Weekend, students whose relatives also are UNC alumni get a chance to compare the University they know to the university of old.
In the time it has taken Jenny Wortham to exit high school and become a sophomore and Patrice High a junior, UNC has undergone dramatic changes.
The daughter of a UNC alumnus Charles Wortham, class of 1971, Jenny Wortham said she remembers visiting the campus as a child and can see how her perspective has transformed over the years.
"The campus seemed bigger back then," she said. "Now my perception has changed.
"I was surprised by the amount of individual attention you get in classes and pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the campus was."
Patrice High, niece of UNC graduate Clarence High Jr., class of 1979, said she was surprised by the social changes on the campus.
"The number of minorities has increased, the number of opportunities has increased, and we got complete funding for the (Sonja H. Stone Black Cultural Center)."
But to UNC alumni, the campus has a dramatically different, more expansive look.
"I came here for one weekend during first session summer school and was surprised by the ongoing construction," Clarence High said.
"There are so many dorms and buildings that weren't here 22 years ago; it is hard to imagine."
High said Davis Library was built on a former a parking lot and Carmichael Residence Hall was not even built when he attended UNC in the late '70s.
"These are buildings that are new to me," he said. "And that new building by Cobb (the Center of Dramatic Arts) -- it was not even there."
Charles Wortham said he visits the school frequently and can note some of the changes in the campus and the student body.
"There have been changes in terms of population and size," he said. "When I was here only about 15,000 to 18,000 people lived in Chapel Hill," Wortham said.
"Now I believe it is about 50,000 to 60,000."
Wortham said the most surprising change in UNC is in its students. "When I was first enrolled, it was pretty much all male," he said. "Now it is over 50 percent female. It looks fully co-ed now."
While most alumni and current students agree that UNC has had many facelifts over the years, whether they were for the better is up for debate.
High said the current construction is detrimental to UNC's nostalgia.
"I know the University has to grow and expand, but sometimes you wish that some of the construction did not have to occur," he said. "It takes away from so much that you have to remember. I wish the campus could stay the way it was 22 years ago."
Wortham said UNC's changes have not altered the overall character of the University and the campus will always have defining characteristics that can't be covered up by any building or construction.
"If you put me in the middle of it, I could still recognize the campus because the overall character of the school has not changed."
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