The class is small - only nine students. But its presence holds huge significance. The week-long Human Capital and Development class, is the first to return to USM in Long Beach since Katrina severely damaged the campus.
"Just having people on campus, have activity right here on campus, is so important. So critical," says Professor Dr. Jack Phillips. "It's exciting to have this first group, first team here."
"It shows that Southern Miss on the Gulf Coast is back in business," says his wife and professor, Dr. Patti Phillips.
The first class also helps ease fears that the campus may not reopen.
"This class starting up is really kick-starting this campus, and we're excited," says student Scott Alsobrooks. "We're one of the first groups to come in and get that started. We're pushing the momentum."
Starting next week, only limited, night classes will be held at the Holloway Building and Business Complex.
"In the fall, we will have the Advanced Education Building that will be completed," says USM Associate Provost Dr. Pat Joachim. "We will also have the library that will be ready. So fall of '07, we will be utilizing those four buildings."
The future is still uncertain about the other buildings on campus, including the three historic structures in the front. The university is still waiting for the Office of Historic Preservation to decide if those buildings should be torn down or repaired. There are still a lot of questions to answer and work to do, but at least the campus is alive again.
"It just shows that if you persevere, and you never give up, and you continue to work, that everything does work out," says Dr. Joachim. "We've been waiting for this day. We're excited. It's a beautiful, bright sun shiny day, which is indicative of our bright future here on the Gulf Coast."
"It feels wonderful," says Scott Alsobrooks. "This campus is just a beautiful setting for education. It's great to be back here as one of the first classes, to get this campus kicked off again."
USM leaders expect 2,500 students will register for classes this Spring, and 3,000 students for the Fall semester. They're also optimistic that popular programs will come back, including the Toy Library and Police Academy.