This fall, UNC Greensboro excitedly welcomes approximately 2,400 first-year students.
Who are these new Spartans? They come from cities across North Carolina and beyond, but their top larger cities of origin are: Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Winston-Salem, and the top smaller towns of origin are: Siler City, Hillsborough, Summerfield, and Henderson.
48% of incoming first-year students are first-generation college students, and the top major preferences among them are: nursing, computer science, biology, psychology, kinesiology, business administration, music, studio art, drama and finance.
What else do we know about the Class of ’26 so far? Well, here’s a brief history of a few cultural markers from their lifetimes:
The majority of the class of 2026 was born in 2004. During this year, Disney movies “National Treasure,” “The Incredibles,” and “Princess Diaries 2” were released. PC gaming took off with hit games such as “World of Warcraft” and “Half-Life 2.” The hit television series “Lost” had its debut. The most popular car was the Toyota Camry. Other than Facebook, how else would people learn to communicate? The most popular phone was the Motorola RAZR V3 and, in April of 2004, Gmail was launched. President George W. Bush was in office.
2004 saw the arrival of the Mars Spirit Rover on Mars, the first legal same sex marriage and the launch of Facebook for college students. The Boston Red Sox won the World series for the first time since 1918, vanquishing the so-called “Curse of the Bambino” that had plagued them for 86 years. The summer Olympics took place in Greece and the European Union expanded to include 10 more countries.
In 2010, when the class of 2026 started first grade, the popular Disney movies “Tangled,” and “Toy Story 3” had just been released, as well as popular music such as TiK ToK – Ke$ha, OMG – Usher featuring will.i.am, and Hey, Soul Sister – Train, this is, of course, nowhere near the important as the start of the hit boy-band, One Direction.
This was the year that Youtube celebrated its 10th anniversary, Apple’s iPhone 3G S was the most popular phone, and the first iPad was just launched. Instagram launched in October, helping to spread new popular slang like “catfish” and “bromance.” The video game “Minecraft” hit 100 thousand users before going into alpha development with players able to play and experiment ahead of its full release. Barack Obama was the U.S. president.
In 2014, when the members of Class of ‘26 were 10 years old, they saw the release of “Big Hero 6,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and “Maleficent.” At the top of the popular music scene was “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, “Dark Horse” by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J, and “Rude” by MAGIC! The era of technology was beginning its incline with the number one phone in America being Apple’s iPhone 6 and with texting dominating other forms of communication.
The Ice Bucket Challenge trend took off to raise money and awareness for ALS research. Kermit the Frog took the stage with the popular “But that’s none of my business” meme along with Minor Mistake Marvin and #thiscouldbeus. “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare” was the best-selling video game. The newly invented hoverboard was the newest craving. The year 2014 also came with social strife as the world experienced an Ebola outbreak and the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
When the class of ‘26 began high school, in 2018, the popular Disney movies “Black Panther” and “The Incredibles 2” came out, and in popular music, “The Middle” by Zedd, “God’s Plan” by Drake, and “Havana” by Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug. Apple’s iPhone x was the biggest seller of the year. “Red Dead Redemption II” was the top-selling video game.
Fashion saw the rise of high waisted pants, dark denim, and hiking boots. Fidget spinners, a toy designed to help student concentration, were still big. Among the best inventions of 2018 were the ICON Vulcan 3-D printer, Diamond Foundry Sustainable Diamond, Beyond Sausage meat, and the iRobot Roomba i7+. 2018 also saw the discovery of water on Mars. Donald Trump was the U.S. president.
It’s 2022, and finally, the Class of ‘26 is ready to begin college. “Turning Red” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” have been hit movies so far, and top songs so far are “As it was” by Harry styles, “Woman” by Doja Cat, and “About Damn Time” by Lizzo. The top phone of the year is Apple’s iPhone 13. On July 12, NASA released the the images from the Webb Space telescope.
It has been a challenging time in the United States and globally, as the world watches the trial around Jan. 6, the war in Ukraine, and increasing climate concerns.
Having gone through the last two years of high school in a pandemic and amid political and social unrest, this class will have contributing to the global landscape on their minds, and UNCG will prepare them to address the world’s most difficult challenges.
What will be happening over the next four years? We’ll look to Class of ’26 to interpret contemporary cultural life as college students and give us their impressions throughout their time at UNCG and beyond.
Story by Dana Broadus and Susan Kirby-Smith, University Communications
Illustrations by Hunter Pham, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications