GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Nearly 29,000 Pirates head back to class at East Carolina University Monday, returning for a year of new beginnings for the university.

From the football field to the Chancellor’s office, ECU is kicking off a year of big changes.

It’s easy to see the progress happening to build a new student center when driving past campus, yet there are many changes going on below the surface that many may not be aware of.

Monday is the first day for nearly 4,400 freshmen, but it’s also the first day new Chancellor Cecil Staton welcomes all students to campus. Many are waiting to see how he’ll lead the university, and how new Head Football Coach Scottie Montgomery will lead Pirates on the gridiron.

Provost Ron Mitchelson says he predicts in May, we’ll say this was a benchmark year.

“From an enrollment standpoint, from a quality standpoint, we’re going to be working on new degree programs, an MS in mechanical engineering. I think we’ll look back and say that was a great year,” Provost Mitchelson said.

ECU leaders say they’re focused on improving the university’s image across the country this year. One way they plan to accomplish that is by getting all students on the right track.

New this year, Project Rebound will help students struggling academically after their first year. Provost Mitchelson says about 200 students will receive mentoring and access to resources needed for success.

“They know of the services. They know that they’re number 1, that we care about them. Number 2, that we want to help them, that they’re not alone in this. So these are students having difficulty and we want to help them,” Provost Mitchelson said.

More leadership changes are expected this year, as ECU continues searching for a new medical school dean and police chief.