Standing around outside Southern Oregon University's Stevenson Union, waiting for his 11 a.m. biology class, Ian Riversong showed some hesitation over the start of another school term.

Standing outside Southern Oregon University's Stevenson Union, waiting for his 11 a.m. biology class, Ian Riversong showed some hesitation over the start of another school term.

"All my time's out the window for the next three months," he said.

But the SOU junior joined his peers for the start of fall classes anyway, as the university welcomed students back on Monday. And not even Riversong could deny feeling some excitement. "There's a high level of energy here," he said. "Everyone seems ready and amped to learn."

Monday marked the official start of the 2009-10 school year at SOU, with most of the 5,000 students spreading across the campus throughout the day.

While many were returning to familiar turf, some were heading off to classes for the first time.

"It's a little weird, not having anyone telling you where you should be going," said Rian Soto, a freshman from Klamath Falls. "You're more accountable for getting to class and being on top of it."

Soto is among the hundreds of freshmen and transfer students who will call this year at SOU their first. Those students gathered last Thursday at the school's New Student Convocation, where University President Mary Cullinan inducted the group into SOU's family.

But for all practical purposes, the real induction came Monday morning. At least a few students were battling nerves right up to the start of class.

"I felt kind of nervous when I woke up this morning," said Marissa Dellis, a freshman. "I had been looking forward to this for months and then when it finally came I was nervous. But it's also exciting."

Students arriving throughout the day were greeted by teams of local business owners, staked outside the student union to welcome them back — not to mention promote their shops. The "Meet Ashland" gathering was coordinated to provide a central place for students to come and mingle before heading off to class.

"It's all very exciting. I've been ready to get going since August," said sophomore Bryce Nelson.

Representatives from SOU's student government, Associated Students of Southern Oregon University, were working to make sure the return to campus was a seamless one for students. ASSOU spokesperson Brianna Heath said student leaders at SOU consider it a priority to ensure new students feel at home.

"We're really working hard to get everyone involved this year," Heath said. "With the campus opening, students have an opportunity to see how their school is working for them and the community. There's a lot to be involved in, and so far we've seen lots of interest from students."

The university was forced to remove three days from the term this fall in order to meet budget restrictions. But Heath said despite some setbacks, energy among students and staff alike is high. She noted an increase in enrollment and the addition of new courses, such as Mandarin Chinese.

"In general we're doing really well," she said.