The incident happened the night before the university hosted its annual Take Back The Night event.
It was scheduled before the assault happened, but it's took on new importance, raising awareness about rape and sexual assault.
Campus police said the student was walking near Thomas Hall around 11 p.m. Tuesday when she was approached by a man who grabbed her and tried put his hand into her pants.
She was able to knee the attacker in the groin and escape unharmed.
The woman's roommate called 911. Click here to listen to the call (.wav)
Officials say no weapons were seen or implied during the assault.
The suspect is described as a white man with a medium build and about 5'10" in height. He was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and dark shoes.
The suspect was last seen on foot near Thomas Hall.
Officials at the university say a text message was sent out to students and faculty warning them of the attack.
"Getting the information out the community because this is an attempted sexual assault, therefore there's a chance the attacker may attempt again," Campus Police Captain Jon Barnwell said.
No arrests have been reported.
Anyone with information about this incident should contact the University Police Department at (919) 515-3000.
Police say they're increasing patrols on campus late at night.