Move-In Day 1: Cool temperatures, high spirits

August 25, 2014 / by / 0 Comment
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Nearly 1,300 purple-clad volunteers lined campus roads Wednesday to welcome new GCU students.

Nearly 1,300 purple-clad volunteers lined campus roads Wednesday to welcome new GCU students.

Compiled by the GCU News Bureau

You couldn’t have asked for a better morning to introduce the first of 6,203 students — who this week are moving into 11 residence halls on Grand Canyon University’s main campus — to their new homes.

Wednesday’s weather — crystal clear skies but for a dotting of lavender and golden sun-kissed clouds in the east and cool temperatures the likes of which have not been seen on this date since 1995 — was a God thing. At 6:30 a.m., as the first of hundreds of vehicles carrying excited students and parents suppressing lumps in their throats was unloaded, the mercury edged 75 degrees.

The passenger in this vehicle knew the secret password for admittance into GCU: Lopes Up!

The passenger in this vehicle knew the secret password for admittance into GCU: Lopes Up!

It felt like … 75 degrees.

“God showed up in a big way,” said Pastor Dean of Students Tim Griffin, referring to the climate, atmospheric and campus-wide.

The first of a three-day Move-In, GCU’s mega-purple, super-loud, off-the-charts welcome wagon for new students, was driven by nearly 1,300 volunteers – staff, spiritual life leaders, ASGCU leaders, residential assistant leaders and a student welcome crew of 425. The student army asked to be on the front lines, cheering, unloading and hauling boxes, bags, mirrors, televisions and other items from the vehicles, up multiple flights of stairs and into dorm rooms.

Many of them moved onto campus and were trained on Tuesday night. This is how we do it, Griffin said.

“From the very first moment a student rolls onto campus, they are served by other students,” he said. “We want to reaffirm those values about what we do on campus and off campus from the get-go.”

Move-In numbers for Day 1: Saguaro (601), Camelback (545), Chaparral (542) = 1,688

— Janie Magruder

The first shall be, well, first

It wasn’t quite a case of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” But the question of which car was numero uno at GCU’s version of dawn patrol was a matter of Move-In semantics.

First in line in the semi-darkness of 5:45 a.m. was Mark LePard, who was bringing in his son Pablo from Wildomar, Calif. They were staying in Scottsdale and thought they would hit traffic, but Mark said he hit just about every light on the way over and cruised right in.

The Provenzano family (from left), Colleen Ayoub and Eileen, Lou and Breana, enjoyed the Move-In experience at Chaparral Hall.

The Provenzano family (from left), Colleen Ayoub and Eileen, Lou and Breana, enjoyed the Move-In experience at Chaparral Hall.

But the first vehicle to get gang-tackled by a luggage-lugging crew at Chaparral Hall, led by College of Business Dean Dr. Randy Gibb, was driven by Lou Provenzano of Surprise, whose daughter Breana is a freshman in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions. Along with his wife, Eileen, and Breana’s sister, Colleen Ayoub, Lou watched in amazement as the truck was emptied in about a minute.

“You guys make this easy,” he said. “It feels like home already and it’s Day 1.”

Eileen said Breana was considering Northern Arizona University but chose GCU because of its nursing program and the attention the family was given during enrollment.

“Your staff is fabulous,” Eileen said. “They really stuck with us through the whole process.”

Part of the process of move-in is rearranging the room, and it was amusing to hear Lou drop one-liners as Breana, her mom, her sister and her new roommate tested various forms of feng shui with the arrangement of the beds, desks and dressers.

“You need a degree just to figure this out,” he said. “But two guys would have had this done by now.”

It might have been the only part of Move-In that wasn’t quick.

— Rick Vacek

Freshman Ashley Vest helped move her classmates into Chaparral Hall.

Freshman Ashley Vest helped move her classmates into Chaparral Hall.

No rest for some freshmen

Among the dozens of ebullient students stationed outside Camelback Hall, where a huge fan oscillated great clouds of cool mist, was Ashley Vest. The 18-year-old freshman arrived on campus at 5:45 a.m. to help move in her peers in the Class of 2018. As a member of the GCU dance team, Vest has lived in Saguaro Hall since early August — plenty of time to get to know her way around.

“It’s definitely awesome,” she said, shouting to be heard over the throng of volunteers’ reactions to music blaring from a nearby monster speaker. “I’ve met a lot of new people already.”

— Janie Magruder

Purple scrubs for her students, purple hat for her

Dr. Anne McNamara, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions and a regular at Move-In, donned a violet-colored cowgirl hat to shade her eyes from the sun that rose above Camelback Hall shortly before 8 a.m. She was in just the right place to greet one of her new students, Hector Ornelas Jr. of Stockton, Calif.

The 18-year-old rode in with his parents, Hector Sr. and Fabiola, and sister Ruby, 8 (a future Lope?). The back of the family’s truck was unloaded in 30 seconds — flat. “This is amazing,” the father said.

— Janie Magruder

Students and volunteers flooded the campus roads outside Saguaro Hall early Wednesday.

Students and volunteers flooded the campus roads outside Saguaro Hall early Wednesday.

Saguaro RD jumps right into Move-In fire

Brandon Clarke said he’d never seen such a sea of humanity. As more than 600 students and their families flooded the lobby of Saguaro Hall, the brand-new GCU resident director was quick to offer assistance to visiting parents and incoming students.

“This is my third day,” said Clarke, who joined GCU last week.

Clarke and Corinne Webb are assigned as RDs at Saguaro Hall, a co-ed freshman dorm that opened last fall.

“Everyone’s really excited, so that helps,” Clarke said. “It’s pretty incredible seeing that steady stream of people.”

— Michael Ferraresi

Billy Thrall was more than happy to point people in the right direction.

Billy Thrall was more than happy to point people in the right direction.

When pointing is polite

It became apparent early on that senior Cole McClary’s forced (because of shoulder surgery two weeks ago) one-armed direction of traffic in front of Chaparral Hall was not going to work. Arm braces have a way of being immobilizing.

Problem solved when Billy Thrall, GCU’s new director of church relations, stepped in with both arms. “This is better than I imagined,” Thrall said. “I get to welcome everyone to school!”

— Janie Magruder

California couple drops off pair of sons

Around Saguaro Hall and in the pathways outside, many parents were torn between focusing on the logistical obligations of the day and trying to manage their emotions.

For Monica Cornelius, the first day of Move-In meant saying goodbye to two sons. Zachary, a freshman Saguaro resident, was joined by his brother, sophomore Joshua, who transferred to GCU the same year as his younger brother started.

Monica and her husband, Mike, drove the boys from their hometown of Yorba Linda, Calif. on Tuesday to be prepared for the double Move-In experience the next day. The couple said everything with the “Luggage Luggers” GCU’s yeoman suitcase carriers seemed to go smoothly, helping ease the transition at hand.

“I think I was going to be much sadder at the thought of it, but seeing how much fun they’re going to have here makes me feel better,” she said.

— Michael Ferraresi

Tondalaya Smith and  Cheri Luikart became fast friends at Move-In.

Tondalaya Smith and Cheri Luikart became friends at Move-In.

The purple carpet treatment

Cheri Luikart, a sophomore life leader on the first floor of Camelback, wasted no time in introducing herself to freshman Tondalaya Smith of Fairfield, Calif. No sooner had Smith’s belongings been transferred from the U-Haul van that her uncle, Benjamin Thomas of Phoenix, insisted on renting, to her room than Luikart popped in.

Smith, a cousin of GCU basketball star Jerome Garrison, chose GCU over UCLA, which seemd “big and out of control.” Pretty good decision: Her room has a lovely view and is near the laundry room.

— Janie Magruder

No problem getting a good view

The tallest member of the student welcoming committee at Chaparral was 6-foot-11 Tobe Okafor, a new member of the GCU basketball team.

And he didn’t even have to be there. He has been on campus all summer for team practices, but he just wanted a taste of what Move-In is like before he actually gets to carry boxes upstairs.

“This is crazy,” he said. “I’m supposed to do it tomorrow (Thursday) with the whole team, but I just wanted to see it today.”

— Rick Vacek

Steven Niedzielski sends the drone on its merry way to take more photos of Move-In activities.

Steven Niedzielski sends the drone on its merry way to take more photos of Move-In activities.

The view from even higher

Drones aren’t the wave of photography’s future anymore — they’re the present. And GCU’s marketing department was right in step Wednesday morning with getting a top-down view of the festivities.

Videographer Steven Niedzielski had the device flying all around until the battery started to give out, and then he still was able to use it as he rode on the back of a truck pulling into Camelback Hall. The drone has a gyro-stabilized camera and can go as high as 450 feet.

“You get some great shots with this thing,” Niedzielski said. “We’ve tried it out at a few events, but this is the first big event we’ve used it at. My favorites are the shots 12 to 15 feet off the ground. You get a real good angle, but I can’t get up that high by myself, obviously.”

Maybe he should have asked Tobe Okafor.

— Rick Vacek

Added security forces enhance campus safety

By now, GCU’s Public Safety office has become familiar with securing Move-In Week, but this year there’s more manpower. After a major hiring push this summer, GCU has more than 100 security staff on campus. On Wednesday morning, GCU officers were joined by several Phoenix Police officers — many on bicycles — to provide more than 50 security personnel for incoming students, families and staff.

Kenny Laird, a longtime former Phoenix police officer who serves as GCU’s associate director of public safety, said Move-In Week reminds him of the days when parking at the once cozy little Baptist school was wide open and security was less sophisticated. (He might be one of a handful of people who’ve experienced Move-In, before it was a weeklong event, when GCU’s Bright Angel and Kaibab residence halls were really all there was on campus.)

Laird added that increased training for GCU officers, and joint operations with Phoenix Police, have helped increase campus safety as the University evolves and expands its boundaries in west Phoenix.

 — Michael Ferraresi

It takes one to know A-1

It says something when someone who does this sort of thing for a living heaps praise on the efficiency of Move-In.

Suzy Wapnick of Windsor, Colo., who brought her son Jacob to Chaparral, is an event coordinator for Centennial Ag Supply in Yuma, Colo., often organizing barbeques for 750 people.

“They sure didn’t do this when I was in college (at California State University, Fresno),” she said, adding that her first GCU experience “overwhelming and fun — I taped the whole thing coming in. The coordination of this whole thing is amazing.”

— Rick Vacek


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