Welcome, New Students! Live Blog From Move-In Day 1

August 23, 2012 / by / 0 Comment

A volunteer directs traffic along Camelback Road on Thursday morning during Move-In day at Grand Canyon University.


By Doug Carroll, Michael Ferraresi and Bob Romantic
GCU News Bureau


Matt Hopkins was on campus at 5 a.m. He was helping to organize volunteers by 6 a.m. And then he was ready to eat lunch by 8 a.m.

Just one month into his job at GCU, Hopkins fought through the heat and hunger — like nearly 400 other volunteers on Thursday — and kept directing traffic, waving parents to drive their vehicles to the new Camelback Road parking garage after dropping their children at their new dorm homes.

“It’s actually a pretty slick system they’ve got going on here,” Hopkins said. “Everyone is kind of equal. We’re all here to serve.”

Hopkins, GCU’s first-ever campus judicial officer, will oversee non-academic student discipline beginning this fall. He works out of the campus Student Life office, where he hoped to make an impact more as a mentor and counselor than as a disciplinarian.

Hopkins is also a parent, with two sons who are still a few years away from college — but a few move-in day moments between parents and children that stood out in his mind.

“Being a parent, that kind of tugged at my heartstrings,” he said.

Michael Ferraresi



Brandi Flores of the Accounting Department, a regular Move-In volunteer, said the smooth sailing benefited from a change in details. Thirty-five teams of 10 staffers were formed, and a team captain made the initial contact with a vehicle, taking the student inside for registration.

In the past, “everyone just attacked them,” Flores said, adding that color-coded wristbands helped with the assignment of volunteers to the three residence halls served Thursday: Canyon, Hegel and Prescott.

“Canyon Hall went great,” Flores said.

Doug Carroll



It was College Amnesty Day at the Canyon Café, adjacent to the campus swimming pool.

Say what?

The occasion, the brainchild of GCU’s faith-based development staff, offered students an opportunity to trade a shirt or hoodie touting any other college or university for a special-edition, purple GCU T-shirt. It was a limited-time offer, Bret Ceren said as recorded announcements and music blared out across the Promenade.

And those who don’t take advantage of amnesty?

“You will get heckled,” said Ceren, who is a national partnerships manager. “You’re taking your chances.”

The Bible verse cited on the shirt is Psalm 130:4: “But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.”

Doug Carroll



Jacob Warshaw

Age: 19

Hometown: Scottsdale, Ariz.

Residence Hall: Hegel

What drew you to GCU? “I came here for cheerleading. I’m on the cheer team. When I visited, I liked the feel of it and joined the family.”

First impressions? “I just feel at home. I already know a lot of people here, so I don’t feel like a stranger.”



Neils Theijs

Age: 20

Hometown: Alken, Belgium

Residence Hall: Hegel

What drew you to GCU? “There’s a company in Belgium… they look for colleges in the U.S. that are a good fit for you and GCU was the best out of 10.”

First impressions? “Very nice weather and this university is not too big. When it’s too big, it gets impersonal.”



Nicolas Mondragon

Age: 17

Hometown: Middletown, Calif.

Residence Hall: Hegel

What drew you to GCU? “You hear about how this is a close-knit community, and I like the atmosphere and environment.”

First impressions? “It’s kind of strange. Four months earlier, you’re graduating from high school and now you’re in a whole new state and on a new campus. But I feel really comfortable here. I want to become part of this school.”



Cars were lined up at 6:30 a.m. behind Canyon Hall, the beginning of what one student called the “organized craziness” that is Move-In day.

Taylor Bateman was one of the first to arrive. The freshman nursing major awoke at 3:30 a.m. at her home in Chino Valley, was on the road with her family by 5 and pulled onto the GCU campus by 6:30 — the third car in line to move into Canyon Hall.

At 6:55 (five minutes early), a team of volunteers descended on the Batemans’ vehicle, unloaded Bateman’s valuables and took them to her room while her parents parked the vehicle. Another volunteer escorted Bateman inside to get her room key and meet her resident assistants — and, just like that, she was in her new home-away-from-home.

Freshmen Taylor Bateman (left) and Jessica Fowkes, from Chino Valley, are suitemates at Canyon Hall.

“I’m excited,” Bateman said. “There’s a lot of butterflies though.”

Bateman decided on GCU after taking a field trip to the campus.

“My two best friends are also going to school here,” Bateman said, “and I also heard they have a great nursing program.”

Her suitemate, Jessica Fowkes, is one of those best friends.

“I just like the atmosphere here,” said Fowkes, also from Chino Valley. “I like how clean it is and everybody seems like they’re focused on school. I like that.

“And they give really good scholarships.”

Their plans after unpacking and settling into their new suite at Canyon Hall? “Shopping!” they said in unison.

Bob Romantic



If the early returns are any indication, the renovated Student Union reopened to rave reviews on Thursday.

One group of students gave high marks both to the new decor and the food quality.

“It’s so good,” said Presli Bellottie. “The service and the food have gotten a lot better. It’s nice to see money going to something that benefits the students.”

Jessica Lincoln liked the spread-out food stations. “Everything was in one place last year. This is much better.”

And Rakeisha Sealy simply said: “It’s just like home cookin’.”

At another table, the women’s volleyball team was eating together, with ice bags all over their joints after a hard workout.

“The stir fry was awesome,” said junior Kristen Johannsen. “It’s nice to have all the different varieties of food.”

Added Kaitlynn Ausmus: “It’s way more organized and put together.”

Bob Romantic



Pastor Tim Griffin, the University’s dean of students, said the key to the smooth flow of the morning’s traffic was the use of the service road along the north side of campus. Last year, in using 31st Avenue along the east side as the primary artery, vehicles were backed up along Camelback Road almost as far as Interstate 17.

Back-ups were minimal along 35th Avenue, Griffin said. Drivers reported waiting only 10 to 15 minutes to make their way from 35th to their respective residence-hall destinations.

Doug Carroll



GCU CEO Brian Mueller helps with dorm move-in Thursday.

It might appear to be chaos. But the first day of GCU’s fall semester residence hall move-in got off to a very organized start.

Teams of volunteer GCU students, instructors, employees, athletes and coaches swarmed vehicles approaching Canyon Hall early Thursday morning to greet new students and their parents. Piece by piece, the teams extracted everything from massive cardboard boxes filled with books to refrigerators, televisions, large lamps and baggage filled with clothes. Then the teams marched students’ belongings to their new homes.

The students and their families rarely carried a thing. Even GCU executives like senior vice presidents Sarah Boeder and Bart Burkert and Executive Vice President Stan Meyer hauled students’ bags and dorm room decorations up multiple flights of stairs during the Canyon Hall move-in.

In addition to Canyon Hall, volunteers provided the same service Thursday at North Rim Apartments, Hegel Hall and Prescott Hall. Friday move-in focuses on the brand new Camelback and Sedona halls.

GCU CEO Brian Mueller said the “Luggage Luggers” concept has been in place since the 1990s and “just keeps getting more organized” each year.

“It’s very reassuring for the parents and it makes the students feel good,” Mueller said. “The fact that no one told them it’s going to happen adds to that feeling.”

Michael Ferraresi



Hannah Peseau

Age: 18

Hometown: Arlington, Wash.

Residence Hall: Canyon

What drew you to GCU? She was recruited to GCU’s women’s swimming team and will share a suite at Canyon Hall with three other swimmers.

First impressions? “It’s great and bigger than I expected. I thought I’d need a fan but it’s very cool in here. I really thought I’d want to be in one of the new dorms, but this is totally fine.”



Sarah Fernandez

Age: 18

Hometown: Chandler

Residence Hall: Canyon

What drew you to GCU? “I went on a tour and just loved GCU. And because of my major — they’re known for education.”

First impressions? “It’s huge, but it’s really nice as well. I’m so excited to be here.”



Chelsea Ellis, residence director for Canyon Hall, estimated 40-60 students had been moved into their rooms by 7:20 a.m., just 25 minutes after they started, and there was no line waiting for room keys by that time.

“It’s gone really well so far,” Ellis said.

Ellis’ co-residence director, Jenny Doane, said check-ins were managed efficiently through a smart phone application that enables RDs to simply clear new students to move in with the push of a button.

GCU Today has profiles of Ellis, Doane and GCU’s other RDs.

Bob Romantic and Michael Ferraresi



Marlaina Havins

Age: 18

Hometown: Queen Creek

Residence Hall: Canyon

What drew you to GCU? “My best friend (Sarah Fernandez). We’ve known each other since first grade. And our parents work together.”

First impressions? “(Move-In) is organized crazy, but it’s crazy. It’s nice not to have to unload all your stuff.”



Among the athletes helping out during Move-In were members of the men’s basketball and women’s softball teams.

“It’s good just to get our faces out here and help out,” said Braylon Pickrel, who stands out not only because of his 6-foot-10 frame but also because he hit the last-second game-winning 3-pointer that sent the Antelopes to the NCAA Division II tournament in March.

“We definitely want everybody to come out and support us this year, so it’s almost a give-and-take thing,” Pickrel added. “But it’s good just for community and helping people out.”

Members of the GCU softball worked as a team of volunteers to get students moved in on Thursday.

Softball player Nicole Upshaw remembers last year’s Move-In, in which volunteers helped her move into her dorm.

“I was in and out in like five minutes,” said Upshaw, a sophomore who now serves as one of those volunteers. “It was all over before I knew what was happening.”

This year, she said the softball players “just want to help out our fellow students and make it as easy as possible on everybody.”

Bob Romantic



Seeing the arrival of hordes of new Antelopes, ASGCU President Nick Ely couldn’t be faulted if he had turned tail and headed for the hills, wondering what he had gotten himself into. Instead, he said he was relieved by Move-In.

“The last few weeks have been jammed with preparations,” said Ely, a junior, who was elected to office last spring as the successor to Anthony Mann. “Seeing the students here gets me fired up. Going to classes and settling into a routine will be a relief. We’re ready for the year to start.”

Doug Carroll



Sue Niehenke wasn’t sure what to expect when she pulled up in her vehicle to help her daughter Michelle move in to Prescott Hall.

Michelle Niehenke and her mom Sue traveled from Washington for Move-In at GCU.

“They told us we were about to get swamped,” Niehenke said after a team of volunteers cleared out Michelle’s belongings and took them up to her room.

“This is just awesome. It left me speechless. I thought I was going to get a workout carrying all that stuff but they handled everything.”

For Michelle, a sophomore from Washington, it was her first time seeing the campus.

“It’s really, really beautiful. One of the main reasons I came here is it’s semi-small and I love that it’s a Christian campus.

“Grand Canyon has a good reputation, even up in Washington.”

As a parent, Sue said she is grateful her daughter is in good hands.

“The school shows that it cares about kids and cares about parents,” Niehenke said. “It helps us to kind of let them go knowing that they’re not on their own.”

Bob Romantic


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