Move-In, Day 1: ‘Unbelievable’ Welcome Week start
Compiled by the GCU News Bureau
There was something in the air early Monday morning at Grand Canyon University on the first day of Welcome Week, and it wasn’t just the heat (91 degrees at 7 a.m.) and wringing-wet humidity.
It was more than GCU’s trademark uplifting music, more than the mouth-watering aroma of Qdoba, more than summer’s signature scent of grass being mowed on the Quad in front of GCU Arena.
It was the feeling that this — on a day when 1,960 students were to move into Acacia and Ironwood residence halls in the brand new freshmen housing complex known as The Grove — was bigger than all of us. A feeling that this was blessed.
“God definitely has his hand on this place,” said GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller who was beaming as his eyes scanned the hundreds of volunteers gleefully welcoming thousands of new students, parents and friends and, just as enthusiastically, unloading their vehicles. “You don’t get people working together and this kind of unity without having the Spirit working. It’s a total community undertaking — deans, associate deans, staff and returning students — and people are happy to do it.”
Mueller was especially complimentary of returning students who showed up at dawn to line campus roads and greet a seemingly endless line of vehicles. The students never seemed to grow tired of flashing their Lopes Up, smiling, cheering, and lugging luggage, boxes of dishes, stereos and mementos, refrigerators and bedding up many flights of stairs. And, in one case, doing back flips in front of Acacia.
“They experienced this when they moved in, and they want to make sure the new students experience it,” Mueller said. “This is unbelievable.”
Paying it forward motivated senior Caylin Pillen, a mellophone player in GCU’s Thundering Herd Pep Band, to volunteer Monday. The Christian studies major recalled moving into Canyon Hall four years ago when The Grove was not yet on the drawing board.
“When I got here I remember being overwhelmed at how awesome it was, that people were so willing to help out,” Pillen said. “They greeted us, and the next thing I knew all my stuff was in my room.”
Cy Cahill, a GCU Public Safety officer who started work five weeks ago, wore a broad smile as he directed traffic along Acacia Hall. The former officer with the Chicago and Phoenix police departments had never seen anything like Move-In. “I’m on retirement, and this is fun!” Cahill shouted.
First come, first served — with same spirit as Hawaii
The Spencer family came to GCU all the way from Honolulu to be one of the first cars in line for Acacia Hall at 5 a.m., but to them Move-In looked just like home.
“I feel like aloha — the sense of belonging — and it’s only the first day,” Shannon Spencer said as she looked out at the sea of volunteers waiting to welcome her oldest son, Kalen. “It’s so ohana. That means everyone is together. I’m kind of nervous for him, but I see all the support — he’ll be in good hands.”
It helps that a dozen of Kalen’s classmates from his school are coming to GCU as well. It also helped that the family flew to Phoenix last week and spent nearly a week exploring the campus and the area.
Another 5 a.m. arrival was driven by Vivian Osayaren of Las Vegas, bringing her daughter Adesuwa to Move-In.
“It’s beautiful. I love this school,” Vivian said. “It’s a Christian school, and everyone seems so happy. It’s so special. And the color is beautiful, too. I love purple.”
Vivian, like Shannon Spencer, got a warm feeling from seeing all those students in front of Acacia — and not because the temperature was approaching 100 degrees before 7 a.m.
“I like that. It’s called unity,” she said.
The reaction of the parents to the screaming welcome is always priceless. They never seem quite sure what to make of it, but once they see what’s going on many of them delight in honking their horn to get an even greater roar.
“We’re not this loud all the time — I promise,” Peter King, a sophomore Christian ministry major who was directing traffic, told two parents as they walked by. They laughed.
Up on the sixth floor of Acacia, Ken Neff of Victorville, Calif., got some peace and quiet in a study area while his daughter Michaela got settled in her room.
“It’s almost overwhelming, but it seemed very organized,” he said. “I grew up in Downey (Calif.) back when it had a small-town feel. This feels the same. She didn’t want to go to a huge university, and we liked the Christian influence.”
Team Shop was hopping on Day 1
Even before the Team Shop at the Arena opened at 9 a.m. Monday, shoppers were lining up to purchase T-shirts, mugs, hats and other Lopes merchandise.
“We expect it will get even busier as the day goes on,” said Shelly Schrimpf, Lopes Shops operations manager, who expected several thousand shoppers to come by the rest of the day.
While popular purple was predominant among the apparel, there were gray T-shirts with purple writing, white shirts with black lettering and a small variety in teal and red. Sayings such as “Living la Vida Lopa,” “Lopes Pride” and “This Guy Loves Lopes” were among those emblazoned on the shirts displayed on tables outside the shop. T-shirts reflecting various GCU sports teams were also in abundance.
There were even orange and green-patterned floral razorback shirts, which Joyce Pellegrino, a GCU catering supervisor, was purchasing.
“I think it’s adorable, especially for hiking,” Pellegrino said, holding her find up high. “They just got these in.”
Michael Erwin of Glendale, whose freshman son is a tennis player, wanted a GCU tennis shirt.
“I also want to look at the Nike shirts,” said Erwin, who was wearing an “Every Day is Game Day” purple T-shirt he scored last year.
Bo Dunn of Palm Desert California liked a purple and violet sleeveless T-shirt bearing the words, “We bleed purple.”
“I like the look of it, the color, the fit. Everything,” she said.
Breakfast burritos – get them while they’re hot!
Students moving into their dorms and the family members who helped them on Monday were enjoying some of the new dining choices on campus. At breakfast time, many chose Qdoba Mexican Grill in the Student Union. It’s a new breakfast destination, having begun offering early morning fare just three weeks ago.
“My favorites are the chicken and the egg and potato,’’ said Kayla Lowkie, a GCU junior working behind the counter.
On Monday, the burritos were selling like hotcakes, Lowkie said.
“I’m trying the grilled chicken burrito,” said Sandy Schmidt of Show Low, who was on campus with freshman Erika Sherwood, also of Show Low.
Some families were trying Jamba Juice next door, which opened for the first time at 9 a.m. Monday.
Selections at Thunder Alley will include Zime Bistro and Zoyo Neighborhood Yogurt, while the Student Union will have the Mongolian 360 Grill, Einstein Bros., Peet’s Coffee, Slices Pizza, Urban Center Cafe and Habit Burger in addition to Jamba Juice and Qdoba. Lope’s Way will have a Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Subway, The Grid and Peet’s Coffee, and the GCU Arena will feature the Arena Café, Peet’s Coffee and Slices Pizza.
Here’s a combination: a Cheesehead from Hanoi
It’s a safe bet that no one traveled farther to Move-In than Vi Tran, who flew from Hanoi, Vietnam, to South Korea to Los Angeles to Phoenix. That’s 24 hours of flights and 12 hours of waiting for flights.
Tran isn’t new to the United States. She was an exchange student for the last year and a half in Green Bay, Wis. — and, yes, Packers fans, she has her very own cheesehead although she didn’t bring it with her.
Her indoctrination into Western culture has made it difficult for her to go home, she said, as she has become accustomed to the Western lifestyle and also because she is a Christian and most Vietnamese are Buddhist. “Now I feel like my friends back there talk different,” she said.
But becoming more Americanized didn’t prepare the engineering major for the throngs of purple-shirted students waiting to unload her belongings. “I thought they were studying,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think.”
Farmington (N.M.) freshman has heart for community
Tanesha DeSheuquette is going places.
She drove last weekend with her mom, Marlene Begay, and three of her five younger siblings from their home in Farmington, N.M., to Phoenix, and moved into her room in Acacia Hall in The Grove this morning. (Monday)
DeSheuquette, 18, arrives with 33 college credits earned at San Juan College in her northwestern New Mexico town during high school, her favorite courses being AP math and probability and statistics. She became a certified nursing assistant (CAN) her senior year, worked at a sandwich shop to help pay for college and earned the Chief Manuelito Scholarship from her tribe, the Navajo Nation.
A freshman in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, DeSheuquette researched nursing schools and chose GCU for good reasons.
“I looked at the statistics as in graduation rates and passing the nursing exam, and GCU has a good passing rate,” she said. “I liked the nursing facilities, the high-tech equipment and the mannequins, too.”
DeSheuquette said she has always wanted to work in medicine and became certain about nursing as she was training for her CNA. There’s a shortage of them in her community, and that’s not acceptable, she said.
“I want to come back to where I live and help my community — that’s where my tribe is, that’s where I’m from, and I feel like I should give something back.”
Off-campus freshman couldn’t miss Welcome Week festivities
Cody Huson will live off campus this year, but that didn’t stop him from driving 12-1/2 hours from Parker, Colo., to Phoenix a week before schools starts to participate in the Welcome Week festivities.
Huson, a sophomore, is transferring to GCU from Abilene Christian University in Texas after his collegiate baseball career was cut short by five knee surgeries. He never received a GCU-style welcome at ACU and couldn’t miss the opportunity to be involved. He plans to attend tonight’s pool Cool Down but is most excited for the first Chapel of the year next Monday.
“It’s awesome that GCU is doing something like this,” said Huson, 19. “GCU is a Christian school, which is why I decided to go here, but events like this make me proud of my choice.”
Huson’s father, Jeff, is a post-game/color analysis commentator for Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies and played for multiple teams over a 10-year MLB career. The junior Huson got into baseball because of his father and is interested in joining the GCU club baseball team if his knees hold up. He chose to study physical therapy to help people with persistent injuries like him.
Baseball has been Huson’s life since he was young and he hopes to start a new chapter at GCU and focus on growing his faith with other believers on campus. He chose to attend GCU after a campus visit in June and plans to use this week to form new friendships and get involved on campus.
“I want to try and find a group of friends that are growing in their faith and can keep me accountable,” he said. “I’m really excited to be involved with the faith-related events on campus and GCU is the perfect place for that.”
Now that’s the spirit
Sherry Speights has GCU spirit and didn’t even know it.
Speights just so happened to have dyed her hair GCU purple a few days prior to helping her granddaughter Neyah move into Acacia Hall this morning and didn’t even realize. But this is GCU. And literally everything here is purple. And today is the first day of Welcome Week, the craziest time on campus. So there were plenty of way-too-energized-for-the-sun-to-not-be-up-yet students and volunteers that made sure she knew.
Sherry wears her hair in a rainbow of colors (purple being one of her favorites), but cool coincidences like this are meant to happen on the first day of Move-In.
“I didn’t even tell her that the school colors were purple,” said Neyah, a 19-year-old nursing major. “It’s great that she happened to wear it purple on GCU Move-In day.”
“I just have school spirit,” Sherry joked.
The Speights family brought the whole family from Victorville, Calif. to help Neyah move in and experience a taste of campus life. They arrived last night and stayed with family before making the trip to campus early this morning. Per tradition, their royal blue Escalade was mobbed by a dozen hooting and hollering students as they entered campus.
Neyah said she watched a few YouTube videos on Move-In to get an idea of what to expect. She wasn’t disappointed.
“I really like that people help you move in,” she said. “And the yelling when you enter campus, that was great. It really gets you excited.”
First-time college father sends daughter to school
U-Hauls had their place at Monday’s Move-In and among the fathers pulling one behind his vehicle was Gregg Heinrich of Kansas City, Kan. After letting daughter Lauren, a freshman psychology major, out of the car, he mused about the great environment in which he was leaving her behind.
“I love it,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to be here?”
And then Heinrich got a little verklempt, and it was a good thing Lexi, the family’s big beautiful dog, was in the back seat to offer a cold, wet nose in comfort.