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‘You’re welcome!’ was motto of busiest Move-In

August 24, 2015 / by / 0 Comment

Compiled by the GCU News Bureau
Photos by Darryl Webb

While longtime alumni L.E. “Sharky” Baker and his wife, Leona, were handing out neck coolers to Welcome Week volunteers during another toasty morning last week, he was asked if there was anything like Move-In when they were students at Grand Canyon College in the mid-1950s.

“Yes, there was. I was a one-man move-in crew,” Sharky said. “And I wasn’t very busy!”

My, how times have changed.

GCU Welcome Week 2015

GCU’s biggest and longest Welcome Week was a University effort of epic proportions that took 1,900 volunteers, 75,000-plus bottles of water, thousands of pounds of apples and bananas and a whole lotta heart. In the end, 8,200-plus students were moved onto campus.

In the longest Welcome Week in Grand Canyon University‘s history, it took 1,900 volunteers to move in 8,219 arriving students, their cars filled with who-knows-how-many suitcases, tables, televisions and (ugh) refrigerators, in temperatures that hovered in or near triple digits every day.

There were almost 60 events on campus, including nightly get-togethers for students that invigorated (Canyon Cool Down), inspired (worship service and Ignite), informed (LopeLife 101) and entertained (Night at the Movies, Mash Up comedy show, dodgeball and sand volleyball tournaments, March to the Match and exciting women’s soccer overtime victory, men’s soccer alumni game, women’s volleyball intrasquad match, Glow Party and, last but most definitely not least, the Phillip Phillips concert).

The indefatigable GCU events team provided 75,250 bottles of water, 1,920 pounds of apples, 1,000 pounds of bananas and thousands of other breakfast items, snacks and sweets and made sure events ran smoothly and parents, students and volunteers got whatever they needed.

About $90,000 in GCU-branded merchandise was sold in five days at the Arena Team Shop, said Andy Dunn, manager of campus stores. The No. 1 seller? Hooded sweatshirts, of course. Talk about planning for the future.

It was a “GCUnique” effort, the type the University is known for both on campus and in the community. But it also was filled with plenty of people and moments to remember. Let’s take a stroll back through the week that was, and this time you don’t need a hat and sunscreen:

Welcome to Lope Country banner

Look, up in the sky! It’s a banner being pulled by a plane that has disappeared behind the CAS building.

● What was up with that small plane with the “Welcome to Lope Country” banner circling over campus Wednesday? It was the idea of Chad Wilson, GCU’s marketing director, and he hopes to make it a tradition at big outdoor events on campus. Next year, his goal is to have it up there on the first day of Move-In.

● The new Grand Canyon University Hotel was at full capacity throughout Welcome Week, and parents raved about the affordability ($69 a night), convenience and comfort. One mom said it was the best hotel stay she has ever had, and general manager Brett Cortright said a large percentage of checkouts included another booking for Family Weekend in October.

● Employees and volunteers most likely saw a lot of Bob Conner throughout Welcome Week. Conner, a University shuttle driver, hauled luggage every day from 7 a.m. to noon, then started his work shift, hauling people between campus and the 27th Avenue parking lot well into the evening. Now that’s dedication.

● Student volunteers came up with some creative ways to keep cool during the blistering afternoon heat, including dousing their heads with water, the neck coolers that were handed out (and can be doused in ice water to be even colder), umbrella hats and “chilling” in front of large fans. But one volunteer’s desperation to cool down stood above the rest. Upon returning to the Ironwood Hall entrance after hauling luggage up multiple flights of stairs, the young man — red-faced and sweating — dunked his upper half into the icy water of the tubs housing water bottles, then strolled away, beaming ear to ear.

Danielle Hitchcock, Shelby Gibson

Danielle Hitchcock and Shelby Gibson keep up the enthusiasm with their fellow volunteers.

● Seniors Danielle Hitchcock and Shelby Gibson are old pros at coming up with new costumes for their stint as Move-In volunteers. Last year, it was tutus, oversized ties and trucker hats. This year, they were decked out in purple capes and colorful, skintight leggings. But here’s the part that’s really admirable: They wore those leggings in that heat every day and never tired of greeting incoming students with a smile. How did they maintain their enthusiasm? “By the grace of God,” Gibson said.

● The most unusual things volunteers lugged up to a student’s room? Answers included a “large, rolled-up shag rug,” a La-Z-Boy recliner and “way too many pillows for one girl.”

● A common sight during Move-In was a mom stopping in her tracks for a good cry after dropping off her freshman student. Those same moms were all smiles as they drove up and saw the cheering student volunteers, but then reality hit. “I’ll call you when I get home,” a wet-eyed mother told her daughter as they walked arm-in-arm. You can be sure more tears were shed on that drive back to an emptier house.

● Parents weren’t shy about sharing their gratitude for Move-In on social media. Among the comments: “What an amazing welcome! Moving in was a piece of cake for my son.” “Went through parents/students orientation today and continue to be amazed and impressed at what a great job you are doing at GCU.” And then there was the one who couldn’t get over the fact that the speaker who addressed parents at orientation, Dean of Students Pastor Tim Griffin, was the same guy helping to direct traffic and greeting early arriving cars: “A selfless example for these new, young students.”

Alumna Elizabeth Opoku (Classes and 2012 and 2014) brought her daughter Nastasha to GCU last week. (Photo courtesy of GCU Office of Alumni Relations)

Alumna Elizabeth Opoku (Classes and 2012 and 2014), right, brought her daughter Nastasha to GCU last week. In the center is Elizabeth’s son and Nastasha’s brother Julian. (Photo courtesy of GCU Office of Alumni Relations)

● The Office of Alumni Relations interviewed alumni parents and their incoming freshmen during Move-In. Two of them were “like mother, like daughter” nursing students: Joy Myers, who got her bachelor’s in nursing last spring, was there with her daughter Hailey. Elizabeth Bart-Opoku, who got her bachelor’s in nursing in 2012 and her master’s in 2014 and hopes to earn her nursing doctorate soon, drove in from Riverside, Calif., with her daughter Nastasha Opoku. Len and Michelle Keso, who both graduated in 1987 and attend almost every alumni basketball tailgate, were beaming from ear to ear as they brought in their daughter Larae.

● Andre Sauder had the best commute — down the hall — to his post in and around the front desk at Acacia Hall on Monday morning. Sauder, the hall’s resident director, walked just steps from his room on the ground floor and was in place by 5:30 a.m. The morning went smoothly, even with 850 freshmen streaming in, accompanied by volunteers carrying all their belongings. Most oft-heard question: Where’s my room? Most humorous: Where’s the third floor?


Actors in “The Bachelope,” a GCU-style spoof on “The Bachelor,” take a bow at the end of Mash Up.

● One of the many highlights of the week for students was the second annual Mash Up, a Saturday Night Live-style comedy show written, produced and acted by students on the Canyon Activities Board. Among the highlights was ASGCU President Cody Dumas’ performance in “Freshman 2015,” a videotaped production in which he “helped” a nervous incoming freshman by turning up everywhere he went on campus (Dumas’ crazed facial expression sold it). “We feel like it all came together,” said Julia Bates, student activities coordinator.

The same could be said for the whole week.

“What a great way to start the school year, to get a welcome like this,” GCU President/CEO Brian Mueller said. “The enthusiasm is great, but the fact that it’s run by student leaders, that’s more impressive than anything.”

Yes, Sharky, GCU has come a long way. And keeping busy will never again be a concern.


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