‘First 72’ provides fun plus fodder for new friendships
Story and photos by Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
Hundreds of freshmen had just moved into Juniper Hall on Tuesday when their first organized activities kicked in — a LopeLife 101 session followed by a massive, hall-wide pizza party.
After attending the residence hall’s life meeting, the new students streamed into Juniper’s lobby for hot slices. And while some carried loaded paper plates to their rooms, many more stayed to enjoy their bounty in the company of strangers who could become friends.
“It definitely makes it easier to meet new people and create a foundation of friendship,” said Joey Lopez Jr. from Buckeye, who was with his new roommates, Vince Clapper of Sioux Falls, S.D., and Tabor Morse from Colorado Springs, Colo.
Both events were part of a new Grand Canyon University program, the First 72 Experience, an initiative that adds an additional roster of activities to Welcome Week to help freshmen feel grounded while the goodbyes to their families still might be fresh.
Conceived by Residence Life and Spiritual Life, First 72 was designed to bolster unity and encourage friendships among freshmen, not only on their floors but also in their residence halls as a whole, said Charity Norman, new student and family programs manager.
“After students move onto campus they will be constantly engaged,” Norman said. “For the first three days, freshmen will have consistent programming in their specific living areas.”
The idea was welcomed by Kei’ Ana Nabor of Chandler, who was waiting in line for pizza with her Juniper roommates. Typically, she is not comfortable with so much social time.
“I’ve never been a school-spirit type of person, and the fact that there’s so much of it — I hope it’s going to rub off on me,” Nabor said.
Nathan Fischbach of Denver was sitting in the courtyard with Isaac Suffern of Hawaii.
“I’m not much of a social person, so this is new,” he said, munching his meal while gazing onto the shady grass where dozens of Juniper Hall residents also were looking around and eating.
Suffern was more comfortable with the idea.
“I think it’s a smart way to get people out of their rooms and into an activity,” he said.
Ashlyn Vandyken of Montana was chatting with a group of students.
“I think it’s an opportunity to meet other people and chill out,” she said.
Juniper Resident Assistants Michael Chavez and Courtney Stewart, who manned the front desk, were excited about the new programming.
“It’s building community, but in a unique way,” Chavez said.
“It’s important to reach out to freshmen in the first 72 hours, and there are so many fun activities for them,” Stewart said.
Each freshman residence hall — Acacia, Willow, Canyon, Juniper, Ironwood and Chaparral — has the same First 72 events.
At 10 p.m. each of the first three days, Residence Life leaders are offering low-key hangout times during what is called “After Dark Options.” These could include board games, movie nights and “get to know you” activities, Norman said.
“The leaders will take this time each night to be really intentional with their students,” Norman said.
First 72 events begin in earnest on Day 2 with community gatherings and pool parties.
On Day 3, leaders from each hall floor take students on a Find Your Classroom Tour followed by a Campus Dining Tour. Hall Meetings are scheduled for the afternoon.
It’s all designed to give the students more.
“We have done additional programming for the freshman halls in previous years, though never anything to this extent,” Norman said.
Contact Laurie Merrill at 602-639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.