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    Categories: Campus LifeFeaturedResident LifeSpotlight

Welcome Week establishes pay-it-forward culture

Students move in their peers in GCU’s pay-it-forward Welcome Week culture.

By Theresa Smith
GCU News Bureau

It is fitting, in a university culture that emphasizes helping others, that the Lopes begin each school year by helping each other move onto campus. From the Luggage Luggers of 2004 to the Move-In crew of 2018, Grand Canyon University boasts a lengthy history of welcoming resident students to campus by moving their pillows, blankets, clothing and posters into their residence halls and apartments.

While the rapid and substantial increase of campus residents has necessitated a Move-In process requiring months of planning, myriad logistical challenges and thousands of volunteers, the sheer numbers have not deterred the mission, according to Charity Norman,  Director of Welcome Programs.

Charity Norman, Director of Welcome Programs, embraces Move-In. (Photo by David Kadlubowski)

“We do talk about it year over year: Do we want to continue the structure that we have now?’’ Norman said. “We ask, how sustainable is this?  And in true GCU fashion, we commit to making it bigger and we find a way to make it work. Every year we have more and more students who come back and want to volunteer, and for the past couple of years we’ve been able to have more and more staff rally around and help to move in the volunteers, and even now we’re reaching out to alumni. And we’ll just continue to look for ways that it can continue to work.

“Every year people ask if it is sustainable, and I always push back against that and say that it is an important part of GCU’s culture. I really think that we would be losing something if we decided to scale back and have people move themselves in or only move the freshmen in. I am very committed to making sure the culture continues and that we continuously have this mentality of paying it forward.’’

The goal is to welcome one and welcome all, even if it takes awhile. As family members wait in each car, patiently snaking around and through campus, the enthusiastic, energized volunteers provide entertainment.

“Sure, you have to wait in the line for sometimes a couple of hours, but then once you get to your building, it is worth it,’’ Norman said.  “Because now you are welcomed by a crowd that is chanting your name because it is written on your windshield. And they are giving you the Lopes Up and they are wearing a sea of purple, and now you don’t have to lift a finger to carry everything up to your room.’’

Students enthusiastically greet families as they wait in line to have their vehicles emptied.

New Students Program Coordinator Erik Nelsen experienced Move-In for the first time last year and has played a major role, along with Norman and their staff, in planning this year’s edition.

“What has been amazing is to see the response from families,’’ he said. “I heard stories about how crazy, fun, chaotic but also organized Welcome Week is, but seeing the reactions of the families first-hand was amazing. At The Grove, there was a line of hundreds of students going crazy greeting a line of people in cars. There was a mom leaning out the window videotaping. She was so pumped, and everyone was cheering. It was a moment where you could tell the families felt really welcome. There are hundreds of people yelling their child’s name, and they feel included.’’

The year-round planning process is transformed from Excel spread sheets to the laughter and smiles of family members delivering sons, daughters, siblings, grandchildren and cousins to Lope Country.

“They are amazed that we can clear a car so quickly,” Nelsen said. “When the car stops it gets swarmed by 20 to 30 students who grab everything in a 30- to 60-second window.’’

Welcome Week, scheduled for Aug. 20-25 this year, encompasses Move-In and a plethora of activities designed to acclimate newcomers to campus and enable returning students to get reacquainted before the start of classes on Aug. 27. Move-In dominates each morning, and activities, both large and small, take center stage each afternoon and evening. Between Aug. 17, when the students who volunteer to help with Move-In are aided with their own moving process by 300-400 student leaders and 250 employees, until Aug. 25, approximately 12,000 students will move onto campus, the most in a school history that dates to 1949.

Energy is high and welcomes are warm at Move-In.

The growth of the eastern side of campus necessitates two driving entry points and 300 more volunteers, according to Norman. All new students (freshmen and transfers) are moved in Monday through Wednesday, while returning students move in Thursday and Friday. (For a video view of Welcome Week, click here).

History of Move-In

The organizational nightmare facing Norman, Nelsen and their staff grew out of a process from 2004, when records show that “a dedicated team will be on hand to help with your bags and show you around the place.’’ By 2010, surging enrollment necessitated a traffic map and volunteer training, according to records unpacked by Norman. Move-In was limited to one day, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tasks of directing traffic and parking lot attending were assigned to “20 bodies,” there were 75 “Luggage Luggers” for Hegel, 75 for Canyon and 15 for North Rim. Check-in was handled by eight volunteers.

After check-in, students were issued a coupon that permitted them to enter their dormitories. In 2011, under the guidance of Sarah Thatcher, the tradition began of inviting student volunteers to return to campus early to help with Move-In, and the name was changed to Welcome Week Crew. The following year, Move-In expanded to two days and 350 volunteers, only 50 of whom were students. By 2014, the WWC grew to more than 400, and when Norman took over in 2015, 873 students were recruited to volunteer.

One key to keeping the well-oiled Move-In machine moving is ensuring that drivers never leave their vehicles, according to Norman. Concerns about valuables are allayed by the recommendation that students and their non-driver family members carry their own valuables, including laptops and medicine. The speed packs (carts on wheels that fit in elevators) and well-hydrated volunteers, students and their families (thousands of bottles of water are distributed) ease the effort on blazingly hot August mornings. Close adherence to the sticker system — items are pre-labeled by room numbers — resulted in only two out of 18,000 items reportedly staying lost last year.

Everyone gets in the spirit of the Move-In experience.

Once students are settled into their rooms, opportunities abound to get acclimated and meet other students. There are socials for out-of-state students, transfer students, international students, commuter students, ROTC students, freshman students and residents on each floor and in each residence hall. The Associated Students of GCU returned to campus in late June to begin making Welcome Week event plans. Fifteen of the 126 clubs were selected to plan events and attract participants via the event calendar and inclusion in the new GCU Engage app, which shows students what’s going on and how to get there.

For example, for students arriving on Monday, a Dance-off is planned on Lopes Way from 12:30 to 2 p.m. On Tuesday, there is a beach resort party in the quad, a board game night, and an eSports & Arcade tournament. On Wednesday, there is a multi-club fair and a multi-cultural festival. One of the most anticipated featured events is the Mock Crime Scene Demonstration from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday. The options multiply throughout Friday, including a sand volleyball tournament from 5-11 p.m., the opening of “Ring Round the Moon’’ at 7:30 p.m. in Ethington Theatre and a Purple Pancakes party from 9-10 p.m. on Lopes Way. The Ultimate LopeVenture dominates Saturday as Lopes participate in a challenging and dynamic “Amazing Race’’ type of contest.

The third-year program, LopeLife 101, is part of the meet-and-greet aspect of Welcome Week, with an essential information element. Within each residence area, students will come together for mandatory learning sessions centered on social success and academic success, including an introduction to tutoring opportunities in the Learning Lounges and an orientation to the Loud Cloud online software system.

Ignite symbolizes God’s light to start each new school year.

Here is a list of the major nightly events of Welcome Week:

Monday: Canyon Cool Down (slippery slides, water fights) on Juniper Field

Tuesday:  Night at the Movies (“Avengers: Infinity War”) at GCU Arena

Wednesday: Ignite Worship at GCU Arena

Thursday: Lope-A-Palooza (pep rally with Thunder, dance team, cheer team, band and Havocs) at GCU Arena – followed by a concert (mystery artist)

Friday: Women’s soccer match, followed by a men’s soccer match at GCU Stadium; opening of the theatre production “Ring Round the Moon’’

Saturday: Glow Party at GCU Arena

Sunday: Students are encouraged to attend church services with their Life Leader

Here is a detailed list of events by day:

MONDAY, AUGUST 20
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Express Move-in Willow Hall, Canyon Hall
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Express Move-in Ironwood Hall
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Self Move-in Willow, Canyon, & Ironwood Halls
     
  Lope Life 101 (See guide on GCU Engage) Willow, Canyon, Ironwood: Day 1
     
7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Bed, Bath, & Beyond  Tent Kaibab
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Family Hospitality Center GCBC Student Union
10 a.m – 4 p.m. Orientation Expo Student Union
12:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  Welcome Week Dance-Off | Hip-Hop Club Lopes Way
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Check-in for New Student Orientation GCU Arena
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. New Student Orientation GCU Arena
8 p.m. – 10 p.m. Canyon Cool Down Juniper Field
     
TUESDAY, AUGUST 21
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Express Move-in Juniper Hall, Agave Apts
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Express Move-in Acacia Hall, Cactus Apts
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Self Move-in Juniper & Acacia Halls, Agave & Cactus Apts
     
  Lope Life 101 (See guide on GCU Engage) Juniper, Acacia: Day 1
    Willow, Cypress, Ironwood: Day 2
     
7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Bed, Bath, & Beyond  Tent Kaibab
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Family Hospitality Center GCBC Student Union
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Orientation Expo Student Union
12:30 – 2 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  Beach Resort Party | Hospitality Management Club Quad
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Check-in for New Student Orientation GCU Arena
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. New Student Orientation GCU Arena
4 – 6 p.m. Featured Club Events:  
  eSports (TBD) & Arcade Tournaments | Innovative Computing Club Building 57-130
  Game Night | Modern Boardgamers’ Guild Thunderground Lounge
8 p.m. – 10 p.m. Night at the Movies  
  Avengers: Infinity War GCU Arena
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 22
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Express Move-in Ocotillo Hall, Chaparral Hall, Jerome Apts
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Express Move-in Saguaro Hall, Sedona Hall, Diamondback Apts
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Self Move-in Ocotillo, Chaparral, Saguaro, & Sedona Halls, Jerome & Diamondback Apts
    Jerome and Diamondback Apts
  Lope Life 101 (See guide on GCU Engage) Ocotillo, Chaparral, Saguaro, Sedona: Day 1
    Juniper, Acacia: Day 2
    Willow, Cypress, Ironwood: Day 3
     
     
7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Bed, Bath, & Beyond  Tent Kaibab
9 a.m. – 4p.m. Family Hospitality Center GCBC Student Union
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Orientation Expo Student Union
12:30 – 2 p.m. Featured Club Event Fair Lopes Way
  Planning and Time Management Table I Sociology and Social Work Club
  Mock Crime Scene Forensic Science Society  
  Interactive Marketing Activity American Marketing Association  
  T-Shirt Fundraiser I Circle K International  
  Hawaiian Gift Baskets I Hui Aloha Club  
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Check-in for New Student Orientation GCU Arena
2 p.m. – 3 p.m. New Student Orientation GCU Arena
3 p.m. – 4 p.m. Out of State Student Social Thunder Alley
3 p.m. – 6 p.m. ROTC New Student Orientation North Lecture Halls (22-101, 22-102, 22-103, and 22-104)
4 – 6 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  Multicultural Festival I Philippine American Student Association Quad
5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Welcome Back Worship Arts Bash Worship Arts Center Studio (Building 57)
8 – 9:30 p.m. Ignite Worship Night GCU Arena & Quad
     
THURSDAY, AUGUST 23
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Express Move-in Camelback Hall, Papago 47 Apts
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Express Move-in Roadrunner Apts, Papago 48 Apts
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Self Move-in Camelback Hall, Roadrunner & Papago Apts
     
  Lope Life 101 (See guide on GCU Engage) Ocotillo, Chaparral, Saguaro, Sedona: Day 2
    Juniper, Acacia: Day 3
     
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Family Hospitality Center GCBC Student Union
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Orientation Expo Student Union
12:30 – 2 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  Color Your Summer Fundraiser I Pre-Vet Club Bldg 18 Lawn
  SAGA Mixer | SAGA Club Natural Science Building 6-139/140
12:30 – 2 p.m. ROTC Welcome Barbecue Bldg 18 Quad
2- 3:30 p.m. LLC Kickoff GCU Arena
3 p.m. – 4p.m. Transfer Student Social Thunder Alley
4 – 7 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  Hospitality Carnival I Hospitality Management Club Quad
7:49 p.m. LOPE-A-PALOOZA GCU Arena
8:45 p.m. Welcome Week Concert GCU Arena
     
FRIDAY, AUGUST 24
6:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. Express Move-in Prescott Hall, Encanto Apts
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Express Move-in North Rim Apts
2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Self Move-in Prescott Hall, Encanto & North Rim Apts
     
  Lope Life 101 (See guide on GCU Engage) Commuters, Prescott, Camelback: All Day
    Ocotillo, Chaparral, Saguaro, Sedona: Day 3
     
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Family Hospitality Center GCBC Student Union
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Orientation Expo Student Union
11 a.m. – 1 p.m. Career Impact Center Info Session Arena
12:30 – 2 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  Gaming Workshop I Innovative Computing Engineering 1-139
  Mock Crime Scene Demo I Lopes Justice Society, Mock Trial Team Natural Science Building 6-105/107
  African Student Association Mixer Natural Science Building 6-139/140
2 p.m. – 5 p.m. International Student Orientation N Lecture Halls
4 p.m. – 5 p.m. New Student Orientation Antelope Gym
4 – 6 p.m. Featured Club Event:  
  This Is Us Cultural Celebration I Black Student Union Quad
4 p.m. Women’s Soccer Game Soccer Stadium
5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Sand Volleyball Tournament All Outdoor Courts
7 p.m. Men’s Soccer Game GCU Soccer Stadium
7:30 p.m. Ring Round the Moon Ethington Theater
  To reserve tickets, contact the Box Office at Ethington@gcu.edu or 602-639-8880
Post-Game Purple Pancake Party Lopes Way
     
SATURDAY, AUGUST 25
8 a.m. – noon Returning Student Self Move-in by Appointment Returning Student Living Areas
     
6 a.m. The Ultimate LopeVenture Check-In Student Union Promenade
7 a.m. – 7  p.m. The Ultimate LopeVenture Various
10 a.m. – 11 a.m. New Student Orientation Antelope Gym
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Honors College Orientation GCU Arena
10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Orientation Expo GCU Student Union
9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Veteran Student Welcome Session and Lunch N Lecture Halls
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. Native American Student Welcome Session and Lunch N Lecture Halls-102
7:30 p.m. Ring Round the Moon Ethington Theater
  To reserve tickets, contact the Box Office at Ethington@gcu.edu or 602-639-8880
8 p.m. Glow Party GCU Arena, Quad Lawn
     
SUNDAY, AUGUST 26
No move-in times are available on this day.
Morning Check with your Life Leader about attending a local church  
2 p.m. Ring Round the Moon Ethington Theater
  To reserve tickets, contact the Box Office at Ethington@gcu.edu or 602-639-8880
6 p.m. Women’s Soccer Game Soccer Stadium

 

Contact Theresa Smith at (602) 639-7457 or theresa.smith@gcu.edu. 

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Related content:

GCU Today: “Videos are nice, but seeing Move-In is believing”

AZCentral.com: Grand Canyon University kicks off school year with move-ins and Welcome Week activities

KTAR.com: Purple crush! Students pour into Grand Canyon University on first move-in day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               
Theresa Smith :