By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
Zipping along happily in a golf cart labeled “SNACKS,” Kayla Fonseca just might be one of the more popular people during Grand Canyon University’s Welcome Week.
“Students do get excited to see us come through,” said Fonseca, Office of Residence Life Student Conduct Coordinator.
She was among the throng of employees this week making Move-In magic happen, often behind the scenes. They were working under the leadership of the Office of Welcome Programs in Student Affairs, which plans one of the most logistically daunting — yet fun — events on campus.
In the bed of Fonseca’s golf cart, Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars, apples, mandarins, water and Gatorade beckoned.
“The Uncrustables are the big hit,” she said of this year’s slate of snack opportunities.
At Friday’s move-in event for the 1,000 or so student Move-In Crew volunteers, Smuckers Uncrustable Sandwiches proved to be “gold to the students and staff,” Fonseca said of the round, pressed-together pockets of peanut-butter-and-jelly goodness.
Thomas Sullivan might not have known that Uncrustables were the stars of GCU’s Welcome Week snack world, but what he did know: Water would be in high demand.
Sullivan, a lead worker with GCU food services company Sodexo (and a member of the Welcome Week water team), was getting ready for the second shift of Monday Move-In, for Acacia and Chaparral residence halls.
The team is responsible for placing water troughs throughout campus that will be loaded with ice, water and Gatorade.
Sullivan estimated the team delivers 5,000 bottles of water and four pallets of ice per shift. Each pallet holds about 80-100 bags of ice.
“It’s about a ton of ice per day” during Move-In Week, Sullivan said.
While Keriss Roadruck, a digital technician with the campus’ Technology Department, doesn’t supply a ton of ice, she does help supply the music that pumps up a ton of energy at Move-In.
Way before Welcome Week, Director of the Office of Welcome Programs Charity Norman and her team come up with a playlist – and don’t count on anything mellow.
The mantra for Move-In: dancey, electric, high-energy, fun, fun, fun songs to boost the bleary-eyed, 3 a.m.-wakers to come alive and absorb the good vibrations that personify GCU.
On the playlist: Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” the requisite anthems from Queen (“We Are the Champions,” “Another One Bites the Dust”), the Sugarhill Gang’s “Apache (Jump On It)” and Cupid’s “The Cupid Shuffle,” to name a few.
Once she receives the playlist, Roadruck uses the TuneIn radio app to get the music cued in. The speakers, placed strategically on campus, are turned on by 5 a.m. to get Move-In volunteers ready to go. Then Roadruck makes her way around campus to make sure the speakers are all working correctly.
Bret Malkin, this year’s Associated Students of GCU vice president (and a senior marketing major), felt the grooves of that music at Halo Garage, where he broke out into many a dance move, and it wasn’t even 7 a.m.
ASGCU, the student body government, has spent the last few weeks planning a new silent disco event for students on Wednesday and the annual Ignite worship service on Thursday.
With silent disco, five different colored headphones will be offered to students, with each color corresponding to a different music stream. ASGCU is hoping students will find their “group.”
“They’ll get to meet new people and dance with them,” Malkin said.
He was pumped up for the day despite waking up at 4:30 a.m.: “We got a little breakfast in us and the energy of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
It’s important to embrace that energy.
“We’re the first face they see at GCU,” Malkin said as cars turned that corner from 35th Avenue onto the GCU campus and started driving past the gates.
“I LOVE the energy. I LOVE seeing people smile.”
Monday was Public Safety campus safety guard Matthew Grupe’s day off – and Tuesday, too — but for Welcome Week, it’s usually all hands on deck for many departments.
“I enjoy Welcome Week,” he said. When he arrived at his post by 5 a.m., cars already were lined up along 35th Avenue, waiting for the go-ahead to start entering the gate for Move-In.
“We have a map, but we don’t know where we’re going,” one parent told Grupe, who assured them that volunteers and employees will get them to the right place.
He directed traffic, greeted students and their families and, if duty called, he would help with car troubles and the like.
“During Move-In, it’s nice because everyone helps. At Public Safety, we help out with anything we can. We do our part,” he said of the machine that’s Welcome Week. “We want to make sure everyone stays safe.”
Jeremy Mack, Director of Student Engagement, the department under which Welcome Programs falls, was directing traffic near Halo Garage in one of the wide-brimmed, weaved hats his team donned for Move-In.
He tackles a different job every year. Welcome Programs assigns them, and his team rolls up their sleeves.
Welcome Programs starts planning Welcome Week right after a current year’s Welcome Week wraps up. “We kind of roundtable it and talk about what worked well and what didn’t work well,” he said.
“We LOVE the excitement of new students coming on campus — just the energy. I’d rather be doing this than stuck behind a desk.”
Residence Life Student Conduct Manager Brent Bailey, who also was making sure traffic moved at a quick clip, said one of the more unusual things he saw this year was that “somebody had hired a moving company, and that was just for one student,” complete with a full-size moving van.
Danielle Rinnier, Director of Spiritual Life, served as a check-in captain outside North Rim Apartments. She said with a smile that she loves seeing how “we’ve had caravans of people bring their pets, their grandparents, their cousins,” pretty much everyone.
A team from Phoenix Bible Church passed out early morning popcorn and water to parents and students.
They wanted families to know “we care about you,” said the church’s Director of Ministry and Worship, Kyle McLain, who said between 70 and 100 GCU students each year attend the church. “Jesus likes you, and He likes popcorn!”
Well, McLain wasn’t sure Jesus likes popcorn.
But what he was sure of: “We want to be part of a community that’s coming back,” said McLain, whose Welcome Week group included Bradley Hyde, who oversees the church’s college ministry, and GCU student Melissa Salcido, a biology major with a pre-physical therapy emphasis who is a member of the church.
GCU’s Event Services team also is a big part of the Welcome Week community, though you might not see them interacting with students and parents as much as, say, Student Affairs employees. Several Events Services members busied themselves at GCU Arena inspecting pallets of snacks – likely snacks Kayla Fonseca and other snack team members would be loading.
While Welcome Programs puts together Welcome Week, the Event Services team helps with ordering snacks for volunteers, making sure everyone is aware of what’s happening and just piecing everything together, said event coordinator Ali Davis. And while other employees might have more direct student contact, such as Housing and Welcome Programs, Event Services is in the background making sure things go as smoothly as possible.
“It’s a crazy time of year, but it’s fun to see everybody come together for this one thing,” Davis said. “There’s nothing that we will NOT handle. We do it all. We have a radio so we hear things (and jump in when needed). We just do it. We get it done,” she said.
Snacks and all.
GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-639-7901.