Welcome Crew Move-In is a bundle of GCU energy
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Elizabeth Tinajero
GCU News Bureau
Employees from GCU (executives, faculty, staff and student leaders) and Grand Canyon Education did the heavy lifting for the more than 1,000 volunteers who will be performing the same tasks during Welcome Week. It was a smaller version of the Move-In madness that will begin Monday, but the energy was anything but small.
“It’s electric, the whole atmosphere,” said Connie Colbert, Director of the Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic, as she directed traffic. “The music, the people, the excitement, the Welcome Crew – you can hear them cheering.”
Indeed, the volunteers were chanting “Honk that horn! Honk that horn!” just a few feet away as cars pulled up. It was not uncommon to see a volunteer come running up to a car to greet a friend, and, of course, every car got special treatment – “Lope energy,” as one student put it.
“Even though summer’s been, like, two months, it feels like a drought,” said Josh Luna, part of a group of student leaders creating the amplified atmosphere at Diamondback Apartments. “But now everyone is coming back – my friends are back, I’m meeting new people. It’s been awesome.”
It is awesome for GCU employees as well. Every August, they feel the sense of excitement brewing as student leaders arrive for their two weeks of training.
“The energy just continues to grow throughout the week,” said Matt Hopkins, Director of Residence Life, as the loudspeaker blared Adele’s “Hello” behind him. “As we add more students to campus and orientations begin, it just kind of dominoes.”
Welcome Crew Move-In is the employees’ opportunity to give back, and they do it happily even though it means arriving on campus before dawn.
“Here’s a change from being in the office and doing your normal routine,” Colbert said. “It’s fun meeting students, meeting parents, even the student leaders – I always have really good conversations with them, seeing where they’re from, how many years they’ve done it.”
The leadership team from Athletics was out in force, moving boxes and, if they were really ambitious, dressers and refrigerators. It’s a trade-off – if you’re carrying something really heavy, you get to use the elevator. Otherwise, you have to take the stairs, which might mean climbing up to the sixth floor.
It just so happened that Jason Linders, Senior Associate Athletic Director, had to make four trips to the sixth floor in a short span. “That was tough – got my steps in, for sure. I’m not working out today. This is my workout,” he said.
But he and the other employees just like being part of the action, even if it means a few beads of sweat.
“This is my eighth institution, and I’ve never seen anything like Move-In,” he said. “It’s pretty cool. I’ve been at other institutions where athletic teams are involved in helping move in the general students because we wanted to make sure we were connected on campus and in the community, but nothing like this with the energy, the music playing, cheering everybody when they come in. That’s what makes GCU unique.
“And they’re giving out Uncrustables. I steal these from my kids’ lunches, so I know what they are.”
Uncrustables, in case you don’t have any kids’ lunches to steal them from, are like miniature peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches. They were one of the snacks being handed out by volunteers, among them Dan Nichols, Director of Club Sports, from his cart and Robyn Hord, Parent and Family Programs Coordinator, who got around on roller skates.
They’ll be doing the same next week, but that’s not really what convinces so many students to volunteer every year – Luna, for example, is doing it for the third time. They survey the scene as freshmen, with hundreds of students chanting their name, written on their windshield, as they arrive, and they want to do the same thing. It’s a tradition that students want to carry on.
“I think part of the miracle is just how the energy continues year after year and people are willing and excited to serve,” said Hopkins, who helps supervise Welcome Week every year and on this morning was monitoring the traffic flow at the new Sonora Apartments. “The Welcome Crew, all they get is a shirt and a fanny pack and the ability to move in early.
“It’s an experience thing because when you come as a freshman (to Move-In) you go, ‘Oh my gosh, there are 400 people yelling my name.’ And no one likes hearing anything more than their name.”
Sonora is one of three apartment buildings on 29th Avenue that were completed this summer, bringing the total in that area to six, and the newness of it all is noticeable. Everything – even the concrete – is so clean and fresh, but that’s just one of the factors that’s attracting students.
“I think they like the feel over here,” said Willow Boggess, Resident Director for Sonora. “They’re new apartments, which is really nice. But I think it’s also because we have so many now, students were happy to come over here because it’s its own little club over here.”
It’s a club that has the Colangelo College of Business and the Canyon Activity Center – both opened in the last year – right up the street along with intramural fields, tennis courts, basketball courts and food outlets. Pretty soon, there will be a pool and a fitness center.
Just as The Grove’s four huge residence halls are a hub for freshmen, this is a destination for their elders.
“I think it’s becoming its own place,” Boggess said. “I think it’s really going to be fun to create the community out here. We’re all apartments, we’re all upperclassmen. I think it will be like The Grove but for upperclassmen.”
Which means it will have energy. But first, there’s the energy of Move-In, and Friday was a good warm-up.
“It’s hot, but it’s fun,” Colbert said. “The energy – that’s what keeps us all going.”
Let the horns start honking. Welcome Week is ready to roll.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].