Move-In, Day 4: Servant hearts power volunteers

Compiled by the GCU News Bureau

Four days of Move-In, the most in Grand Canyon University history (until Friday), are in the books, and a lot has been learned about GCU’s intrepid student and employee volunteers for Welcome Week: Early mornings and the blistering afternoon heat have little effect. Morale and enthusiasm are in seemingly endless supply. And selflessness flows through veins pumped by servant hearts.

Ask any of the nearly 1,900 student and staff volunteers who have worked tirelessly unloading cars, hauling heavy luggage, directing traffic or welcoming new faces to campus from before 7 a.m. to the early afternoon this week and you’ll hear the same reason why they do what they do: It’s the GCU way.

Junior Mary Khorany is volunteering at Welcome Week for the second year and said the servant message behind Move-In makes the heat and heavy lifting worthwhile. It’s the selflessness of the volunteers that makes Move-In special, she said.

“Starting off the school year with such a selfless event is a great way to show that we are a school full of individuals with servant hearts,” said Khorany, 20. “The community here is so awesome. We’ve never done four days before and we may be physically drained, but everyone is working to bring joy to the Lord.”

Students make up nearly 80 percent of volunteers, but people from all over the University have helped make this year’s Move-In the best ever. President/CEO Brian Mueller, numerous athletics teams and faculty and staff from nearly every department have chipped in.

Charity Norman, student engagement coordinator, assembled the volunteers and is blown away by the response. This week, her first Move-In, has justified why she chose GCU.

“These volunteers are amazing. They’re up at 6 a.m. unloading hundreds of cars and continuing into the afternoon when it’s 100-plus degrees and then still going to work or attending night events,” she said. “This is a special experience to new students, and volunteers are sparking that student atmosphere of service on campus.”

The extra days are beginning to take a toll on volunteers, but students are staying motivated by starting chants or breaking into dances.

Fernando Garcia, a junior physical therapy major and member of the cheer team, may have a little more spirit than most, but he said students are keeping the energy high. Coffee, plenty of water and a community of support make it possible.

“It’s hot, but it’s up to us to be excited and make each new student's first experience on campus memorable,” said Garcia, 22. “We don’t do it because we have to, we do it because that’s what we do at GCU.”

—Cooper Nelson

RA/student worker/volunteer juggles tasks beautifully

A less organized person would have dropped one of her hats this week while juggling the needs of thousands of new students during Move-In. Michelle Lavin wears four of them — resident assistant, student worker, volunteer and student — but none came close to dusting the ground during Welcome Week.

Lavin’s week began at 7 a.m. Monday at The Grove, where she checked in new residents for nearly 10 hours. As an RA on the fourth floor of Ironwood Hall, she greeted many of her new charges and helped keep things cool, even as the temperatures on the floor climbed into the 90s.

Lavin, a student in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, launched periodic dance parties on the floor by blasting music into a speaker and encouraging students and parents to bust a few moves.

A high point was a text she and other RAs received from their resident director: “She reminded us that jewels are being put on our crowns in heaven, that we are doing this for the Lord and not ourselves.”

Lavin spent part of Tuesday lugging luggage and directing traffic as a volunteer at Willow and Juniper halls, also in The Grove. The volunteers had their teamwork down to a science, and parents’ cars were in, unloaded and out in as little as three minutes.

On Tuesday afternoon, Lavin’s student worker shift in IT Digital Systems started, and she helped set up speakers and lights in GCU Arena for orientation and the worship service and at the residence halls for pizza parties. Wednesday was a day of rest, before more check-ins at Ironwood Thursday and luggage lugging at Papago Apartments Friday.

John Berkheimer, supervisor of IT Digital Systems, said Lavin is the RA/student worker/volunteer we’d all like to have: skilled, reliable, happy to help. Give her a job and don’t worry about it.

“She’s the first to volunteer for the good jobs and the bad jobs and will always stay late to get things done,” Berkheimer said. “She’s in it for the long haul.”

—Janie Magruder

Athletes, dancers get in the Move-In spirit

For members of the men’s basketball team who are on campus this week, Wednesday was a day off from voluntary weightlifting workouts. Well, not exactly.

Ryan Majerle, Matt Jackson and Gerard Martin wanted to help at Move-In, so there they were outside Prescott Hall, sweating alongside everyone else.

“We just wanted to pitch in,” Majerle said.

Which would they rather do, “suicides” — the grueling cardio drills that every basketball player runs a few thousand times every season — or carry refrigerators?

“Oh, suicides for sure,” Majerle said. “Carrying these fridges up to the fifth floor is tough. Of course, we took the stairs, and that didn’t help.”

Nearby were members of the dance team, fresh off two victories (jazz routine and Leadership Award) in the Collegiate Universal Cheerleading and Dance Association Camp last week. They weren’t hard to spot — even though they were on their third day of Move-In duty, they delighted in dancing to the blaring music when they weren’t emptying cars.

“I feel pumped, actually,” Maddie Lynch said.

“The music helps,” her teammates chimed in.

So does having that kind of energy.

—Rick Vacek

Life Leader lends a loving ear

Volunteering comes second nature to Olyvia Zamudio, a GCU Life Leader. The 20-year-old junior spent most of Tuesday helping freshmen move into new residence halls in The Grove. Up and down the elevators and stairs she went, toting belongings and hauling carts.

“It’s all a blur,” she said hours later, heading to lost and found in search of a favorite black shirt.

With her warm smile and good-natured attitude, Zamudio helped students feel at home in their new setting. For some freshmen, it was their first time away from home. But her main role is as a Camelback Hall Life Leader who lends a loving ear to others going through a tough time spiritually.

“Students, as they transition to college, are going through a lot of things emotionally,” Zamudio said. “It’s real nice for them to have someone to talk to.”

Life Leaders hold weekly Bible studies and generally make themselves available to offer spiritual support and counseling.

She enjoys sowing the seeds of faith into the hearts of those searching for answers. One was a friend she had during freshman year.

“I had the blessing of praying with her to help with certain things,” Zamudio said. “A blessing of GCU is that we don’t only accept Christians. It is cool talking with people who are searching for God.”

Originally from Southern California, Zamudio said she was drawn to GCU because “the Lord just put it my heart that this was the place I need to be."

—Laurie Merrill

Helping parents feel at home, too

Not all the heavy lifting during Move-In is done by students and staff lugging refrigerators. Jeanne Lind’s work is just as challenging — and just as important.

Lind, parent and family program coordinator for the Office of Student Engagement, arrived on campus at 5 a.m. Monday through Wednesday to help set up traffic cones and do whatever else was needed, then was on the second floor of the Student Union from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Parents’ Hospitality Corner, where she was available to answer their questions while they munched on snacks or sipped coffee. She got as much out of it as they did.

“I just felt that the parents needed a place to hang out while their student was getting the room set up and also for parents to meet other parents,” she said. “Just hearing how excited they are for the kids and hearing their God stories has made it worthwhile. And they’re very committed to praying for the University.”

Lind said it reassures parents when they hear that her daughter, Maggie Currier, graduated from GCU and works in the University’s events department.

“It helps me relate a little bit,” Lind said. “They just needed someone to reach out to, and that’s my job. These parents know that their kids will be in good hands on this campus. As I wrote in my letter to them, ‘Thank you for entrusting us with your most precious possessions.’”

—Rick Vacek

Out of their element and enjoying it

Eight members of GCU’s Information Technology department were hauling bags Thursday outside Saguaro and Sedona halls and Papago Apartments in the heat, humidity and humanity, far from cubicles, cords and computer screens.

IT Director Stephen Gee said the team has been represented at Move-In for several years. It's a good way for them to meet and greet students who might want to work for IT during their time at GCU.

“It’s totally different from our usual jobs of managing the support team, helping users with new apps and software and handling trouble tickets,” Gee said. “It’s good to get out of the office.”

They met one father who made the 20-hour car trip with his student from Washington state and did not stop overnight. He planned to say goodbye, get back on the freeway and head home. Maybe it had something to do with the heat.

—Janie Magruder

COE faculty well-schooled in luggage lugging

Emily Bergquist is one of a kind at GCU. Bergquist, 32, is faculty manager for ground faculty in the College of Education, the first employee at the University to hold this position.

“We’ve had faculty managers in the online world,” said Bergquist, a former faculty manager of full-time online faculty. “I’m

the first of my kind.”

This week, she organized COE faculty to volunteer at Move-In. “I sent a blast to the faculty, and the majority took me up on it,” she said. “They are amazing at being a team.”

Wearing faculty sheriff badges pinned to their chests, eight faculty members joined Bergquist Monday, traipsing up and down six flights of stairs and lugging boxes and bags for incoming freshman.

“We had fun in the midst of the sweatiness,” she joked. “The energy was through the roof.”

When not organizing volunteer activities, Bergquist organizes team meetings and gatherings, works on faculty development, engaging in collaborate activities, and more.

—Laurie Merrill

NASCAR fan brings speed to Move-In volunteering

Just call Vince Licciardi the Ricky Bobby of Move-In volunteers. He loves speed and has created a streamlined unloading process to get luggage from car trunk to dorm room at lightning speed.

Licciardi, a huge NASCAR fan, approaches Move-In like a mid-race pit stop, promising to unload each car in under 30 seconds. He and his volunteer pit crew of more than a dozen GCU student services administrators and admissions reps are one of the fastest unloading teams thanks to his system, which has been perfected over three years of volunteering.

“As soon as the car pulls up, we open the doors, pop the trunk and have everything out,” said Licciardi, a Kaibab enrollment counselor who has helped haul luggage from 7 a.m. to noon all week. “We want the car to be totally unpacked and on its way as quickly as possible. If we do it in under 30 seconds, we did a good job.”

Licciardi, a GCU alumnus who graduated in 2007, experienced Welcome Week firsthand as a student. The event was one of the highlights of his college years and he takes pride in being one of the first people to welcome new students to campus. Licciardi said his system is designed to provide the same level of service he received when he moved to campus in 2005.

As an enrollment counselor, he has helped a number of incoming students enroll and considers volunteering a job responsibility.

“It’s my job to get students excited about GCU, and Welcome Week is the first step in doing that,” Licciardi said. “It’s all about offering great customer service, and truthfully events like this are why I do what I do.”

—Cooper Nelson


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