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Ongoing partnerships make Move-In a success every year

September 11, 2018

By S.A. Reid, Consulting Writer, Campus Life Communications

Several weeks after the start of classes, new and returning students are settling comfortably into their lives at Emory thanks largely to the university's annual all-out effort to make their introduction to the new academic year as smooth and fun as possible.

Campus Life, in partnership with other university units, plays an essential role in the yearlong preparation and fall execution of the annual Move-In and New Student Orientation. The two programs ensure that approximately 5,400 residential students transition comfortably into life on campus. This fall, that number included the 1,973 members of the Class of 2022 on both the Atlanta and Oxford campuses -- a record number of first-year students.

Move-In this year spanned a week that allocated time to each of four groups -- international students, early arrivals, first-year and Oxford transfer students, and second, third, and fourth-year students returning to the Atlanta Campus.

 RAs assist with orientation
First-year student Jess Lang, on left, checks into Raoul Hall. Seated, from left, are RAs Chloe Gaynor, junior political science major, and Karen Shim, senior quantitative sciences and sociology major. Standing is SA Shrey Pabbaraju, a junior. Photo by Tina Chang.  

Orientation, which works seamlessly with Move-In, begins the day new students move into their residence halls and continues through four days of intensive activities. Nearly every department in Campus Life contributes to the planning and execution of Move-In and Orientation, along with other university partners.

For example, close collaboration with Emory College's Office for Undergraduate Education (OUE) is essential. Campus Life annually recruits, selects, and trains 100 or more student orientation leaders to assist with Move-In and Orientation.

Among the most student-facing of the Campus Life organizations engaged in Move-In and Orientation are Dining, Residence Life, and Housing Operations.

Dining served tens of thousands of meals during Move-In alone, according to dining director, Chad Sunstein. Preparation typically begins months in advance to handle catering needs throughout campus.

"Probably in a few weeks we'll connect with Orientation again to go over lessons learned this year and review the schedule again," said Sunstein. "There's never really a slow period at all in our area. There's always something to do, the next stage or next step."

Dining did a few things differently this year, such as for the first time using the DUC-ling interim dining facility to feed resident advisors, sophomore advisors, orientation leaders, international students, and others who traditionally arrive on campus early.

There was also a complimentary, light brunch at the DUC-ling for incoming students and parents on the day of their move-in and a block party at the Cox Hall Bridge the next day for the nearly 2,000 first-year students from the Atlanta and Oxford campuses.

"First impressions are everything to us, so we take this time of year very seriously because it could make or break the impression people have of Emory, be it students, parents, faculty, or staff," Sunstein explained. "With the whole community coming together for move-in, everybody experiences dining in one way or another."

Orientation is also a major event for Scott Rausch, senior director of Residence Life. His office works with Orientation staff and other university offices to conduct the Creating Emory program. This two-part conversation, which begins with Orientation, focuses on the role students play in creating their own Emory experience as well as how they can impact the experiences of others.

RAs and SAs play essential roles during Move-In and year-round

But Orientation is only one part of Residence Life's ongoing role. The office begins planning for fall Move-In shortly after May graduation and uses the summer to train 224 resident advisors (RAs) and sophomore advisors (SAs) who are responsible for helping to make Move-In successful.

RAs are juniors and seniors, while SAs are second-year student staff members. Both live in the residence halls and work with students on a daily basis, helping guide them through their transition to living on campus and navigate their way through college.

Housing Operations team members
Housing Operations staff helped students move into their residence halls. Above, from left, senior director Elaine Turner, director Jonathan Cooper, and associate director Rebecca Watson. Photo by Tina Chang.

"They are the university's front line with residential students and they do a great job supporting and advising them from Move-In throughout the entire year," explained Kayla Hamilton, senior associate director for Residence Life.

"They are mentors, advisors, and problem solvers for students on a daily basis," Hamilton added. "We could not offer such high-quality residential housing without our dedicated RAs and SAs."

Arianna Rahimian, a senior majoring in Spanish and an SA in Raoul Hall, expresses a desire to serve that is typical among her peers.

"I had such a great move-in experience my first year and wanted to give that to my new residents as well," Rahimian said. " I was the DJ in the Raoul lobby this year and really tried to make it a fun, welcoming environment for residents to walk into. It was a really high energy and exciting day. I hope our residents felt right at home."

Caroline Wilkinson brings a spiritual perspective to her role as an RA in Evans Hall.

"Over the summer, I studied in India on the Emory/Tibet Mind-Body Sciences program. A core Buddhist philosophy is that happiness comes from helping others," said the third-year student with a double major in business administration and religion. "I emphasize this philosophy to my residents for how we will navigate our year as a community.

"As an RA," Wilkinson added, "I have the privilege to model this practice and receive so much joy from befriending and helping my residents."

John Graham, community coordinator for Raoul, serves as a peer mentor for SAs. "I enjoy engaging their talents and watching them cultivate their own Res Life career here at Emory," said the senior studying history, linguistics, and Spanish. "As CC, I provide my SAs with advice on how to self-actualize in their roles and how to best juggle new responsibilities in addition to their academic commitments."

Clearly, the work of RAs, SAs, and other Residence Life staff does not begin and end with welcoming students in the fall.

"Move-In in fall is the crux of the year for us and we spend a lot of time planning for it, but move-in is not limited only to that semester," Rausch said. He explained that new and returning residential students arrive for spring semester and again for summer school. And, of course, each semester ends with students moving out.

"After fall semester is underway, we begin planning for the December holiday transition, when the residence halls close, which allows several weeks for some upkeep," Hamilton added.

Similar upkeep occurs at the end of each semester, as well as during the long summer break. However, summer move-in brings about 1,000 residential students enrolled in classes or employed by the university.

Housing Operations is another essential partner working closely with Residence Life and a host of other university partners, especially Campus Services, to make sure residence halls are ready for occupancy, according to Jonathan Cooper, director of Housing Facilities and Operations for Campus Life.

During each of the end-of-semester breaks Housing Operations works with Campus Services to see to essentials like facilities cleaning, repairs, painting, renovation, and other items, including elevator and appliance maintenance.

Coordination with OUE regarding housing of international students and other early arrivals, Cooper explained, is also a mainstay of planning that begins in spring.

He said it's "all hands on deck" for the army of hundreds of professionals who work together all summer every year to get facilities and rooms ready.

"Our students and their parents are paying a lot of money to come to Emory. We have a reputation to uphold," Cooper said. "We owe it to them to deliver a quality product, a world-class product, and that's our goal."