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Northeastern community comes together to prepare campus for move-in

08/25/16 - BOSTON, MA. - Emily Elliott Production Specialist in the Sign Shop goes over the schedule for the start of the school year on Aug. 25, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University

Students’ rooms are cleaned and furnished. Eight hundred moving hampers are deployed and waiting to be filled. Signs with directions and vital information are distributed across campus. Hundreds of staff members and student volunteers stand prepared to answer families’ questions and sign students into their new residence halls. The grounds are landscaped, the Paw Prints around campus are freshly painted, and dedicated parking lots are open for students and their families.

The logistics of fall move-in on campus are complex and varied—from students’ room assignments and move-in packet mailings, to building renovations and room appliance upgrades, to coordination with Welcome Week programming. And all of this, and so much more, is the result of people across many Northeastern offices and services leading a university-wide effort to prepare campus for move-in. Here’s how it happens, and the people who make it happen.

University staff, NUPD, administrators, and student leaders and volunteers have spent months coordinating with each other to ensure move-in runs smoothly this week amid the influx of students and the renewed energy and excitement on campus. Chong Kim-Wong, senior director of student affairs operations, has led campus move-in preparations for the past two years, and is working this year alongside Matt Austin, director of housing services.

“There are three things that are crucial for move-in: communication, organization, and relationships,” Kim-Wong said.

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The university’s move-in committee comprises about 30 people representing a range of university services, including Housing and Residential Life, NUPD, Facilities, City and Community Affairs, the Sign Shop, Business Services, and ResNet. This group has been meeting regularly since July—and members have been coordinating for even longer—to ensure that all systems are go when move-in arrives. The committee’s efforts coincide with the myriad other university-wide preparations for the start of the fall semester.

At its final meeting, on Aug. 24, the committee reviews the vast amount of logistics for each move-in day. Topics brought up for discussion to tie up loose ends range from traffic flow and road closures, to ramp locations at the residence halls, to how many students are volunteering during move-in. (There are about 800).

“It’s a huge undertaking for our campus, moving in 9,200 students,” said Austin, who led committee meetings in July and August, “Everyone is invested in this.”

There are three things that are crucial for move-in: communication, organization, and relationships.
— Chong Kim-Wong, senior director of student affairs operations

Committee members described their move-in process as a “well-oiled machine,” noting their “all hands on deck” approach. Many of the details around move-in remain consistent from year to year, but each fall there are changes—some big, some small—to continue refining the process. For example, this year the primary move-in period shifted from the Thursday to Sunday of Labor Day weekend to Friday to Monday. This was done to take advantage of the Monday holiday, when overall traffic in the city is lighter. Also this year, traffic on Columbus Avenue will be one-way toward International Village.

MOVE-IN, BY THE NUMBERS

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‘We can’t do it without one another’

University staff involved with move-in raved about each other’s commitment to the cause, and they’re proud to see their hard work pay off—not just that the job gets done, but that it gets done well. Last year, parents were surveyed after move-in. Ninety-two percent reported being either very satisfied or satisfied with the process, and 93 percent either agreed or strongly agreed that the volunteers were available and helpful.

At Residence Life, staff and students have spent the summer doing walk-throughs in the residence halls and coordinating with Facilities staff to identify building and maintenance needs ahead of students’ arrival for the fall semester.

“We can’t do it without one another,” said Brie McCormick, director of residence life. “This is a priority for all of us, and every year this effort really underscores what fantastic campus partners we have.”

On Friday, Residence Life staff and RAs will be set up at 7:30 a.m. sharp to greet students and check them into their residence halls. In the days leading up to move-in, RAs have been preparing to welcome students to campus, decorating their doors and floor bulletin boards with imaginative and friendly messages.

In East Village, first-time RAs Deanna Marshall and James Massucco each chose specific themes. Students on Marshall’s floor are participating in a Second Year Thematic Experiential Program, or STEP, that is focused on leadership. So Marshall’s “door decs,” as she called them, feature inspiring messages from a diverse group of influential figures through history, including Malala Yousafzai, Albert Einstein, the Dalai Lama, and Stephen Hawking. For his part, Massucco decorated each student’s door with cutouts of tea cups—“Pinterest is full of ideas for RAs,” he said—and hilarious quotes from characters from his favorite TV series, Parks and Recreation.

While Marshall and Massucco—who are among the 231 RAs in university residence halls across campus—were hard at work preparing their floors at East Village for their students’ arrival, across St. Botolph Street in the Sign Shop, Chrissi Salvato and Emily Elliott were staring at an orange wall in their shop. This wall serves as the canvas for an elaborate, organized, and detailed tracking system with papers, maps, and notes outlining the student move-in locations for each day and the signs needed at these and other locations. These signs and banners—all 125 of them—include everything from the names of residence halls and parking lots, to directional and parking information.

Salvato and Elliott manage all the signage requests from campus offices and departments, storing the signs and banners and coordinating with campus partners to deploy them across campus. “Our main focus is to help students, especially new students and their parents, get from Point A to Point B,” said Salvato, the Sign Shop’s foreperson.

I can’t speak enough about how well everyone works together. The end result is that we’re providing the best environment for our students.
— Mark Boulter, director of building services

On Tuesday night, the Sign Shop team trekked over to the Columbus Garage for an annual move-in tradition: painting fresh trails of Paw Prints that help lead student and their families in two directions—one set of black prints down Columbus Avenue toward International Village, and another set of white prints over the footbridge and across campus toward Stetson Quad. They got going after 6 p.m., to coincide with a slowdown in foot traffic on campus, and finished painting all 65 prints about an hour later.

‘Providing the best environment for our students’

When students and their families arrive at these residence halls, they’ll find spaces that University Facilities office, in coordination with Residence Life and other campus offices, has spent months preparing in order for campus buildings to be ready both inside and out. This summer, Burstein Hall was closed for interior and exterior upgrades—from renovations to the building’s façade, to new furniture and carpeting. Many other residence halls’ rooms have been outfitted with new appliances as part of a multi-year effort.

“I can’t speak enough about how well everyone works together,” said Mark Boulter, director of building services in University Facilities. “The end result is that we’re providing the best environment for our students.”

MOVE-IN, BY THE NUMBERS

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There’s also the ongoing task of maintaining the grounds and making sure campus looks beautiful for the fall—and that’s where Chuck Doughty’s team comes in. Around mid-summer, Facilities staff and contractors begin repainting crosswalks, resealing roads and walkways, planting flowers, and reseeding the grounds. The wide range of landscaping projects this summer includes those at Cabot Center as well as White and Burstein halls. His team is also in the process of adding new bike racks in five locations: in front of Stetson, Speare, White, and Willis halls, and on Forsyth Street in front of the School of Law.

This is Boulter’s 34th year at Northeastern—and his 34th move-in. For Northeastern Police Lt. Michael Dwyer, it’s his 40th. What’s changed in that time? A lot. For one, official move-in days are now up to five, and back then Northeastern didn’t have any residential buildings below Columbus Avenue. But officers’ primary focus this year remains the same as in previous years: traffic control and pedestrian safety.

Dwyer’s focus in recent weeks has included working closely with City and Community Affairs and other university offices as well as Boston Police to help schedule road closures and manage traffic flow on move-in days—which includes the placement of about 150 wooden barricades—and scheduling NUPD officer details for each of the move-in days.

“This whole effort—everyone at the university is involved in one way or another,” Dwyer said. “The coordination is unbelievable. Some things may change from year to year, but things keep on rolling. It’s all about cooperation. We all do everything we can.”