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A person wearing a shirt that says 'Volunteer' in large letters on the back directs a car in traffic by waving a hand

Seeing red, or yellow? Embrace it. Volunteers in T-shirts make it all happen smoothly

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Of the many factors that go into making move-in days run smoothly on Northeastern’s Boston campus, volunteers in red T-shirts are among the most visible and welcoming.

“We have about 20 to 30 volunteers a day that do four-hour shifts around campus,” says Michele Grab, vice chancellor of Network & New Initiatives for Student Affairs.

“They help answer questions, direct students and families to where they need to go and make sure that the unloading process goes smoothly,” she says.

A few of the volunteers posted every few hundred yards are Student Success Guides, but the majority—95%—are employees who set aside time in their schedules to help orient students and parents to campus, Grab says.

“They are pretty much spread out around campus, in high traffic areas,” says Sara Rivera, who sat under a tent outside the Cabot Center with a pile of red T-shirts and clipboards to distribute to volunteers during shift changes.

a volunteer wearing a red t-shirt directs a person driving a car
A volunteer on the Boston campus answers questions during move in. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

A similar scene played out on Northeastern’s campus in Oakland, California, on Wednesday. There, employees and volunteers swapped their red shirts for yellow ones, but their mission was the same—to help first-year students smoothly navigate the move-in process.

As students arrived on the Mills College at Northeastern campus by car or bus, they also had the opportunity to meet with adjustment counselors. 

As with other positive major changes, moving away from home and starting college “is a stressful life event,” says Rivera, who works as assistant director of the Latinx Student Cultural Center at Northeastern.

“We’re trying to minimize their stress and anxiety as much as possible,” Rivera says.

Grab says volunteers will be on hand through Monday and also help out at Fall Fest Tuesday.

“I would say (move-in) would be insurmountable” without volunteers, Rivera says.

Volunteers are the first point of contact for many of the students and parents arriving on campus, says Elizabeth Clark, associate director of the John D. O’Bryant African-American Institute, who worked the volunteer table outside Cabot with Rivera.

For Samantha DiCanio, assistant co-op coordinator at Khoury College of Computer Sciences, volunteering to help new students settle in is one of the perks of working for a university.

“I just love move-ins. They make me feel warm and fuzzy inside,” says DiCanio.

One volunteer who did not want to be named says she is new on the job at Northeastern and sees helping out during move-in as a way to get to know the campus and the community.

Outside the Columbus Street garage Monday, three vehicles with New Jersey plates and a pickup truck from Virginia filed past volunteer Graham Smyth.

“I’m answering any questions people might have,” says Smyth, a nurse practitioner at the counseling center.

People “have been calm and collected,” he says.

The presence of the volunteers undoubtedly contributed to the aura of serenity.

“Everybody’s very approachable,” graduate student Mohit Rayalacheruru says after he and fellow graduate student Mayur Kishorkumar sought directions from Rivera and Clark.

“It’s our first day on the campus,” says Kishorkumar. Having the volunteers present “is really helpful.”

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