From September, 2012
By Kadesha Thomas
Photo by Robert Kozloff
The entrance to Adom Hartell’s new room in Snell-Hitchcock Hall displayed several signs of what life will be like at University of Chicago — a welcome sign on the room door…with a random fact about Ancient Egypt; a helping hand from an upper classman…and Dvorak’s ninth symphony blaring through the halls.
He had seen the blend of student life and the academic rigor after visiting the campus in the spring. And now, after a 13-hour drive from upstate New York with his parents — and an episode of running out of gas in the rain near Toledo and walking a mile to the nearest gas station — he was moving into his new home in Snell House as a first-year student.
“This is the only school to which I applied,” said Hartell, 18, from Accord, New York. “I knew I wanted to be here.”
This year’s first-year student Move-in Day on Sunday, Sept. 23, was a delicate balance of directing about 1,550 new students and their families to their Residential Commons and Houses while welcoming them to campus. The University’s Office of Undergraduate Student Housing partners with organizations across campus to plan Move-In Day a year in advance.
“We work to make sure that families don’t get lost and have help carrying their belongings,” said Ana Campos, Interim Director of the Office of Undergraduate Student Housing and Associate Dean of Students in the University. “Our students and staff are there to help so that families know what’s going on. We hear from families with multiple children in college that our process is the smoothest.”
Residential Services is a key partner in preparing for the resident arrivals. They plan for facility improvements and renovations, which involves coordinating with other offices within Campus and Student Life and Facilities Services.
“It takes a lot of coordination,” added Jennifer Luttig-Komrosky, Director of Residential Services. “From day one we want students to feel confident in their choice to come here.”
More than 250 orientation aides, registration aides and other student assistants are recruited between February and June each year, Campos said. Their job involves a week of preparation before Move-In Day, where they adorn Houses with theme-based décor, like quotes from classic fiction writers or facts about major cities. The student aides are also trained on how to be a campus resource for new students.
“The O-Aides connect with the families,” Campos said. “They engage them and answer their questions.”
On the actual move-in day, the University of Chicago’s Department of Safety and Security becomes an important partner for keeping traffic flowing and informing new students about campus safety.
At a Residential Commons south of the Midway, upper class students and O-Aides gave campus directions, while resident assistants and Greek organization members showed families to the right entrances and loaded students’ belongings into orange crates. More than 30 members of the University football team were standing by the eight house entrances to haul heavier items up the stairs. Resident Heads then welcomed students and parents to pastry receptions. Most of the upperclass O-Aides did the baking themselves.
“Our first goal is to get students into their rooms and welcome them,” said Daniel Tracht, 19, a second-year economics student from Pittsburgh who served as an O-Aide for his house, Snell House. “A warm greeting can do wonders for a nervous student.”
Brittany Pittman smiled at the welcome sign on her dorm door that had a skyline shot of Jakarta, Indonesia. She screamed when she opened the door to her room. “It’s so huge,” she said. “And how did they know my grandmother was from Indonesia?” Pittman, 18, flew from West Palm Beach, Florida with her mother, four boxes and five suitcases and moved into the Dodd House at Burton-Judson Courts. Fellow housemates had connected with her on Facebook to tell her that her room was a bit bigger than the others and had a faux fireplace with a semi-private bathroom.
“I fell in love with University of Chicago when I found out Carl Sagan went here,” said Pittman of the pioneer astrophysicist. She plans to study physics as well. Her campus visit in April sealed the University of Chicago as her first choice. “There was just a good atmosphere and a focus on academic excellence.”