During Fall Move-In, Radford’s campuses came alive with new arrivals, volunteers, warm welcomes
Early on Aug. 15, during the opening hour of the opening day of Radford University’s Fall 2023 Move-In, incoming freshman Alyssa Oldham of Salem, Virginia, was among the first to register at her residence hall’s table.
“Where’s your room?” her father, Keith Oldham, asked as he stood nearby with some of her gear in a buggy.
“Muse Hall,” Alyssa replied, reading off a card. “I think it’s that big one.”
Indeed it is – the largest of Radford’s residence halls, in fact – and the Oldhams joined the twin lines of the other new students heading into the 13-story high rise that will be their new home during a pivotal year of their lives.
“It’s been awesome,” Keith said of the day so far. “I know it’s kind of hectic moving in, but I’m just so proud of her. She’s our first college attendee.”
Alyssa, the youngest of his three children, will study computer science on a full scholarship, he explained.
“This is a big day. I’m a single dad, and I’m letting her go, so it’s sad for me, but I’m so excited for her and her future,” Keith said. “I just couldn’t be prouder. She’s worked so hard to get here, and … everything’s come to fruition.”
Another parent, Jason McCartney, from Virginia Beach, was delivering his daughter Samantha McCartney, who will study occupational therapy.
He said he’d arrived in town early that morning and had found smooth sailing. McCartney said one of his elder children had attended another Virginia university but added of Radford’s move-in arrangements: “You guys do it better.”
That’s in large part due to careful scheduling. Freshman and transfers were designated to arrive Aug. 15-16, staggered across three-hour sign-in blocks, which reduced overcrowding. Staging the newcomers that way also left ample room for the other returning students to hit town in one fell swoop Aug. 19.
The process was further facilitated by volunteers. As newcomers rolled in their heavy loads (a convoy of tower fans, fridges, TVs, rolled rugs, laptops, pillows and bedspreads, books, bottled water, canned food and drinks, snacks and other necessities), armies of students were on the scene to assist.
Simon Carter, a senior geology major and resident assistant from Honker, Virginia, was just one. With a plush Sonic the Hedgehog keychain on their hip and a miniature speaker playing tunes from their pocket, Carter directed foot-and-buggy traffic outside Muse.
“Do you know where you’re going?” Carter asked a mother and daughter who had joined a line for a ramp leading to one of Muse Hall’s elevators. “There are two lines.” The distracted duo, realizing a farther-but-shorter queue was available, pushed on over to it.
“We’re just monitoring,” Carter explained. “We have three different shifts going on, between runners, desk duty and helping people check in. Right now, I’m a runner. Helping with questions, whatever I need to do. This is my first move-in; I think we’re doing OK.”
Another volunteer group, the Highlander Haulers, stood out in their fluorescently bright T-shirts and performed similar functions.
“You have people from different organizations, different clubs here, all volunteering,” said Emma Drummonds, a Hauler who’s also a business management and marketing major from Winchester, Virginia.
“We have a lot of faculty here, as well as athletes helping out. It’s giving upcoming freshmen a face to put to Radford University,” Drummonds said.
“It’s good for volunteer hours, but it’s also nice just to help people and feel helpful,” added another Hauler, Thomas Allen, a junior from Chesapeake, Virginia.
Other services offered also benefit the community. Neal Thompson, Radford University’s recycling coordinator, stood by a large International dump truck that was being filled with castoff cardboard.
“We’ve been doing this for years,” Thompson said of the effort. “When move-in happens, there are a lot of boxes from unpacking.
“It’s definitely in the tons,” he explained, adding that all of the cardboard goes to New River Recycling.
“I’ll fill this truck up and empty it twice today, easily,” Thompson said.
Later that morning, incoming freshman Gage Gillespie, from Galax, Virginia, was also busy moving in.
Gillespie will be a double major: “I want to be a teacher. English and history. I also hope to play for the men’s volleyball club and the e-sports team.”
He found time to take a quick break as he waited for relatives to catch up to him.
“They have all my clothes stuff; I don’t really care about that. In this suitcase, I have all my valuables,” Gillespie said, pointing to his rolling travel bag.
“My keyboard and my Xbox.”
– Neil Harvey
Radford University Carilion
Meanwhile, in Roanoke, more Highlander Haulers helped Radford University Carilion (RUC) students move into the residence halls on the third through fifth floors of the Patrick Henry building. Located a short distance from RUC’s home at Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital, the Patrick Henry houses 80 students in 42 rooms.
Thirty-eight volunteers, including current students, alumni and staff from the RUC Office of Student Affairs, Library and Admissions, helped resident students and parents navigate the downtown traffic to the rear of the building, where families unloaded their belongings into carts. The volunteers then helped students find their rooms so they could begin unpacking and settling into their new homes.
In addition, two Radford University police officers were joined by a Roanoke police officer to help control and direct traffic.
Michael Luck, a Richmond, Virginia, native entering his sophomore year in the RUC emergency services program, said his move-in was pretty seamless.
“We had no issues, and the staff took care of everything,” Luck said. “In less than five minutes, we had everything unpacked and were on our way up to my room. It was great, and I can’t wait for classes to start.”
First-year nursing student Jocelyn Knight, who drove from Bridgewater, Virginia, with her mother to move into her dorm room, said she also felt the move-in had gone well.
“The trip down was great,” Knight said, “and move-in has been easy and fast.” Knight, who plans to become an emergency room nurse, said she looks forward to starting her education at RUC.
– Mark Lambert
Connection Days began with a kickoff event on Aug. 17, a warm, sunny Thursday morning with new-to-Radford students gathered in color-coded teams – blue, red, green, gray and yellow – to begin mingling and forming friendships with one another for the first time.
Professional speaker Sara Lowery led the session of students, many from Virginia and others from Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington state.
“You all are Highlanders,” Lowery said. “What that simply means is you are conquerors. You came to Radford with a dream and a vision, and when you came to this campus, you made a decision that you are going to be successful. You made the decision that you want to get your degree. You made a decision that you want to connect and that you’re going to be better than you were when you walked on campus.”
Connection Days was a three-day extended orientation event planned to help incoming students connect with each other, the campus, the classroom and their new community. Each day had an array of activities and programs that had been planned out over the past year, Director of Student Involvement Jen Rentschler noted, to help new students acclimate to the university and prepare them for success before classes began the following Monday.
Each day also had a different focus supported by various themed activities. In addition to the exhilarating kickoff, students had an opportunity to hang out at a tailgate party during a Highlanders women’s soccer game, watch a movie outside, attend the annual New Student Convocation on the lawn in front of McConnell Library on day two and the Bonnie Bash on day three. Many of the activities focused on wellness, belonging and community.
Several current Radford students helped guide the new Highlanders through the event.
One was Maddy Burtner, a junior interior design major from Berryville, Virginia. Burtner chose to be a leader for the Connection Days “because I wanted to help grow our campus community,” she said.
"The connections students make to their peers and instructors are so important to their college experience. It’s been particularly rewarding to help them discover campus opportunities and resources so that they can make the most out of their time at Radford and be successful," Burtner explained.
At the convocation, transfer student Aiden Melton shared his appreciation for the event and the student leaders. “It helped me discover a lot more things on campus than I would have found on my own,” said the sophomore from New Kent, Virginia.
It also helped him find a new friend, Frank Akomeah of Ghana. “We keep running into each other,” Melton said with a smile. “I think we’re going to hang out a lot.”
Radford University President Bret Danilowicz was among a handful of speakers who welcomed new students to the convocation and to campus.
“I want to congratulate all of you for reaching this milestone moment in your lives,” the president said. “We are so honored that you made the decision to become Highlanders with us. I'm very confident that over the next four years, you will be proud of what you achieved at this university.”
– Chad Osborne