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Move-In 2020 – slower, but still welcoming

September 2, 2020

For decades, NIU has earned a reputation for having one of the most efficient and most welcoming campus move-in days in the country.

Of course, this year the pandemic meant there was no army of volunteers to greet students and hallways bustling with excited students, parents and family. However, the warm welcome did not suffer at all, says NIU Housing Administrator Tim Trottier.

“We wanted to be as welcoming as possible. We wanted their first contact with campus to be a good experience for students and their families as they went through this transition,” said Trottier. “And it turns out that you can still be engaging from six feet away.”

The biggest difference between this year and those past, was the pace, Trottier said. Rather than a six-hour sprint to move about 2,500 students into their rooms, the process became a five-day marathon that took place from Aug. 19 through Aug. 23.

Because students were assigned one-hour windows of time to move in, traffic backups were almost non-existent and things moved very smoothly. Even so, NIU Police were valuable allies, providing direction and answering questions.

When students arrived at their residence hall, they were greeted by volunteers who explained the rules and procedures for the day. “Everyone was very understanding. We had done a lot of communicating with students and families in advance, we reinforced the rules when they arrived, and it just became a part of the day,” said Trottier.

While the usual throng of 1,000-plus volunteers were not on hand to count, families did get a hand from local retailers Target, Walmart and Schnucks, all of whom donated the use of 25 shopping carts apiece, which made moving from curbside to rooms far easier.

Keeping everything moving smoothly from start to finish were about 60 volunteers, some of whom worked every day of the process. They came from Student Housing, Student Affairs, Admissions, campus cultural centers, the recreation center and other areas across campus, and they were invaluable.  “I can’t say enough about the hall staff and all of the individuals who figured out how to make things as manageable, simple and as safe as possible. So many people came together to make this work,” said Trottier. “Every day we learned something new and everybody worked incredibly long and thoughtful hours to make this process a success.”

While this year’s move-in was hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event, there were some lessons to be learned, said Trottier, who suggested that requiring students to sign up for a one-hour window for move-in, might be a way to make NIU’s process even better.