Moving forward, moving in
Photos by Evan Krape August 26, 2020
Some first-year and other students settle into University of Delaware residence halls
Before moving into a college residence hall, it’s typical for incoming students to connect with fellow underclassmen on a wide array of topics: Where’s the best place to rent a microfridge? Who will bring the lava lamp? Are lava lamps even allowed? But, for Stephanie Malone, incoming first-year student at the University of Delaware, the realities of 2020 mean these pre-game conversations have expanded beyond first-day jitters and room decor.
“In a Facebook group, I connected with another student who will be living in my building, and we discovered we’re on the same page when it comes to being safe and wearing face masks,” said Malone, an applied molecular biology major from Wildwood Crest, New Jersey. Conversations like this, she added, have her feeling ready and eager to move into her UD residence hall. “I’m a little bit nervous, because it will be a big change, but I’m also super excited. I have faith that students will follow the safety protocols.”
Malone’s confidence is warranted — for months, UD administrators have worked alongside faculty experts and public health officials to develop and refine procedures for protecting the University community from the dangers of coronavirus (COVID-19). The group of students who began moving onto campus Wednesday, Aug. 26, received a first-hand look at these protocols in action.
“After months of planning and preparation to help keep our students safe, it is great to see some of them moving into the residence halls, marking the beginning of the new academic year,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “Even though this fall feels different than any we have experienced in the past, as we can’t all be together on campus yet, I want our students to know that we’re all part of the Blue Hen community.”
Due to COVID-19, most students will take virtual classes this fall. Those requiring courses not workable online — about 1,280 Blue Hens — will live on campus. According to James Tweedy, director of Residence Life and Housing at UD, their move-in process this week represents the culmination of “hundreds and hundreds of hours of work” from units across campus.
“COVID-19 forced us to re-examine this process which, for the most part, we’d done in a similar way for a very long time,” he said. “We’re very excited about it.”
Typically, in a non-pandemic year, Blue Hens would be given a block of time during a given weekend — say, 10 a.m. to noon — in which to arrive at their respective residence hall. This year, to maximize social distancing, students are moving in over the course of a staggered, five-day period, and they’ve been given the ability to request more specific arrival times. This, coupled with an efficient check-in system outside the Delaware Field House, is meant to reduce wait times, traffic jams and congestion.
Such procedures align with campus-wide strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19, efforts which include frequent testing and screening. One initiative, the Protect the Flock campaign, utilizes signage and social media to promote social responsibility from students.
Those efforts are paying off.
“Everyone was wearing masks, the elevators weren’t crowded and there was hand sanitizer everywhere,” said incoming freshman Jack Wootten about his move-in experience Wednesday. The son of two Blue Hens, he chose UD because it felt “more like home” than other schools he toured. “It was very easy to park our cars and the resident advisers and police officers directing us were super friendly and helpful.”
While the move-in experience — and, really, the entire campus experience — is on a whole other plane this year, some things will never change, including the Blue Hen spirit of community.
“We are trying to do as much as we can to lend a sense of family in our residence halls,” Tweedy said, pointing to weekly, socially distanced floor meetings and individual appointments with resident advisers. “We want to help our students build connections with one another and to build that sense of belonging.”
Of course, that sense of belonging transcends the residence hall experience. This year, it extends to states all over the country, where Blue Hens will be connecting virtually via online programming, both academic and social.
“Whether students are on or off campus for 1743 Welcome Days, we have a bunch of exciting opportunities for both new and returning students to engage with each other and strengthen their bonds as Blue Hens,” said Vice President of Student Life José-Luis Riera.
For her part, incoming freshman Nicole Locascio — busy packing up art supplies for her upcoming move-in — feels a little bit nervous, but also very excited to officially begin her college career at UD.
“I'm confident people will wear their masks and/or limit how many people they are with at a given time,” she said from her home in Stirling, New Jersey. “I can’t wait to start this next chapter of my life.”