It’s a system involving a little bit of luck – the weather was perfect – and a tried and true operation made up of volunteers and color-coded maps and an extra helping hand offered to people new to the Vermillion community.
This combination helped over 1,000 new students move into their residence halls on the University of South Dakota in a matter of hours with few problems.
“This year we’re having around 1,200 students move in, but that doesn’t include the early move-ins – that’s literally just today (Friday, Aug. 23), so as of around 11 a.m., we had about 970 move in. That’s kind of right on pace with how our move-in slots work,” said Scott Pohlson, vice president of enrollment, marketing and university relations in the middle of a very busy move-in day.
Moving in is the major activity that students and their friends and family first had to accomplish Friday.
“Then, at 4:30 p.m., we have convocation. Convocation is that first meeting and coming together of the academic community and these new students to say that they are committed to their academics and they are going to follow the policies,” Pohlson said. “We then have a picnic for the students and their families. There are activities at night that Student Life puts on to build unity in different residence halls. Different organizations have some things going on and then we start all over again tomorrow, to make sure they get everything they need before classes start on Monday.”
During Friday night’s convocation, University of South Dakota President Sheila Gestring addressed the incoming class. Comments were also shared by Vice President and Dean of Students Kimberly Grieves and Provost Kurt Hackemer.
“It’s about a 20-minute event that welcomes students and their parents to the start of the academic year and a new journey from an academic standpoint,” Pohlson said. “It’s a tradition in higher education in all schools to have convocations.”
Friday’s convocation, he said, could be compared to an opening ceremony. The activities planned for Saturday, Aug. 24 help reveal to USD’s new students the various “pieces that they need to know about what their lives and their careers at USD are going to look like,” he said. “We call it Welcome Week that starts right after that and there are sessions on advising how you register for classes to safety stuff, parking stuff – it’s the services on campus – all the different services that students have access to.”
During Welcome Week, new students learn how to use the Wellness Center and find out about other programs open to them on the campus.
Students also learn of individuals and resources on campus that they can turn to should they find the opening days of university life to overly stressful and difficult.
“Those individuals on our campus work in students services under Dr. Grieves and we term them resident assistants,” Pohlson said. “Their job is to work with students to make sure they are transitioning from home to their new temporary home here on campus.
“When issues come up, that’s also where they learn about the new services we have on campus to help them,” he said. “Tonight (Aug. 23) is a tough night for some students so some of them needs services right away, but that’s where our RAs (Resident Assistants) really take precedent in helping students figure things out.”
Friday also marked the reawakening of the USD campus.
Pohlson, during a phone interview with the Plain Talk, was standing near Ace Hardware and watching a steady stream of traffic pass by on Cherry Street.
“I see blooming red and white flowers and I see families walking around in a way that you can tell they’ll be parting ways ... I think what’s tough is Monday starts school so our faculty don’t get to do what a lot of other people do a great job with, and that’s mentoring students,” he said. “They don’t really have an opportunity until Monday to start using their talents to have a positive impact on our students.
“As someone who is here all throughout the summertime, this is my favorite day,” Pohlson said. “We become instantly alive again as a community and that’s really fun. A new Coyote family arrives to start things. It’s hard not to be positive and upbeat.”