Safely welcoming new students to residence halls
In the year of “unprecedented,” Virginia Tech brings new and exciting definitions to the word. Virginia Tech will welcome its most diverse first-year class to date, composed of 6,675 students from 46 states and 46 countries. Move-in will take place Aug. 14-23, and incoming residents from around the world will begin their journey at Virginia Tech.
“While this semester may be different, that doesn't mean it's going to be any less fun,” said Noah Haefner, a resident advisor in Slusher Hall. “I plan to provide support for my residents the same way I always have: with open ears, an open heart, and an open-arms, socially distanced air hug.”
“Our Housing and Residence Life staff has worked endlessly over the summer to revamp our entire community structure in order to ensure that we are keeping residents safe while still creating a welcoming place that everyone can call home,” said Rose Nelson, a senior resident advisor in Pritchard Hall. “In addition to the administrative work normally done to plan for a smooth year, a significant amount of energy has also been focused on creatively reworking the basic design of the housing experience in light of the government mandates and desire for safety. Rarely is college exactly what we expect it to be, but it is only with flexibility that we are able to truly have the best experiences”
Virginia Tech has implemented various changes in and around campus. Students who are moving into the residence halls will be given a COVID-19 test, and have been asked to limit their move-in teams to one or two people. Masks will be required in residence halls unless students are in their rooms or bathrooms. Additionally, hand-sanitizer stations have been established across campus, dining halls will be operating at lower capacities, and classes have been moved to mostly virtual sessions. Though there is no doubt that this year will be different, it will still be a year full of new experiences, meaningful relationships, and Hokie Spirit.
“What makes Virginia Tech special is seeing our students model what it means to be a Hokie,” said Sean Grube, director of Housing and Residence Life. “We can’t wait to welcome our students back to campus.”
Residence halls will require that residents, including resident advisors, maintain appropriate physical distancing, and programming will look different than in years past. Many groups will be utilizing Zoom to allow students to meet and get to know each other while remaining in a safe environment. But despite the changes, student leaders look forward to welcoming their new residents.
“Now, more than ever, you have an opportunity to create strong relationships in your hall, especially with your roommate and RA. We are all going to be stir crazy, but building meaningful connections you will reflect back on after graduation is important,” said Clint McLeod, a resident advisor in Payne Hall. “I’m facing the same struggles as my residents, and being able to empathize and relate to them can break down the fear barriers I think we all have now.”
McLeod, along with other RAs, recognizes the hurdles this year will present, but also the new opportunities that will arise from the situation. “Now, during online learning, I will almost always be accessible through email or text for quick responses. For more serious support needs, we will still be able to interact in person, just socially distanced. Supporting our students won’t change, just how we go about it.”
“My role as an RA is to be a resource for my residents; to help them navigate college, life, relationships, and anything else that comes their way; to celebrate with them in the good times; and to make sure they know everything is going to be all right through the bad,” said Haefner. “My job is to keep my residents safe, to help them succeed, and to be a friend.”
Resident advisors are working to make virtual spaces for their residents to create community. “This year I really hope to make myself available to students online,” said Kate Hennion, a senior resident advisor in Slusher Hall. “I hope to have lots of virtual hangouts for students to get to know me and their peers and host office hours online for students to have time to talk with me about their needs in a comfortable setting.”
Incoming students can look forward to physically distanced welcome week activities around campus, as well as virtual Gobblerfest, residence hall events, and much more as the semester progresses. Resident advisors and a handful of student groups will also be trying out an ExperienceVT app, which should make its debut to the rest of the student body during fall 2021 move-in.
-Written by Madison Sweezy