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New students arrive to welcoming W&M community

  • Staying safe:
    Staying safe:  New students followed COVID-19 safety protocols as they moved in to residence halls Aug. 12-14.  Photo by Jim Agnew
  • Masks On:
    Masks On:  Residents and family members wore masks and followed physical distancing protocols when moving into residence halls Aug. 12-14.  Photo by Jim Agnew
  • A Little Help:
    A Little Help:  Solo moves are never fun. Students were allowed two guests to help with move in.  Photo by Jim Agnew
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Although First-Year Move-In Day was more restrictive than in the past, with everyone wearing masks and physical distancing measures implemented, William & Mary’s new students were still able to witness the spirit of the university throughout the process. 

In the second of three move in phases for the university, freshmen and transfers arrived on campus Aug. 12-14 to a warm welcome by their fellow students, faculty, alumni and President Katherine A. Rowe, who was on campus greeting students and their family members. 

“We have worked with our staff in the residence halls to create welcoming communities, even though we’re doing it in a modified way,” said Holly Alexander, associate director of Residence Life. 

William & Mary divided the campus move in process into three phases. A limited number of returning and graduate students moved in Aug. 8-11, and new students arrived Aug. 12-14. The remaining returning and graduate students are scheduled to move in over Labor Day weekend. 

W&M requires negative COVID-19 test results for all students before returning to campus, and appointments are mandatory for move in to eliminate large gatherings. 

Students arriving for their appointments checked in by scanning a QR code at one of the university’s outdoor drive-through tents on campus. After checking in, residents received PPE kits and a key to their rooms. 

Resident advisors and orientation aides were available to make the move in process easier for new students, who were allowed to bring two guests, aged 16 or older, to assist. 

“With the new policies and systems the school is using this year for moving new students in, I think the most important aspect of my job has been making sure to be a calm and informative voice for the residents and their parents,” said Charles Coleman ’22, a resident advisor in Yates Hall. “Making sure people have a stable voice to turn to has been really important.” 

New student move in is a team effort, with Residence Life and First Year Experience leading the way. 

“We have the same job, which is to welcome and transition new students to the university,” Alexander said. “We may have different responsibilities, but it’s really about how do we help new students adjust to being at William & Mary and certainly this year, as with any other college campus, we’re trying to work with students on how to navigate living in a community during a pandemic.” 

Safety measures implemented

William & Mary created a Healthy Together Community Commitment for the entire campus community to comply with COVID-19 related health and safety regulations. 

At a meeting Thursday, the Williamsburg City Council unanimously passed a resolution to adopt the same commitment for its residents. 

City council is encouraging all Williamsburg residents to accept the same commitments and responsibilities William & Mary is expecting from its faculty, staff and students to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to support the university community and the greater Williamsburg community through the pandemic. 

Those commitments include wearing a mask, observing appropriate physical distancing, washing hands frequently, participating in testing protocols and staying home when sick. 

“Everyone I have been interacting with has been careful to make sure they distance as much as possible, wear their masks and follow signs and directions given throughout the move in process,” Coleman said. “All the parents and new students are happily complying with the safety protocols, and there haven’t been any major issues that I’ve seen or heard.” 

A lot of work in a short amount of time

Residence Life and First Year Experience staff members put in long days to make sure new student move in was a success. 

Planning for student arrivals required flexibility and resilience through the ever-changing climate brought on by the pandemic. 

W&M adjusted its phased return to campus following Gov. Ralph Northam’s July 28 announcement of new restrictions on private and public gatherings in the Hampton Roads region and Peninsula. 

“Our staff has been working diligently and long hours,” Alexander said. “It’s certainly been a lot of work in a short amount of time. Our office has been able to navigate and pivot very quickly.” 

During move in, resident advisors were stationed on their halls to welcome students and answer any questions. Providing guidance and building excitement for the semester ahead are among the many responsibilities for RAs and OAs, as is enforcing physical distancing and mask protocols. 

Because traditional in-person meet-and-greets and first night festivities are restricted, RAs and OAs have adjusted to hosting welcome Zoom calls with new residents. 

Resident Advisor Anna Pope ’22 helped facilitate a Zoom call one evening with her residents and orientation aides. 

The call started with an icebreaker question: If you were on a deserted island and could have only one album, one food and one movie or TV show, what would you bring and why? 

“I was pleasantly surprised how well it went and how many connections could be made over the call,” said Pope, who is an RA at Yates Hall. “It can definitely seem like a challenge to help build community when we have to be physically apart, but our first Zoom call definitely gave me a lot of hope for the upcoming year.”