Conal Carr has been helping students move in at University Park for 22 years.
But recently, he found himself on the other side of questions. This time, he was the one asking for assistance.
Carr helped his oldest child, Jordan, move into Penn State Behrend’s Almy Hall over the weekend.
“The whole moving in process is fascinating when you’re on the other side,” Carr, University Park’s director of housing, said.
“There’s questions I’ve been asked over the years that I had to ask this year. I had to call and ask how to do different things. I was talking to my daughter about how she feels about the process of taking the next step in life. It’s really been a lot of fun, and it’s been educational to be on the other side.”
In his more familiar role, Carr led Penn State’s Arrival Committee — which included a dozen university departments such as Residence Life and Food Services — to prepare for University Park’s move-in week.
The committee began monthly meetings in March to map out preparations for how to move in students for the fall semester. More than 25 percent of the 14,500 students the university houses, from student-athletes to international students, moved in over the last two weeks. The rest will move in this weekend, starting Friday.
“Our primary goal is to make things ready student arrival, and it’s been a very busy summer,” Carr said. “There’s a lot going on in the summer, so there are no vacations from July through August for staff in Housing and Residence life. Everyone is working. It’s an all-hands-on-deck effort.”
Carr said his greatest focus is on preparing student rooms before move-in week. Some housing, like Brumbaugh, Pinchot, Sproul and Tener halls, where international students temporarily stayed for the last two weeks, had to be revamped Monday through Wednesday when they moved into their permanent rooms.
“There’s maintenance, cleaning the rooms, painting as needed, deferred maintenance. If there is a drawer or a desk loose a little, we have to get that all ready,” Carr said “In addition to that, in the summer, there’s multiple projects going.”
Alex Novak, the Office of Physical Plant communication manager, said some of the major projects included renovations to the HUB-Rubeson Center, the outside of the Keller Building, the Bryce Jordan Center and the Old Main parking lot.
“We use the summer to do the heavy lifting, because you can’t do a lot of large projects when students are here,” Novak said. “This has been one of our busiest construction summers ever, and some of the largest things we do are invisible to the student, like piping and making sprinkler improvements. The students will see the more cosmetic stuff.”
One of the first things students will glimpse on move-in day are their residential assistants.
Mark Rameker, the senior associate director of Residence Life, said resident assistant training is a yearlong process that includes a mandatory three-credit course.
On Friday, 272 resident assistants, most of them juniors and seniors, moved into their respective buildings where they will oversee 30 to 50 students each throughout the school year. They trained for move-in day, as well as the upcoming year, for the last week.
“For us, this all starts a year in advance, and they learn leadership skills, learn about the job, learn mediation skills,” Rameker said.
“It continues into this week. They moved in Friday and began training again Saturday. They again cover more of the intricate things like how they open the building, mediating, counseling, different policies and protocols. They go through real-life scenarios to feel comfortable in different situations.”
Carr said that even though move-in week is hectic, the staff enjoys it.
“Certainly arrival week is the show, and I look forward to it,” he said. “Our staff really likes when the students arrive, because there’s high energy from the students and their parents. They are all very happy, especially first-year students and their parents.
“We’ve all been running hard without a real break to get everything ready, and after arrival we’ll be wiped out. But, personally, I love it. It’s all very exciting.”