Lending a hand

MARSHALL – The Southwest Minnesota State University tradition of fully welcoming new students to campus continued Thursday as nearly 600 Mustang Movers assisted hundreds of freshmen and transfer students as they moved in, kicking off the four-day Golf Rush orientation.

Along with community members, SMSU athletic teams, faculty and staff joined together to serve as Mustang Movers for the day.

“With the help we had (Thursday), it went really smooth,” coordinator Matt Suby said. “It’s great to see the students show up and even greater to just see the campus and city of Marshall respond, welcome them and help them move stuff in. Nobody likes to move, so it’s nice to have some extra hands on deck.”

Ogilvie native Bethany Perry and her mom, Michelle Perry, were extremely pleased to have the move-in help.

“It’s awesome,” Michelle Perry said. “There’s so much help. This help is pretty cool. They swept us off in carts as soon as we got here.”

Bethany Perry, a transfer student from Alexandria Technical and Community College, was thrilled to start a new chapter in her life.

“I’m pursuing an elementary education degree,” she said. “I’m excited.”

According to Residence Life staff, more than 300 new students registered and moved in by noon. Scott Voss estimated that approximately 550 of the nearly 850 total residence hall residents are freshmen.

“We had 320-plus moved in by noon,” he said. “We’ve had a lot more since then. There were almost 200 early arrivals, too. Those are typically from the football, volleyball, soccer and golf teams.”

Voss said he feels that the added attention given to new residents helps make the transition easier.

“I think it’s extremely helpful for the parents and the student,” Voss said. “Our biggest goal is to get them in and get them comfortable.”

Admissions counselor Sean Culhane said that the tradition of helping students move in began around 20 years ago, when the late Doug Sweetland was president at SMSU.

“Every athletic team is here, so kids from 17 teams,” Culhane said. “US Bank has about 100 people here, and Bremer has some volunteers, too. And there are a lot of people from campus, with faculty and staff helping out. We started doing this when Doug Sweetland was president.”

Culhane noted that the current version of Gold Rush Days, with the cook-out, ice cream social and other activities, was only about a decade old, however.

“From what we’ve heard, we’re the only ones to do something like this,” he said. “I guess it’s rare. But now, it’s just become the norm here.”

Suby, assistant director of admissions, pointed out that the admissions department had been in charge of the event for eight years, but that he had only been the coordinator for three years.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Suby said. “I get to work with some great students who really are the star of the show. I just try to make sure everything is where it needs to be and go from there.”

It helped that the weather was remarkably pleasant, Suby said, especially compared to the past few years.

“Mother Nature cooperated and gave us a beautiful day,” he said. “Usually, it’s about 90 and humid like it’s been the last two days. So we’re thankful for that, too.”

Volunteers Elise Kazmerzak and Kevin Riemenschneider were quick to assist Kirbie Tedrick and her father, Matt Tedrick, as they stepped out of their vehicle, while SMSU junior Amanda Brunner and sophomore Tatum Larson assisted another student who was moving into Ocean Boulevard.

“We’re orientation leaders,” Brunner said. “We’ve helped a lot of students move in.”

Brunner and Larson were especially thrilled that they had the use of a Gator for hauling student belongings around.

“We have two Gators to use from Action Sports,” Brunner said. “We’ve been switching off with others, but it’s hard to give it up.”

After getting settled into her Armstrong dorm, Alexandria native Ashley Kerns, her boyfriend, Alexander Gold, and her mother, Amy Kerns, looked relieved.

“I’m feeling good,” Ashley Kerns said. “I really didn’t have to carry anything. I got everything in my dorm, and now we’re heading to Wal-Mart to get some stuff. I’m excited.”

As they neared their car, the Kernses asked for directions, which volunteer Abby Boerboom was happy to supply them with.

“I’m from US Bank,” Boerboom said. “They split us up, so we just started our (two-hour) shift.”

Boerboom was accompanied by Kim Fedde and Lacey Lindsley, who also work at US Bank.

“We actually have a development network,” Boerboom said. “It’s part of the volunteering program that we are encouraged to do.”

Suby said he was not only appreciative of the volunteers who assisted with the actual moving process but also those who helped with the campus cook-out, root beer floats, sno-cones and much more. Together, the day ends up being a success.

“Our residence life staff does a great job coordinating the check-in and getting their rooms ready, and it’s just a lot of fun,” Suby said. “It’s my favorite day of the year. It’s great to kick off the new year this way.”