A Drexel student poses on campus during the fall 2020 term. For winter term, more than 1,000 undergraduate students will move on campus starting Jan. 16, though the COVID-19 pandemic continues to augment this college rite of passage and necessitate virtual programming. Photo by Ben Wong.
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More than 1,000 Drexel University undergraduate students will move into single-occupancy rooms on campus starting next weekend — many for the first time — after a fully remote fall term, but the COVID-19 pandemic continues to augment this college rite of passage.
Though the experience may look different for the resilient incoming class of first-year students, more than one-third of which have elected to move on campus this term, the University has offered a week of robust virtual programming to help Dragons unite and create community, whether on campus or studying remotely.
Kaitlyn Delengowski, director of special events for Enrollment Management & Student Success, said she and her colleagues worked to provide as normal of a move-in experience as possible for students despite delays and non-normal situations created by the pandemic.
“We’re really thrilled and we’re proud that we’re able to welcome the students back,” she said. “And so, while it looks a little bit different, we’re excited to get the Dragons back on campus, create that sense of community and start to program in ways that are safe and engaging.”
Before students settle into their new rooms, they will undergo a modified move-in process with important safety measures and other protocols in place. The first of which is that students and families should adhere to a strict timed move-in process aided by long-time Drexel move-in partner University and Student Services (USS). USS will offer a cruise ship style move-in service where they will take a student’s belongings from their car and relocate it to their room for them.
The timed move-in is important, Delengowski said, as it promotes safety by limiting the process to just five students per residence hall moving in per hour.
“The reason we extended it to a move-in week as opposed to a move-in day was to make sure that we do have the ability to safely and socially distantly move students in with the customer service level that we pride ourselves on with our partners from USS,” Delengowski said.
Another distancing measure that has been enacted is a strict no-guest policy in residence halls. Although this means family members cannot join students in their room on their move-in day, the restriction promotes maximum safety measures for students and staff, as if each student had two guests with them, Delengowski pointed out, that would mean an extra 50 people per hour would be inside the residence halls.
“We know this is a little bit heartbreaking for families and for students, but it’s a measure that we are taking to make sure that our student community, our staff community and our larger University City and West Philadelphia communities are staying safe,” she said. “We’re doing our best to make sure that we’re opening and staying open for the students and that’s the best way that we can do that.”
Baseline COVID-19 testing is yet another important measure the University is taking to ensure a successful return to campus. Within minutes of arriving on campus, all students moving in should head to their prescheduled appointment at Drexel’s University City Campus testing center at The Library Learning Terrace in Race Hall to be tested, and will receive the results via the Drexel Health Checker app within 24 to 48 hours. Students were also encouraged to self-isolate and be tested in advance of arriving on campus if possible.
Once they have returned from their COVID-19 test, students will check in at their residence hall to receive their room key and DragonCard.
Upon settling into their rooms, or even if joining from home, there are a variety of fun activities for Drexel students to take part in and get connected.
Melissa DePretto Behan, EdD, senior executive director of Student Life, said programming this term in the residence halls will be centralized and will focus on distanced events with a grab-and-go element. Connections and community are essential in the on-campus experience, and the Residence Life staff have been creative in their approach.
“For example, students will be invited to pick up supplies to make microwave s’mores and popcorn with an optional Zoom link to virtually connect with other residents for snacks and a movie night,” she explained.
At this time, no in-person Residence Life programming is planned, and staffing in the halls is optimized to ensure social distancing, though all resident students will have access to a
Resident Assistant (RA) resource whom they can ask questions.
In addition to what will be taking place on campus, all Dragons were also invited to participate in the over 100 programs Jan. 4–8 that kicked off the new year at Drexel as part of Dragons Unite: 2021.
Dragons Unite programming originated from across the University: from colleges, schools and departments to student organizations, the Steinbright Career Development Center and Public Safety.
Although Dragons Unite did not aim to replace Welcome Week for first-year students, Delengowski said it was instead an exciting way to bring the whole campus community together.
“We really wanted to be as inclusive as possible as well as recognize that, like everyone, our students have had a really rough year,” Delengowski said. “Everyone is living in a new world and just being able to offer some fun and some stress relief and some resource-based programming to kind of get everybody back in the right mindset for what will now be a nine-week term was really the goal.”