by Joe King
After Opening Day 2007, any opening day without tornado sirens would have been an upgrade.
Well, organizers of the 2008 event got their wish and a whole lot more. The worst that the gray skies of Aug. 21 could muster was an occasional half-hearted sprinkle, and those few rain drops were not enough to mar one of the smoothest Opening Days on record.
“People were amazed at how quickly they were getting from the parking lot to their rooms,” said Mike Stang, executive director of Housing and Dining, who spearheaded the committee that oversaw the event. “It was a nice steady stream of students throughout the day. We never had a really big back-up of cars on the road or students in front of the halls.”
In all, more than 3,300 students arrived at the residence halls and got settled into their new homes. Most of those were whisked from the parking lot to their rooms with hardly any delay.
“From the moment we arrived in front of Douglas Hall, our car was unloaded and we were up in my son’s room fully functioning in less than 30 minutes,” e-mailed one pleased parent. “When I say fully functioning, I mean clothes put away, supplies put away, bed made and my son felt so comfortable and ‘at home’ that he basically said there wasn’t really any reason we needed to stick around, he was just fine. That says a lot, especially entering into a whole new adventure in your life.”
The key to such success, Stang said, was the 1,500 volunteers who made the day run smoothly.
“The volunteers were great,” Stang said. “We have reached the point where a lot of the faculty and staff who come out are veterans of the process – we even have students and annuitants who are starting to volunteer year after year. All of those experienced hands really pay off.”
The success of the day continued long after the last of the 140 golf carts used to haul student belongings had been parked and put away.
Attendance at the Great Huskie Bash, the welcome barbecue in Central Park, was well attended with an increase in both student attendees and vendors, Stang said. Later that night, more than 400 students attended a “block party” sponsored by the Residence Hall Association in the Chick Evans Field House where they danced, played laser tag and got acquainted.
“It was great to see everything go off without a hitch,” Stang said. “We don’t have a whole lot of rites of passage on campus, but I think Opening Day has become one of those. It’s a great way to welcome students to the NIU community. We are very grateful to the hundreds and hundreds of students, faculty and staff who help us make it work each year.”
In all, the day was a dramatic improvement over a year earlier, when torrential rains washed out not only part of the move-in process but also the Huskie Bash and, ultimately, all of the following day as campus was closed because of flooding.