HAYS, Kan. – Wednesday was move-in day for freshman students in the learning communities at Fort Hays State University.
They got a taste of the culture of their new home-away-from-home in a hurry.
A learning community is a group of first-year students who share common interests, take classes together, live on the same floor in a residence hall and participate in activities together throughout the year.
As they drove up to Victor E. Village – the residence hall that houses those in the learning communities – they were greeted by numerous student volunteers who not only helped them unload their vehicle but carried in their belongings as well.
“That was unbelievable,” said Jeff Wick from Wamego, whose son, Jacob, is a member of the Everybody’s Business Community. “It took only one trip to get everything in. It was fantastic having that one extra step to take the stress out of moving in.”
Wick also was impressed with how quickly university personnel had cleaned up after a thunderstorm with wind gusts of 80-plus mph blew through Hays the night before.
Quick reaction to an emergency was all in a day’s work for several FHSU departments.
Dean Dreiling, one of the grounds supervisors, arrived on campus about 9 p.m. Tuesday after the storm and, along with three other employees of the grounds/greenhouse department, began clearing tree branches from the streets and sidewalks.
“A lot of us have been here for a long time, and everybody knows where to head,” said Dreiling, who has been with FHSU for 21 years.
Clean-up crews returned to work at 7 a.m. Wednesday and worked for two days to get campus back to normal.
“It’s really a team effort,” he said. “I see it around here a lot. All the different departments work so well together, and it sure makes it enjoyable to work here.”
The wind blew in a wall in the Akers Energy Center, knocking over some electrical gear. Power plant employees and others came to campus to help Keith Dreher, director of energy management, remove the debris. A temporary wall is being installed until total damage is assessed.
“There were guys there from the power plant, physical plant, grounds, maintenance, construction crew, others,” Dreher said. “It’s amazing the response you get when you’re trying to get things back in order, the people you have show up to help.”
It was business as usual when students and their parents arrived on campus early Wednesday morning. On Thursday, more freshmen moved into other residence halls.
The Wicks came to Hays Monday night and got a reminder of what summer weather in western Kansas can be like. The family lived in Hays for several years before moving to Wamego six years ago.
“The storm brought back some memories of when we lived here,” Wick said, “and so did coming to campus – great memories, and we look forward to visiting often.”
Bruce and Wendy Schultz from Hutchinson also were taking a trip down memory lane while moving their daughter, Ashton, into the Imaging With Tiger Pride Community on the second floor.
The Schultzes are both graduates of FHSU and are pleased that their second daughter decided to attend their alma mater. They also were pleasantly surprised with the extra help they received.
A pair of freshmen witnessed that type of support first-hand the night of the thunderstorm.
Some students already moved into Victor E. Village as part of the Golden Beginnings Program for new first-year students. They can move into their residence hall a few days before the rest of the students, giving them another opportunity to network with their peers.
Tuesday’s storm knocked out power to the university, which relied on back-up generators for several hours. Students in Victor E. Village gathered on the first floor of the building until the storm passed.
“People who were calm were helping everyone, like me, who weren’t so calm,” said Kristen Reed from Fort Collins, Colo. “We are part of a Learning Community here, and it was literally a community effort (Tuesday).”
Reed is an elementary education major and part of the Opportunity through Education Community.
Reed admitted being visibly shook up by the severity of the storm, but Lauren Haselhorst from Kinsley, about an hour from Hays, took it all in stride.
“We’ve had a tornado just 300 yards away from our house before, so I’m kind of used to this, being from this part of the state,” said Haselhorst, who is part of Imaging with Tiger Pride.
Nonetheless, she was still impressed with the collaborative effort it took to prepare for the huge task of welcoming hundreds of students to campus.
“It was neat to see everyone working together to get everything ready for the big move-in,” she said.
And she did mean everyone. Even Dr. Tisa Mason, the university’s president, helped students move in and carried bags into McMindes Hall Thursday morning.
Activities for first-year students will continue for the next 40 days. Classes will begin Monday.
Even before she started her first college class, Reed was convinced she made the right choice where to attend college. After graduating with 600 classmates in her Colorado high school, Reed wanted to attend a regional out-of-state college where she could play softball and pursue a degree in education.
Fort Hays State proved to be the right fit.
“I came here for a campus visit my junior year,” Reed said, “and I knew then that this is it. This is where I want to be.”