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Education, assistantships prepare HESA students for Move-In Day success

Anthony Rodriguez
August 22, 2018

As Ohio State Welcome Leaders, known as OWLs, filed into Independence Hall for leadership training the day before Move-In Day, Kristen Beck came to a quick realization: not everyone scheduled to be at the first training could fit into the 738-person lecture hall.

She quickly went to her computer to adjust the day’s schedule, adding a third training for the 1,600 OWLs. Their task: prepare for a daylong effort to move Ohio State students into their new homes Saturday.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Beck said of having so many student volunteers.

It was just a day in the life of the Move-In coordinator and Morrill Tower assistant hall director. Beck’s education in the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program and on-the-job experience had her amply prepared to make the adjustment.

And when Move-In Day arrived, Beck was confident that her summer work and preparation was enough to let the OWLs take over the operation and welcome nearly 7,000 Ohio State students to Columbus Campus.

“I feel really lucky to be in a position to be giving back to students and helping create an experience that was so important to me and my parents when I moved in as an undergrad,” Beck said.

Drackett Tower Hall Directors pose outside with Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston, Ohio State senior vice president of student life
Brian Allen, far right, pauses from his Move-In Day duties at Drackett Tower for a photo with Javaune Adams-Gaston, senior vice president of Student Life.

Assistantships put HESA students in Move-In Day mix

Many of the program’s graduate students have a support role in Move-In Day as assistant hall directors, a position they earned through the Student Personnel Assistantship program. They make maintenance requests, answer parents’ questions and do what they can to make move-in a lasting memory.

For master’s student Brian Allen, taking part in Move-In Day is “better than Christmas.”

“You can feel the energy on campus,” he said. “Everyone is excited. There’s high energy from the people helping students move in. Parents have high emotions. They will remember Move-In Day for the rest of their lives.”

A mom at Drackett Tower was moving in her student for the first time. She got out of her car and was very emotional, Allen said. “I went over to her and let her know it was going to be OK and I asked her if she needed a hug.”

The two chatted about how Ohio State is a great institution and that her student would be safe and well supported.

OWLs who start out as volunteers will remember growing into leaders. Beck saw this firsthand when she had an unexpected vacancy open up and an OWL coordinator stepped up to fill in.

“Just watching them and seeing how much they grew in a week in terms of skills and confidence was amazing,” she said.

This was the practice of Allen’s and Beck’s experience in Ohio State’s Higher Education and Student Affairs master’s program. The education helps them make sense of the situations they find themselves in as assistant hall directors.

two women stand on either side of a person dressed as an owl for move-in day at Ohio State
Kristen Beck, right, takes a moment to capture a Move-In Day memory.

'Theory into practice approach' provides HESA students rich experiences

“Students get immersive professional experiences that complement how we see education in the classroom,” said Rebecca Crandall, senior lecturer and Student Personnel Assistantship program coordinator.

The Higher Education and Student Affairs program is one of the nation’s preeminent educational programs, preparing leaders in higher education and student affairs for seven decades. It has graduated students whose careers have led them to become distinguished scholars, presidents, provosts and other higher education leaders.

Both Allen and Beck are on path to graduate with master’s degrees this spring. They credit their growth to learning from “the best faculty in the country,” Allen said.

“Access to really great faculty is helping me stay engaged with new knowledge and making sure that I’m providing students the opportunity to have the best experience in college,” he said.

New students and Ohio State Welcome Leaders stand near vehicles loading belongings into carts on move-in day
New Ohio State students get help unloading their belongings from OWL volunteers on Move-In Day.

“We are incredibly lucky to work with some incredible thinkers in the field,” Beck said. “We’re learning theories and models that are important and we’re learning it from the person who developed it. It’s an amazing opportunity.”

This “theory into practice approach” allows students to bring their experiences from their assistantships into the classroom to dissect. They then apply solutions the next day in a professional environment.

It’s a unique learning space, and one that is providing more than marketable checkmarks to future employers.

“There’s a committed dedication to providing resources to support our students, and it makes a difference in their holistic development,” Crandall said. “This helps ensure that they aren’t just coming to get a degree but that they are getting a rich experience in totality. We want our students to be prepared for the field but to also grow as people.”

Now that classes have begun in a new academic year, Allen, Beck and rest of the assistant hall directors in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program have the important task of doing the same as their graduate program is doing for them – supporting students so they have a college experience they’ll always remember.

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