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Welcome home: Creighton greets largest freshman class in history with massive move-in mobilization

Welcome Week and peer leaders help with Move-In 2017.Susan Caster had just dropped off her daughter, incoming Creighton University freshman Lauryn Caster, of Papillion, at Swanson Hall just before 11 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 19, during the University’s annual Move-In event.

Sitting in her car and ready to pull away from the residence hall where Lauryn will spend her first year as a Creighton student, Susan listened to the robust serenade of Welcome Week leaders, took in the high-energy dance and shimmy that accompanies the actual moving in, and beamed happily.

“Creighton does it right,” she said. “There’s such a great atmosphere around this. It’s so fun and welcoming and it feels like you’re coming home to family.”

That is the stated aim of the University’s upperclassmen who welcomed the newest 1,125 students — Creighton’s largest-ever freshman class — and their families, to campus this weekend and will continue to help shepherd them through the weeks ahead.

Welcome Week and peer leaders, along with CU Survival Executives and other student, staff and faculty leaders in the Division of Student Life, roll out the warmest of welcomes to Creighton’s newest arrivals because, in part, they’re just a few years removed from the same experience and feelings. Beginning at 4:30 p.m. Friday and starting again at 6:15 a.m. on Saturday, about 150 students combined to make the move-in the first memory for many new students and their parents.

“I can still remember it very clearly,” said Katrina Nesbit, a sophomore peer leader, as she wheeled a cart, heavily laden with the necessaries for residence-hall living, onto a Swanson Hall elevator and made for the sixth floor. “There were a lot of people dancing and singing and welcoming my family and me. You’re not quite sure what to expect when you pull up here, but you’re greeted with a smile and a feeling like you’re right where you belong. Family is first at move-in, and we want to help the new students feel like they’ve got family here, too.”

Helping Nesbit with this load was Sam Fernandez, another sophomore peer leader just a year removed from his own move-in.

“It’s a great way of giving back, something we learn so much about at Creighton,” Fernandez said. “I think, at the time you move in, you’re in such a whirl you don’t really realize what’s happening. Our goal is to be able to get all of their belongings moved in, so that’s one less thing to worry about. But the bigger job, I think, is to remember that we’re the first faces that many of the students and parents will see on campus.”

Inside Swanson, incoming freshman Katie Whittelsey of Denver, and her mother, Stephanie, were returning to Katie’s room after moving in Friday evening. Both reflected on the welcome they received after a long drive east and the openings of new chapters in both their lives.

“I was definitely nervous as we came around that corner,” Katie said. “But then everyone is cheering, singing and dancing. It brought a smile to my face immediately. I got more comfortable as it went on. It felt like a big welcome party — a great way to start off a new adventure.”

For Stephanie, bringing her first child to college was also an emotional milestone aided by the support and firm knowledge that Creighton puts faith and family at the forefront. It was on display throughout the weekend and even before move-in with Creighton events held in Denver to welcome the Whittelseys to the Bluejay nest.

“The amount of touches Creighton has given Katie and our family has been wonderful,” Stephanie said. “This weekend was more confirmation for us that we’ve made the right decision and she’s in the right place.”

With each arriving caravan at Swanson Hall, or down the Skinner Mall at the other large freshman residence hall, Kiewit, Welcome Week leaders greeted parents like Susan Caster and Stephanie Whittelsey with a handshake and a welcome and more assurances that their incoming students will be nurtured and encouraged.

Hailee Domagalski, a junior CU Survival Executive who will help introduce incoming freshman to campus life through presentations and skits throughout the week, said making that first contact is crucial.

“The moment they make that turn down this lane, we want them to see how excited we are to have them,” Domagalski said. “We want them to know that we’ve been waiting for them for a long time and that they are so welcome at Creighton. I remember that first time on campus, seeing everyone dancing, loading all my stuff and carrying it to my room here in Swanson. I want to provide that same feeling. I want them to know, just as I did, that they’re home.”

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