UI move-in day reminiscent of past, sprinkled with new

Black 'living learning community' offered for first time

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IOWA CITY — A sense of déjà vu flooded Iowa City on Wednesday as waves of new students pulled up to residence halls with truckloads of plastic tubs, beanbags, boxed microwaves and mini-fridges.

But among this year’s similarities to move-in days of yore are some differences.

For starters, in hopes of easing congestion in a year of heavy construction, most of the thousands of UI students moving in Wednesday and Thursday must start their migration to campus with a stop on the south side of Iowa City at the former UI Studio Arts building. There, families wait outside while students line up inside to retrieve keys and instructions for the residence halls.

Families then form a pseudo caravan to campus to unload and find their student’s room, which are assigned based on dorm and “living learning community” preference.

Therein lies another difference. UI this year offered a few new LLCs — groups that residential students are housed in based on common interests or academic major. The idea is to create support structures of peers with similar backgrounds or goals by housing them together, requiring them to take a course together and offering joint activities and events.

The university this year is offering 34 LLCs, and among its new communities is the first geared toward black students — “Young, Gifted and Black.” Although white students weren’t necessarily restricted from requesting the community on their housing application, the group was founded by black students “with the objective to aid with the transition of incoming black students at the University of Iowa.”

Patrick Karanja, 18, of Coralville, entered his new room on the “Young, Gifted and Black” floor in Slater Hall on Wednesday. That community, he said, wasn’t his first choice — he ranked it No. 3 behind others tied to his engineering major.

The West High graduate also was recruited late to Iowa’s cross-country team and most his teammates are living in Hillcrest. But, Karanja said, Hillcrest isn’t far from Slater and he’s happy to be in the black student group, which he expects to benefit not just the students but the university.

“I think it’s going to play a part in increasing cultural awareness,” he said. “And that’s a plus for the university.”

It is also likely to foster relationships and connections for the students involved.

“It will be easier to get to know each other,” he said.

The black LLC involves 40 students and fills the entire eighth floor in Slater Hall. More than 100 incoming students listed the community as their first, second or third choice, but some landed elsewhere because the university wanted to keep the group to one floor, said Von Stange, assistant vice president for student life and director of UI Housing and Dining.

“We didn’t know what the turnout would be,” he said. “So we chose a number that would fit on a floor.”

Sophomore Dayo Coleman, 19, volunteered at Slater on Wednesday and said she expects the black LLC to be well received.

“But it’s a beta run to see how it goes,” she said.

As a freshman last year, Coleman chose an LLC tied to her English and pre-law major and said she probably wouldn’t have gone with the black LLC even if given the option. But, as a black student, Coleman said she sees its value both for her peers and for the enrichment of the broader university community.

“This is a pretty diverse campus for Iowa,” she said.

About 1,900 UI students moved in to the residence halls early, and about 4,500 students are moving in Wednesday and Thursday. A total 6,800 students are expected to live on campus this fall — the balance of whom, including returning students, are to arrive over the weekend before classes start Monday.

Iowa State University, which is expecting 12,000-plus campus residents this fall, started its main move-in for new students Tuesday and planned to wrap up Wednesday — with returning students scheduled to arrive Thursday.

Most of University of Northern Iowa’s campus-dwellers are moving in Wednesday through Friday, with a total of 4,423 expected.

Several UI families who made their drops Wednesday complained of long lines and some confusion at the initial check-in point.

“They gave my room keys to someone else,” said UI freshman Cate Spencer, 19, of Bettendorf. “But it’s OK.”

Pam Gaillard, of Madison, Wisconsin, has been through plenty of move-ins — with one child starting pharmacy school in South Carolina this year, another who finished graduate school in the spring, and her third child starting as a freshman at UI this fall.

“This one is great,” she said, as her daughter loaded plastic bins onto a moving cart.

Autumn Gaillard, although most recently from Madison, spent much of her childhood in Iowa City — attending Weber Elementary as a first- and second-grader before moving to Regina Catholic Education Center in third grade.

The family left five years ago, and Gaillard — now 18 — said she knew she wanted to return.

“I love the atmosphere — everyone is so nice to each other,” she said, adding she’s already reconnected with some old friends who also chose UI. “I’m excited to be back.”

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