IN THIS TOGETHER
To the booming bass of ‘90s throwback songs, Duke sophomore Alyssa Greenhouse lifted cardboard boxes and rolled suitcases across an East Campus parking lot Tuesday, beads of sweat already forming on her face.
More than 1,730 undergraduate students moved onto Duke campus Tuesday, with dozens of staff and student volunteers directing lines of cars bursting with boxes and family members, unloading freshmen belongings and carrying them up residence hall stairs.
With Duke’s drumline playing in the background, music blasting over the loudspeakers and students introducing themselves to their new cohort, East Campus transformed into a block party.
“Everybody moved me in last year, so I thought I should give back,” said Greenhouse, who’s from Columbia, S.C. “I was completely, 100-percent nervous. I didn’t know how I was going to get all my stuff up, let alone know how to make friends.”
“It’s knowing that you’re not alone,” she added.
Duke’s class of 2017 represents 49 U.S. states and more than 80 countries, according to the university.
The most-represented states are North Carolina with 199 students, California with 158, New York with 136 and Florida with 132 students.
Twenty-seven percent of the class of 2017 are Asian, Asian American or Pacific Islander, 11 percent are African American and 13 percent are foreign citizens. Most come from public high schools.
Tuesday marked the start of orientation welcome week for the new students. The schedule lineup includes a Wednesday class photo on the East Campus quad and a Sunday talk at Duke Chapel by author Maya Angelou. Classes begin Aug. 26.
A line of returning student volunteers moved rolls of rugs and microwaves up flights of stairs at Alspaugh residence hall.
Shane Neff drove 5 hours with his family from Maryland to move in his son, Spencer. Spencer is his first child leaving for college, and he’s going to be part of Duke’s wrestling team.
“It’s super exciting,” Shane said. “Until we cry on the way home.”
Shane stood next to his SUV while student after student made the pile of bags at his feet disappear.
“I feel a little guilty,” he said. “I’m not even doing anything.” As a few Duke volunteers grabbed more of his son’s belongs, he added, “God bless you, girls, you’re doing a great job.”
Across the lawn, Amy Savage, Duke’s drumline instructor, yelled over the snare and bass drums. Some parents and students stopped for a few moments to watch as a line of drumsticks moved in unison. Cars in line had their windows rolled down, taking in the loud percussion.
“More! More!” Savage waved at the bass drums. “Control the height,” she said. “Softer first; let it grow.”
She said this performance is part of their band camp practice. But, for now, “we’re serenading them,” she said of the move-in families.
Walking along the quad, MacKenzie Nieto’s family stopped to take pictures of her two second cousins sitting on the oversized Pegram residence hall bench. The little boys grinned, both sporting matching fohawks.
Nieto, an incoming freshman from Charlotte, said she already has been on campus for a week as part of Duke Project BUILD, an early opportunity to explore campus and participate in Durham service projects with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Club and Duke Campus Farm. They slept in residence hall common rooms in sleeping bags and got to meet upperclassmen.
“I wanted to go to a community where people really cared about academics,” Nieto said.
Sarah Haas, a 20-year-old Duke women’s studies junior, danced to the music on the residence hall stair steps, taking a brief break from unloading cars.
“I remember getting out of my car and (seeing) a bunch of people in bright-colored shirts singing Justin Bieber,” she said of her freshman move-in experience.
“I just remember feeling like this is where I’m going to call home for the next four years.”