Not that long ago, Washburn University was considered a commuter college, with minimal housing available to students on campus.
But during the past two decades, things have changed, with the addition of three major on-campus living centers housing approximately 1,000 students.
Coinciding with the push for on-campus housing, university officials in the early 2000s launched Move-In Day, which takes place a few days before the start of classes each August.
The effort includes several hundred Washburn students and faculty members joining forces to help unload cars for newly arriving students, and carry items to residence hall rooms.
On Thursday, about 400 Washburn students, faculty and staff members took part in the effort, which started shortly before 9 a.m. and was to last until 4 p.m. Students worked in two-hour shifts, though some volunteered for several additional hours.
Many of the students moving into residence halls Thursday were incoming freshmen, though some returning students also were coming back to campus.
Kendra Bolejack, 19, an incoming freshman from Washington, Kan., said she was amazed by the reception she received when she and her parents drove up to Lincoln Hall.
“They just swarmed us,” Bolejack said while standing in her Lincoln Hall room with suite-mate Alyssa Costello, 18, a Wichita freshman. “About three minutes and everything was in here.
“They were so fast. Then they were on to the next group.”
Parents also appreciated the help offered by Washburn students and faculty. A dozen or more cars were lined up awaiting their turns to enter the circle drive outside Lincoln Center at any given time Thursday morning.
“It looked like it was going to be major chaos,” said Wayne Bolejack, Kendra’s father. “But they’ve got it set up and it went really fast. It was awesome.”
Rhea Glenn, 23, a Washburn senior from Topeka, said Thursday marked her first day volunteering for Move-In Day. She joined several dozen other students waiting to unload cars as they pulled into the circle drive on the south side of Lincoln Hall, on the northeast corner of campus near S.W. 17th and Washburn Avenue.
“It’s a good chance for the new students to meet a lot of people,” Rhea said. “A lot of different organizations are out here. It helps them get settled in.”
Besides students from campus and Greek organizations, members and coaches of various Washburn University athletic teams turned out to help on the warm, sunny day.
Washburn University president Jerry Farley also assisted with unloading the cars, carrying in items along with other volunteers.
“I love it when a vehicle pulls up — it’s like a swarm of butterflies surrounds it,” Farley said. “Pretty soon, it’s all gone and they’ve got it all inside for them. It’s a great tradition. We’ve been doing this since we opened the residence halls on campus.”
Besides moving items into residence hall rooms for the students, the event was a way to welcome them to campus, Farley said.
Lincoln Hall, which opened just before classes began in August 2016, is at capacity, with around 350 students. The Learning Living Center, which opened in 2001, is around 90 percent of its 391-bed capacity, Farley said.
Though it is too early to project Washburn’s enrollment for the fall semester, Farley said he expected the numbers to be up a bit from last year and should surpass the 7,000-student mark.
Additionally, he said, the university is expecting a record number of up to 850 “direct-from-high-school” freshmen.
Several on-campus social events are planned through the coming weekend before classes begin Monday.
Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/