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Montana State University’s student move-in was in full swing on Monday as students and parents from around the country shuttled belongings from cars to dorms ahead of Wednesday’s start to the fall semester.

What was previously one move-in day for the freshman class has turned into a multi-day scheduled affair for all students spanning from Saturday to Tuesday. This year has seen about 4,500 students schedule a move-in appointment.

The Santarpio family was unloading a car on Monday in front of Hyalite Hall as their son James prepared for the start of his freshman year. The family flew into Bozeman on Sunday from New Jersey but James said he wasn’t a stranger to the Gallatin Valley, having visited his uncle who has a place in the area.

James, who took a year off after graduating high school last year, said he was looking forward to finally being in school and meeting new people.

The family followed the advice from University Student Housing to ship personal belongings to the specific residence hall ahead of time to speed up the move-in process.

The university had about 350 volunteers signed up to help throughout the move-in process. In addition, there were resident advisors and University Student Housing staff stationed in front of the buildings to help students get moved in.

Bailey Padilla, a second year RA, said she loves helping people and her fellow RAs were there to help it feel less chaotic.

As an out of state student, Padilla said her own RA had been a great resource showing her around and welcoming her to campus and she wants to be that for other students.

MSU move in

Jim and Donna Santarpio, from New Jersey, unload their car while helping their son, James, move into Hyalite Hall during Montana State University's move-in weekend on Monday, August 23, 2021. The school expected about 4,500 students to move into residence halls over the course of four days.

Padilla said she’s been taking the time to talk to the parents to see how they’re doing, too.

“It’s always going to be an emotional time, kids leaving home for the first time or maybe the first time out of state or even away from home for a long period of time,” she said. “That’s what we’re here for, just helping them feel comfortable and welcomed and showing both the students and parents that we’re here for them.”

Padilla said she encouraged freshman students to get involved and try new things even if it feels intimidating at first.

“College is the time to do that,” she said.

Freshman Kylie Wieland said she was looking forward to attending some of the MSU Debut series like local hikes and events in the next few weeks. Kylie said she chose the university partly because she loves the mountains and Montana.

“I’m a little nervous but I’m excited about everything,” Kylie said about the first day on Wednesday.

Kylie and her parents, Kirstie and Mike Wieland, arrived in Bozeman on Sunday after an eight-hour drive from their home in North Dakota.

“It’s been a process, especially when you’re that far away and you can’t just come home on the weekend to pick things up so you have to kind of plan,” said Kirstie, whose other children had attended college in North Dakota.

President Waded Cruzado, who attended the move-in day outside of Hyalite Hall on Monday, said the start of each academic year is a special moment in the lives of their students, but especially so this year.

“We’re trying to make sure that we can balance the opportunity for our students to come back to in-person classes with keeping all of them safe to the best of our abilities,” Cruzado said.

Spreading out the move-in process over a few days instead of moving over 3,500 students in on one day is one example of the university adapting during the pandemic, she said.

“How can we better serve the needs of our students? How can we put students at the center of these conversations? But at the end of the day the most potent lesson we have learned is that our students want to be here, in person,” Cruzado said.

When asked about concerns on how the influx of students could impact the COVID-19 transmission rate in Gallatin County, Cruzado referred to a letter she sent to MSU students, employees and parents saying people need to wear a mask while indoors on campus. It stopped short of requiring masks.

“We don’t like wearing face masks, but we will have to commit to wearing face masks indoors at least until Oct. 1,” Cruzado said. “… That is a precautionary measure that we want to put in place. We want to err on the side of caution.”

MSU move in

Champ,  Montana State University's bobcat mascot, helps a student move items into Hyalite Hall during MSU's move-in weekend on Monday, August 23, 2021. The school expected about 4,500 students to move into residence halls over the course of four days.

It is important to the university to keep students on campus and safe and healthy, Cruzado said.

“At the end of the day, it’s a small sacrifice that we’re asking students to just help us out here. Let’s do this together,” she said.

The university also continues to encourage students who have not received a vaccine yet to do so, with a walk up vaccine clinic set up on the main campus outside of Swingle Health Center instead of near the stadium from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout this week, MSU spokesman Michael Becker said.

The first full week of classes will be followed by a three-day weekend with Labor Day on Sept. 6. The university is encouraging students to be as safe as possible during that time, Becker said.

If students choose to go home and develop COVID-19 symptoms, they should seek testing, he said.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.

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