‘Organized chaos’ grips campus

Registered by residence hall and last name, a freshman Penn State Altoona student and her parents waited for campus police permission to pull up to the dormitories.

Alert to her last name being called to move in, she had to cut an interview short.

“Sorry, it’s my time to move in,” she said. About 1,500 freshman students are enrolled for the fall semester, and many of them moved into campus housing on Thursday, so keeping to a schedule was crucial to maintaining order.

“We are supposed to get everything unpacked in front of the residence hall as quickly as possible,” said Norman Kennedy, father of freshman chemistry major, Kevin Kennedy, from the Philadelphia area.

He stood listening for their name to be called by the campus police officer who was directing students to their residence halls.

“I know no one here,” Kevin Kennedy said.

His father smiled.

“It’s mixed emotions. [I’m] excited, but at the same time, there’s a level of anxiety,” he said.

Campus Chief of Police Mike Lowery positioned himself in front of the residence halls where people swarmed.

“Trying to keep the flow of vehicles going,” he said.

A frazzled student interrupted, saying “Where do I get my [Penn State] ID?”

Lowery directed him to his destination.

“We call it organized chaos,” Lowery said with a smile on his face. “It all usually runs smoothly, with everyone cooperating and following instructions.”

One bewildered mother searched for anyone who could tell her where students were supposed to get their room keys.

Although separating from parents is last on a student’s move-in schedule, at some point in the process of accomplishing move-in tasks at various checkpoints, Kevin Kennedy and his father were accidentally separated amid the bustling crowd.

“Hopefully, he’s already in the room,” Kennedy said – and he was.

Students including John Carkitto, 19, of New Jersey and his parents waited outside of campus offices to ask housing questions.

“Classes start Monday. It’s exciting,” Carkitto, a mechanical engineering major said. He laughed with his mother Jill Carkitto because she basically put the words into his mouth.

Whether it was a brave facade or true excitement, some parents appeared more eager than others for their children’s transition to college said Amanda Grazier, a junior student. She volunteered with the campus’ Christian student organization, SALT, to help families on move in day.

“It’s a whole transition process. It’s cool to see unfold,” she said.

Student orientation leaders helped in anyway they could – carrying baggage, answering questions and “boosting morale,” orientation leader Christopher Daniels said.

Through a megaphone, Daniels, 22, emitted a combination of warm greetings and happy tunes including the Mr. Rogers song “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”

Meeting a roommate for the first time may have been awkward for some. But student orientation leaders said they planned to lead groups of freshmen in discussions to work through how they feel about leaving home, said orientation leader Meghin Kerila, a senior.

Student orientation leaders hosted a family barbecue in the campus mall and afterwards, parents and students parted ways. But activities continue for students through the week.

“Activities keep going,” Lowery said. “The student leaders get the students involved and meeting each other.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.