Every fall, the UNC community comes together to welcome students back to campus and move new students into their residence halls.

By Rebecca Dell, Photography by Woody Myers, Alex Nunley, Conner Hemphill and Hunter Wilson

Volunteers from across campus show up in droves. Cars, trucks and vans fill the parking lots near UNC’s 17 residence halls, bringing about 3,000 students to live on campus for the first time or as returners.

Orange shopping carts, generous hand-me-downs from Home Depot, line up near sidewalks (the same shopping carts occasionally show up, mysteriously, throughout the semester on campus). Shadae Mallory, Residence Hall Association president in 2016-17, secured the donation from Home Depot (after one too many trips to borrow carts in a UNC box truck) and made use of Bishop-Lehr Hall to store the carts. 

As a student, Mallory helped organize move-in day in 2016.

“I sat in on move-in day meetings throughout the summer of 2016 and was able to see the pure amount of work and planning that went into making the operation as smooth as possible. One of the biggest challenges for me was organizing over 200 volunteers and ensuring they were equipped with as many resources and FAQ sheets as possible,” says Mallory, who now works full-time in residence life. “At the end of the day, I remember feeling so accomplished as the RHA President when I saw all of my volunteers making connections with students and knowing that the students were able to get access to their spaces in a relatively smooth manner.”

Move-in Day 1964

In this photo printed in The Mirror student newspaper in 1964, Jean and Jane Jones unpack to move into Wilson Hall. The Jones twins came to UNC from Missouri.

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Join us as we revisit the annual bustle — and celebrate the planning, teamwork and resources that make UNC move-in day a successful and welcoming start to the school year.

Move-in day, by the numbers

It takes the entire UNC community to get students moved in every year, showing off a coordinated effort between Housing, Dining, Student Life, the UNC Police Department, Parking, Information Management and Technology, Facilities and hundreds of additional volunteers.

“I always hope for a 75-degree day with some cloud cover and a light breeze,” says Brad Shade, Director of Housing Services. Shade has participated in 26 hall openings at UNC and 32 in his career, but his move-in career started even earlier — when he moved into Wiebking Hall as a student in 1986.

Each year, Shade looks forward to helping families, students and staff troubleshoot any issues that can improve the student’s environment. “I still get a little emotional when I see families parting after moving in their child and the tears begin to flow as they depart.” Still, he looks forward to the energy and life that move-in day brings.

Here is a snapshot of some of the logistics that make move-in day successful:

  • Nearly 150 staff members are involved with move-in
  • More than 1,000 volunteer slots are filled
  • 1,571 first-year students lived on campus in fall 2019
  • 60 custodial staff assist with deep cleaning and preparing university housing (residence halls, apartments and university-owned houses)
  • Harrison Hall, the largest housing building, is hosting 414 first-year students (of 542 residents) in fall 2019
  • 1,824 cookies were provided to students, families, volunteers, staff and others on move-in day
  • Around 160 hours of student and professional staff training each summer (plus 120 hours for new professional staff)
  • 70 shopping carts donated by Home Depot for use during move-in
  • 100s of miles walked through the living spaces to ensure readiness
  • 7 cardboard recycling stations collected
  • 9 tons of cardboard recycling at hall opening