Grand Valley comes to life with return of students; classes begin Aug. 29

A student carries his belongings into a living center on the second day of move-in on campus.
Students returned to campus over a three-day period, moving in to Grand Valley's Learning and Living Centers.
Image Credit: Amanda Pitts

Over a three-day period, more than 5,400 students will be moving into Grand Valley’s living centers filled with hope and optimism for the upcoming academic year. 

Students and their families began moving their belongings into living centers on the Allendale Campus on Aug. 21. Students will move onto the Pew Campus on Aug. 24 with classes beginning Aug. 29.

“We are super excited to have our students back,” said President Philomena V. Mantella. “We have a new student class that is more diverse than previous years. It's really thrilling to have everybody and the energy back that we long to see.”

In Pickard Living Center, Mantella stopped at the room of Leah VanSlambrouck, of Macomb, welcoming her and her mother, Shannon, to campus. 

“It’s really cool,” said Leah VanSlambrouck, who will be studying business. “This is a new experience, and I’m ready. You think over the summer, 'I’ll be heading off to college soon,' and now I’m actually here.”

She also shared the best advice she received about her first year at Grand Valley. 

“Go to all of the events because that’s the best place to meet people,” she said. 

President Mantella speaks with students on the second day of move-in.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Mantella visits with a first-year student in her living center room.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Mantella welcomes students back to campus on the second day of move-in.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Philomena V. Mantella welcomed students back to campus, Aug. 22, during the second day of move-in at the Allendale campus.

At Niemeyer Learning & Living Center, Catalina Ifkovitz, a first-year student from Clarkston, wore a “Slytherin” hat, a nod to the most cunning and ambitious of the four houses at Hogwarts, the wizarding school in the Harry Potter novels. 

She also wore a nervous, friendly smile as she waited with her father, Scott; sister, Adriana; mother, Anna; and grandparents, Marino and Maria Vagnini, to begin the next phase of her move-in process.

“She’s also got a little Hufflepuff in her,” noted Scott Ifkovitz (the Hogwarts house known for loyalty and hard work). Catalina’s mom, Anna, said she had already cried a bit, but was keeping emotions at bay as she worked to get a lay of the land. 

“It’s all part of a journey, and this is the first step,” said Scott Ifkovitz.

A parent hugs their child during move-in on the Allendale campus
Amanda Pitts
A student carries her belongings into a living center during move-in.
Amanda Pitts
Students pose for a photo in their living center room.
Amanda Pitts
Students returned to campus on Aug. 22 moving their belongings into living centers across the Allendale campus.

A few doors over, Nevin Hooper, of Grandville, was moving into Niemeyer for his second year. 

His dad, Scott, pushed a hand truck with one arm while wrestling a wheeled rack in another.

Hooper, a second-year film and video production major, had a look of experience on his face that his younger counterparts didn’t. Wearing a “Pulp Fiction” T-shirt, Hooper said he felt more prepared to get involved in clubs and meet new people. He was also looking forward to his film classes starting.

His mom, Sarah Hooper, ’99, said this year’s move was less emotional than last year’s – and quite a bit different from her days as a student.

“It’s a lot bigger, there’s more buildings, that’s for sure,” she said. “It also seems like student life is more embraced in the community, which is nice.”

President Mantella speaks with students during the second day of move-in on the Allendale campus.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Mantella visited with students during the second day of move-in.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Mantella visited with alumni volunteers during the second day of move-in.
Kendra Stanley-Mills
President Mantella welcomed students and spoke with alumni volunteers during the second day of move-in, Aug. 22, on the Allendale campus.

Across Calder Drive, Lloyd Bannister was unpacking an SUV full of his oldest daughter’s belongings. Kaylen Bannister grew up in Chazy, N.Y., but had decided to go to school in Michigan after what her mom, Alicia Bannister, called years of pro-Michigan “grooming” by Lloyd, who is originally from Grand Rapids.

With members of her dad’s family still nearby, Kaylen said Grand Valley had the right mix of closeness to relatives while still being a world away from life in upstate New York.

Kaylen said she hoped to explore an archery club she had heard about and was excited for football games. 

“I’m just really excited,” said Kaylen. 

Alicia said her tears were drying up after a few already shed on the long trip from home.

“I’ll be OK, but if we talk about it too much, I’m going to be a mess,” she said. 

They were assessing their next move-in step amid the organized chaos when two volunteers walked over and offered assistance. With that, they gathered their bins and bags and started across the road into Kaylen’s home for the year.

— Senior Writer Brian Vernellis also contributed to this report.