A mother and daughter outside Hecht Residential College during Fall 2020 first-year move-in. Photo: Mike Montero/University of Miami

With an emphasis on health and safety, students move in for fall semester

By Ashley A. Williams

With an emphasis on health and safety, students move in for fall semester

By Ashley A. Williams
Faculty and staff members welcomed students and their families back onto the Coral Gables Campus ahead of the first day of classes on Aug. 17.

The University of Miami Coral Gables Campus was buzzing Monday as hundreds of new ’Canes started moving into their residence halls in preparation for the beginning of classes next week..   

President Julio Frenk—literally—rubbed elbows with dozens of first-year students and their families, replacing the once-popular handshake with an elbow touch that has become vogue since the coronavirus pandemic struck this spring. 

First-year student Nathaniel Valentine, of Brooklyn, New York, and others were among the first group of students to experience the revamped approach for move in to campus, which began on Sunday. 

“It was kind of surreal and bittersweet arriving to campus, because I’m going to miss the people back home,” said Valentine, a business major. “Once I arrived, I felt good because of how welcoming and homey campus feels. I’m looking forward to getting to know my classmates and hopefully having a good time despite this coronavirus thing.”   

To limit the potential spread of COVID-19, the University designed a move-in plan that promotes a healthy and safe environment for students and their families. 

The process included an additional day to check in, staggered scheduled check-in appointments to prevent crowding, and the requirement to test negative for COVID-19 prior to arrival on campus. About 1,700 first-year students will have checked in by the end of Wednesday, with returning students moving in during the rest of the week.  

Patricia A. Whitely, vice president for student affairs, said University leadership has spent significant time planning for this moment. 

“I’m really proud of the president’s leadership and all of our staff in student affairs and across the University for working tirelessly all summer to make this a reality,” said Whitely. 


Additionally, the Watsco Center Fieldhouse will serve as a centralized check-in location where students can be accompanied by one family member as they take a photo and receive their ’Cane Cards. At this location, students will also confirm their pre-arrival COVID-19 test result, check in for their on-campus housing assignment, and receive their Safe Return to Campus Kit—which includes a face covering, disposable gloves, antibacterial wipes, a hand sanitizer, a thermometer, and more. 

As in the past, a cruise ship-style move-in service was offered to new students. Masked and gloved volunteers greeted and assisted new students in transporting their items in large bins to their new living quarters. Returning students will begin to arrive on campus on Aug. 13. 

“I am really impressed with the cruise ship move in. It was such an easy way to get settled in really quickly,” said Rebecca Ilia, a first-year student majoring in biology from Fort Myers. “I feel like I am already at home.” 

Mathias Beeck is a first-year student from Irvine, California, who’s majoring in marketing. He said he is most looking forward to staying on campus and doing well in his classes.  “Being from California, the COVID-19 situation is pretty big so President Frenk’s messages really comforted me and my family,” said Beeck. 

First-year student Eleanor Parks said she loves the atmosphere and spent most of her Monday morning admiring all the campus will offer her during the next several months. 

“It’s actually my first time here because I didn’t get a chance to visit because of COVID-19,” said Parks, a musical theatre major. “I’m really excited about walking around and seeing all that the campus has to offer.” 

Parks’ mom, Meredith, passionately complimented the University’s leadership, calling it “perfect.” While accompanying her daughter to the Watsco Center Fieldhouse, she was ecstatic to meet Frenk for the first time, after watching and listening to him closely via social media. 

“Seeing him is like seeing a relative that I love and that I haven’t seen in a long time, because I’ve watched all of his videos,” she explained. “He has planned this all so that my child is going to thrive. And, I’m just so grateful. I have so much affection for him, and I had never even met him. Seeing him has made me feel so good, because he’s just done amazing things for us as parents. And, he is making us feel good about leaving our children during this pandemic.”