Students help raise a frame for a home with Habitat for HumanityPhoto by Steve Yeater

Students help raise a frame for a home with Habitat for Humanity

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Campus Life

Helping New Students MOVE into College Life

Huge volunteer effort results in new relationships and an incredible California experience
by Christopher HerediaAug 16, 2012

The newest University of the Pacific students are gearing up to remove non-native plants along the stunning Pacific Coast, maintain hiking trails in the majestic redwoods and remove graffiti in neighborhoods in need of tender-loving care around the Central Valley.

At the end of their two-day journey to California's mountains, valleys and ocean, they will have experienced much more than the satisfaction of beautifying treasured landmarks and an appreciation for nature.

They will return bonded, a unified class of first-year Pacificans ready to embrace the challenges and opportunities - both inside and outside of the classroom - that lie ahead. This is the essence of MOVE (Mountains Ocean Valley Experience), a mandatory overnight, community-service project and introduction to life at Pacific for all first-year students.

This year's expeditions take place Aug. 24 and 25, the weekend before freshmen begin their first semester of college.

Now in its fifth year, the nationally recognized MOVE program, put on by Student Life staff, faculty and student leaders, will take all incoming freshmen to explore the natural beauty and history of California.

"They'll roll up their sleeves, put on work gloves and get working in the weeds together," said Elizabeth Griego, Vice President for Student Life at Pacific. "They'll build relationships with fellow students, some of which will last a lifetime. As they learn about responsible leadership, sustainability and Pacific's core values, they will come to see themselves as part of the greater whole of our community."

MOVE Student Videos

Three students share their experience during MOVE and how this unique program has helped shaped them into who they are today. more

Participation in MOVE has grown by nearly tenfold since its inception in 2007, when 95 students went to Yosemite. This year, more than 900 new students, faculty and staff will fan out to 11 sites across Northern and Central California. Their projects will include clean-up work on the American River, repairing established trails in the El Dorado National Forest, and building homes for needy families in the Central Valley with Habitat for Humanity.

For students such as senior sociology major Amanda Wilens, MOVE has become a labor of love. She's participated as a MOVE student facilitator every year since her freshman trip in 2008.

"I come back each year because I believe in the program and the work we do. It's a great sense of pride and accomplishment looking at all we put into the community-service day. It makes you feel like a part of something bigger than yourself and helps connect you to the environment. As a whole, we put in thousands of community-service hours in just one day. It's truly inspirational."
Amanda Wilens '13
Watch Amanda's Video





Its benefits have been noticed not only by students, but also by a national association of student affairs professionals. In 2010, MOVE received a gold medal for excellence from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the highest award given by NASPA for first year programs. The program enhances socialization and school satisfaction, its leaders say, and so its aim also is to improve student retention, academic performance and graduation rates.

A Metaphorical Move

No doubt, it will be work, but also lots of fun. Freshmen, some of whom have never pitched a tent and many whose preferred method of communication is via text message or IM, will splash around together in the American River, hike across trails that crisscross the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, sleep under the stars in in a Redwood Glen on the Coastal Mountains south of San Francisco, or chose one of the other trips offered.

MOVE water bottles
Participants are given aluminum water bottles
to encourage sustainable practices

A key component of MOVE is to acquaint the students with life at Pacific, as a fledgling adult and university student and all the trappings that come with their new living and learning environment. The program is meant to address some of the fears and questions that come with the first year of college. It's also meant to leave students with a richer understanding of our planet's finite resources and the impact our choices have on sustainability.

"What is sustainability?" said Kimberlina Gomez, a 2011 MOVE student and sophomore environmental science major at Pacific. "During MOVE, I learned that it's not necessarily trying to save the earth as much as it is working with what we have. We can't fix the mistakes from the past, but we can protect the earth from further damage. MOVE helped me understand that seemingly little things students do can make a big difference."

MOVE then is not only an icebreaker. it's a teaching tool as well. The curriculum incorporates the concepts of social and emotional competence, responsible leadership and the three dimensions of sustainability - economic, environmental and social. Freshmen MOVE participants learn about Conservationist John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club who is widely considered to be the father of our National Parks system and how Pacific is home to the John Muir Center and preserves Muir's papers in the library's Holt-Atherton Special Collections.

  "When you're on MOVE, it forces you to take your first step to show people who you can be, and to let them show you who they are," said Palak Setia, a 2011 participant who is a sophomore computer science major. "You move, metaphorically, literally. It's a great way to get involved with not only freshmen students, but professors, and the campus in general."

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