Managing a Move in the Middle of a Global Pandemic

It is often said that moving is one of the most stressful life events. Imagine, if you will, having to move during a global pandemic when you are halfway across the country. This is the exact situation that our residential students found themselves in shortly after Spring Break 2020. In this time, Residence Life and Student Housing (RLSH) staff were tasked with creating a move out process to enable students to gather their belongings safely and efficiently. We knew there would be challenges, and we knew we would not be able to create something that worked for everyone. However, we planned a process to meet the needs of most students. From that point forward, our staff worked with diligence and compassion to support students through their unique and personal situations.

As we approached this challenge, we quickly thought through the situation and created moving options for those students with travel restrictions, health concerns, or financial hardships that prevented them from returning to campus to collect their belongings. These included the option to choose a moving company or identify a proxy to help move belongings on their behalf. Additionally, we had to think through options for those students who had nowhere else to go or were unable to leave campus during the pandemic. In the midst of all of this, we were able to create a pathway that allowed these students to remain in their on-campus home. Our hope for both of these processes was to provide all residential students the ability to choose what was best for them based on their own personal needs.

We want to thank you for creating such a safe and efficient move out process. [We] had multiple flights cancelled on our way from Charleston to Dallas, but you and your team supported us all along the way. Thank you for being flexible as we made requests to change our move out time. When we made it to Dallas, the move out was simple and easy. I can’t even imagine the hours you all have put in to manage this process. We just want you to know that we appreciate your efforts, and it is a job well done!

-SMU Parent

While the dust settled from students moving out and our team transitioning to a limited number of residential students, Residential Commons Directors, Faculty in Residence, and their leadership teams worked together to create virtual programs and initiatives that kept students engaged in their community and with one another. One such success was the Virginia-Snider Trivia Night. Trivia Night is a wildly competitive, semesterly program that attracts multiple teams, and the Virginia-Snider leadership team wasn’t going to let a global pandemic stand in their way! They utilized their technology skills to pull off a well-attended and successful virtual experience that allowed students to feel connected to a commons’ tradition while remote.

During this time, RLSH didn’t operate as an island unto themselves; our staff collaborated with multiple campus partners to help support our students through these unprecedented and ambiguous times. Whether it was connecting with the Dean of Students office for an emergency fund request or working with Associate Provost for Student Academic Engagement and Success, Dr. Sheri Kunovich, and her team to support students in their remote learning experience and retention efforts, RLSH staff made sure to connect residents to all of the SMU resources available to them.

Residence Life and Student Housing is a unit equipped to handle the most obscure and random emergencies you can imagine; yet, a global pandemic was not something we had ever imagined. As we reflect on the processes developed to safely close our communities during these ever-changing and unprecedented times, we would say the RLSH staff rose to the challenge of meeting the needs of students and providing the same level of care and support they would have found if they were still living with us on campus.

For more information about Residence Life and Student Housing at SMU, please visit

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