You can’t spell WELCOME without FISH: Marrying Move-in Day and the Fish Philosophy by Bianca Hicks

Our move-in processes set the tone for the academic year for buildings full of new students eager to experience everything we told them they would once upon a time.  Move-in day is the promise confirmation of everything we promote, communicate, and prepare them for starting their first tour or website perusing. The approach we take to rolling out our move-in day processes will make all the difference when the Fish Philosophy is at the heart of it all.  The simple four step process calls us to enter a place of personal and professional accountability to produce a move-in day experience that sets the foundation of every residential student’s academic year.


Be There

Be observant of absolutely everything and everyone.  There’s so much going on throughout the move-in process that it is very easy to miss what you’re not looking for.  Be present in order to catch when someone needs your assistance even if they’re not asking for it.  Often times, parents, families, friends, and students want to appear to have it all together, as we all do at some point, but sometimes it is because they don’t want to bother or interrupt us in all of our move-in day busyness. However, being there for them is a huge part of the move-in day process whether it’s assisting with a cart full of “how on earth am I going to fit this” or being there with words of encouragement for that parent who has never had to say goodbye to their firstborn turned college freshman.  Be there by being aware of and sensitive to the big and small moments where your undivided attention and presence is going to be needed.


The move-in process, when executed well, should be one of the most fun experiences of the year. It is easy to get into the routine of it all. Car pulls up, runners, carts, lines, elevators, unload, rinse, repeat.  It is imperative that we seek and find the fun of this experience and bring students and their moving crews into our fun! What is a unique approach your institution takes to move-in to keep fun at the center of your move-in process? With move-in day not so slowly, but oh so surely approaching, it is important to identify a play plan to keep the process upbeat, engaging, and energetic (even in the dehydrating heat of August!). Does your department have a move-in day hashtag you can promote? A move-in day photo challenge?  Nothing formal, but you take full advantage of walkie talkies? That works! Big or small, find ways to play throughout the move-in day process.  Energy is contagious.

Make Their DayMake-Their-Day

Notice every person who crosses your path.  Depending on the size of your institution it might not be reasonable to greet every person individually, but we are absolutely capable of sharing hundreds of smiles and “hi, I’m happy you’re here’s” throughout the process.  A simple smile can truly make someone’s day. A simple smile can reassure that student and parent that they’ve made an excellent choice with good people to welcome and assist from the very beginning. Think of a time someone made your day. It is typically accomplished through attentiveness to details and genuine thoughtfulness in words and/or actions.  These are the moments we must create for a truly welcoming move-in process.  We have the unique opportunity to help students create their new beginning and remind them of the abundant journey they’re preparing to commence; if that doesn’t make someone’s day I don’t know what will! We give this message by everything we say and do to engage them their first day in the residence halls.

Choose-your-attitude1Choose Your Attitude

Choosing your attitude is quite possibly the most important part of the Fish Philosophy as it comes before any other step in the process. A negative attitude has no place when the red carpet is being rolled out.  A negative attitude is simply a distraction in and of itself.  Taking on a negative perspective through focusing on a downbeat of the process or an unenthused student or parent will prevent you from being “in the moment” to know when and how to help, you most likely won’t feel energized to put fun in the center of the process, and all of this can create a move-in process where zero days are made! Choosing your attitude is going to be incredibly challenging at times as hiccups are bound to occur. However, in the midst of any real or perceived chaos, we have the power to choose our attitudes and how we respond to and manage the “lowlights”.  Did I mention energy is contagious? Negative energy, positive energy, indifferent energy; they’re all contagious.  What will your colleagues, students, and moving crews catch from you during the move-in process? What you pass along will then be passed, so it is important to take responsibility for the impact our attitudes have on the overall success of a process.

What will be your constant reminder that your energy is contagious? Find a Fish accountability partner for your move-in process. You and this partner can help, support, and encourage each other to be your best selves during this incredibly rewarding, yet rigorous process.  Need a minute? Take a break, take a breath, take a walk. We must be in tune with ourselves to know when it’s time to step away for a moment in order to be fully present and productive.  Play to the strengths of those on the team when it comes to role assignment so everyone’s energy can be exuded as naturally as possible.  Even still, greatness has and always will force us outside of our comfort zones.  Which of the steps are easier for you and which do you think you and/or your colleagues/student staffs will find to be challenging? Identify and address this early on for optimal effectiveness throughout the big move-in day(s).  Congratulations to all of you for being just one step closer to a successful move-in process. Though Welcome can technically be spelled without “Fish”, it probably shouldn’t. Happy welcoming and best wishes for a goal-attaining academic year.

By Bianca N. Hicks, M.A. – Residence Life Coordinator – The University of Akron


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