HRL Brings Seahawks Back to the Nest


Following a campus closure that was almost a month long, Peter Groenendyk, director of Housing and Residence Life, was more than happy to put the welcome mat back out for students.
 
Employees across campus collaborated to reopen all but two of the university’s residence halls on Oct. 6. The university reopened less than 30 days after Hurricane Florence made landfall on Sept. 14 about five miles from campus.
 
“The entire team’s efforts were heroic. Our staff worked seven days a week, from dawn until late evenings, for almost 30 straight days,” he said. “Many employees did this even though their own roofs were leaking, windows were blown in and trees came through their roofs. We even had a staff member who lost his home due to flooding. Despite these difficult personal circumstances, every one of them reported for duty.”
 
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, David Olson, director of the physical plant, and Shawn Burkett, associate director of housing operations, led the effort to assess residence hall damage, Groenendyk said. Eventually, all 4,148 residential spaces were inspected and repairs quickly began in the areas of greatest need.
 
Thanks to a team effort, the university reopened all residence halls except University Apartments, which were closed due to the storm’s effects. UNCW worked closely with students and their families to reassign the apartments’ 390 residents to new locations, including nearby apartment complexes and hotels. In addition, the university assisted more than 100 students who live off campus with housing concerns. Colleagues from the Division of Student Affairs, the Office of Facilities, University College and the housing staff at N.C. State University provided invaluable assistance, Groenendyk said.
 
“I work with an amazing group of people,” he added. “They did everything from cleaning up campus to reassigning students, meeting with families, and removing and cleaning wet items, to answering and logging hundreds of phone calls. These staff showed tremendous courage and integrity in the face of adversity. They are people of character, and I’m so thankful to call them my friends and colleagues.”

Chancellor Sartarelli noted his appreciation for Groenendyk and his team.

“Peter managed this extraordinary challenge with such a steady and upbeat demeanor," Chancellor Sartarelli said. "His team – and especially Jenna Freeman, Keith Wickliffe and Shawn Burkett – faced every new question mark with a terrific attitude and a can-do approach. We are lucky to have them all as part of the UNCW family.”
 
As students move toward the end of the semester, HRL staff recognize the intense pressure students are under to complete their academic coursework in a shortened time period. HRL is dedicated to continuing some of those signature UNCW activities that make being a Seahawk special, like Hawk-It-Out, an annual dance competition.
 
“We are fortunate to have very dedicated residence coordinators and RAs who have been there for our students throughout this journey,” Groenendyk added.
 
-- Andrea Monroe Weaver