Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

July 27, 2017

Arrival Survival Takes ‘The Whole Campus’

Kevin Sheehy, Director of Auxiliary Finance and Parking and Transportation in the Senior Vice Chancellor Business and Operations department. Sheehy coordinates Arrival Survival. Photographed on the Lichtfield Towers patio July, 21, 2017.

Kevin Sheehy, director of auxiliary finance and parking and transportation, coordinates Arrival Survival each year.

Thousands of Pitt freshmen will show up on campus beginning Aug. 21, for Arrival Survival’s 22nd annual move-in week. They’ll come to Oakland with parents (and sometimes grandparents) in tow, in cars stuffed with half their households. They’ll be greeted by hundreds of returning students and staff members who have volunteered to answer questions and push carts; by the Pitt marching band and cheerleaders; by coffee and donuts and pizza and ice cream; and finally – just before they are let to fly on their own for the first time – by Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. They’ll need to park and unload, and figure out how to get around campus, how their food plan works, and on and on.

How do Pitt staff members who run Arrival Survival survive it each year?

Kevin Sheehy has been running Arrival Survival, Pitt’s coordinated week of campus residence move-ins, for the past decade – it’s just one of his duties as director of both the auxiliary finance and the parking, transportation and services offices.

Sheehy says it takes “the whole campus” to make Arrival Survival happen each year, from the student housing and food service offices to Oakland community groups (who help local restaurants prepare for the influx of hungry families) and UPMC (which lends some of its parking facilities to Pitt). “Everybody is pulled into it,” he said, “and that doesn’t even count the staff volunteers from all the departments” – more than 200 each year.

“It’s really a program students put on to help fellow students,” he added, pointing to the nearly 700 returning sophomores, juniors and seniors who work as the frontline forces: greeting families, pushing carts into dorm rooms and answering a blizzard of questions from the new students and their families.

“Biggest shock is, they love to do it,” he said. “They remember their experience as incoming freshmen and they feel it’s a way to give back.” He employs two student Arrival Survival coordinators who make sure every student post is filled, that students show up to their stations and that there are enough carts and ice cream to keep everyone happy.

“When I went to college, the parents barely slowed down the car” to drop their kids off, Sheehy said. There was no week of activities. “Pitt is a little different,” he said.

Arrival Survival, By the Numbers infographic

Arrival Survival, By the Numbers (click to enlarge)

Arrival Survival really begins the moment students are admitted to the University, when they start receiving news and information about the event. But parts of the college experience can still seem mysterious to incoming new students until they arrive on campus, and they may harbor quite a few worries as well. “It’s a tough week for a lot of parents, so anything we can do to comfort them and put them more at ease” is of paramount importance, he said. “We want to be able to answer any and all questions the student or parent may have.”

Planning for this year’s program began during last year’s Arrival Survival, when some of Sheehy’s crew were assigned to take notes on what needed tweaking. Then the formal planning began with the start of the academic year last fall.

Ten years ago, when Sheehy started with Arrival Survival, members of the team used to spend a full month stuffing paper information packets to mail. Now all the information families need is online.

“I think we’ve gotten better with traffic signs, figuring out where students are coming from and spreading them out over the three days” of freshman arrival, he added. Upperclassmen, who arrive on Thursday and Friday of Arrival week, need far less help moving in, he noted.

Freshmen are another story. There is much organizers and volunteers have to handle on the spot. Some families will arrive on campus and only then think to ask: How big is the dorm room? “They’ll bring small U-Hauls with couches, large TVs, 20 totes full of shoes,” Sheehy said. “They’ll ask, ‘Are we going to be able to fit all this in the room?’ And we smile and say, probably not – start with the essentials and go from there.”

Arrival Survival workers guide families to the best restaurants for a send-off meal, and the right stores to purchase items forgotten at home. From the Arrival Survival hub, located on the quad between the William Pitt Union and the University Store on Fifth, workers direct families to the right booth for IT support from Computing Services and Systems Development, for retrieving their season tickets for football, and even for connecting with alumni relations.

“Every now and then I’ll grab a cart and push it,” Sheehy said. “I’ll walk up to a mom and say, ‘It’s all right – we’re going to take care of them.’ You’ll have people coming up to you, saying ‘I was dreading this but you made it as smooth as possible.’”

Now, a month before Arrival Survival, Sheehy is looking forward to the event – again. He says the mood is infectious among the volunteers as well: “The students coming back on campus breathe a new life into Oakland.”


Marty Levine,, 412-758-4859


Leave a Reply