Move-Out: A Season of Cross-Departmental Collaboration 

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Amid the budding cherry blossoms of April, students at Northeastern University’s Boston campus pack their suitcases and part with friends before catching flights and trains home for the summer.  

Move out season is in full swing, and the campus experiences a unique transformation as the once bustling community of 15,000 residents reduces to 4,000. Yet, within the now quiet campus, Northeastern’s Planning Real Estate and Facilities (PREF) division is a flurry of activity as departments unite with dedication to prepare the campus for the next semester. 

“Everything is cyclical. It’s all cyclical,” said Mark Boulter, Senior Director of Building Services at PREF. Before the campus can welcome summer students, Building Services meticulously inspects every single room, ensuring the space is cleaned, the walls are patch-painted, the trash is removed, and the lights are working. As more than 10,000 residents vacate their rooms, the enormous magnitude of the workload demands longer hours from the team. Despite the daunting workload, their unwavering diligence drives them to turn spaces around quickly, often completely transforming a dorm room in a matter of hours. 

Turning a room around for a new set of residents isn’t always simple. Many students vacate their spaces and leave behind their belongings, which Building Services must dispose of responsibly. Scott Peterson, Director of Building Services, has worked closely with Boulter over the last decade to ensure that these items are donated to Northeastern’s student-led sustainability organization, Trash2Treasure. 

“We want to make sure we can take it. Reuse it. We can donate it one way or the other,” Peterson explained. The initiative that Trash2Treasure takes on is indispensable; their support allows these items to live a second life and serves as a guiding light towards the eco-conscious commitment behind Northeastern’s move-out process.  

Yet, the task doesn’t end with cleaning. Furniture, appliances, and other equipment must be located. This crucial task falls under Bob Middendorf, Director of Transportation Warehouse and Fleet Management. Middendorf and his team orchestrate the logistics of moving these items across campus.  

“The Transportation department is flooded during move out” explained Middendorf, our team is being pulled in any and every direction at once between moving furniture and appliances across campus, to setting up equipment for all the end-of-year events. But despite the chaos, the team’s strong sense of camaraderie ensures that support is always readily available. “And a nice sunny day always helps,” Middendorf humorously added.  

Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Simultaneously, as Building Services attends to the dorm room conditions and Transportation transfers furniture and equipment to their necessary destinations, PREF’s Recycling and Solid Waste Manager, Prentice Cox, navigates his crew in and out of residential halls to manage the escalating garbage.  

The crew must make their way through 38 residential halls at least two to three times per day during move-out as trash piles grow into high mounds that often cover the entirety of the floor and double the height of the trash bins. Early in the mornings, Cox and his group can barely walk across the space and must work from the outside in to empty out the trash accumulated overnight. While a few crew members tackle one building, others are sent to scout other buildings to escalate their efficiency and define priority areas. 

Cox and his team know that anything can happen during move-out week. From breaking machinery to overflowing trash rooms, they have to be ready to react quickly – that’s why preparation and collaboration are essential. “It’s not just a recycling department, it’s a group of departments working together,” said Cox. 

Meanwhile, the Customer Service team is also knee-deep in the move-out hustle, acting as an intermediary between students and staff. From electrical issues to clogged toilets, Northeastern’s Customer Service Department is bombarded with over 300 work requests per shift from students and Resident Assistants.  

“It’s like a surgeon. You are triaging each work order that comes in” explains Inger Brown, Customer Service Manager. With work orders flooding their inbox at all hours of the day, move-out is a test of their speed and agility; but without their unrelenting efforts, these requests wouldn’t land in the right hands to be resolved promptly. Brown emphasizes that it’s a critical role that ensures that the move-out process runs as smoothly as possible.   

Most of those requests go to Meaghan Healey, Senior Director of Trades Operations, and her trades teams. As soon as the rooms are vacated, Trades dive into all the preventative maintenance efforts which take place throughout the summer. 

“We work all summer so that students walk into a perfect room,” Healey said. With thousands of work-orders filed by Resident Assistants who check the rooms once students leave, the trade shops are busy tackling repairs ranging from carpentry to card access keypads, electrical issues, plumbing issues, heating or ventilation, and more. 

The move-out process is a tremendous undertaking that requires Northeastern’s PREF essential personnel to give their all as over 10.000 students exit the campus – and yet the powerful solidarity and drive for community-oriented work instilled across PREF secures a smooth, stealthy process for campus transition, service, and restoration. 

“It’s the fact that the communication is so rich between all these groups,” Cox said. “That’s why move-out is really sosuccessful. We can’t just highlight one department – it’s all of us working together collectively.” 


Written By Tula Singer. May 27th, 2024 
Photos by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University