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Oleg Salimov painted a handrail in the lobby of Miller Hall, one of the final touches in the dormitory sporting new stenciled artwork.

Downstairs, a painted scoreboard greeted people in one stairwell.

On one landing, the outline of a grizzly bear decorated a new safety panel, and on another, the iconic grizzly paw print adorned the window cover.

"Hopefully, the kids will like it. It kind of brings out the school spirit," said Salimov, a journeyman painter with the University of Montana's Facilities Services.

On Thursday, UM was in preparation mode for the onslaught of students arriving next week. Classes start Aug. 31, and an upcoming student orientation Thursday and ensuing move-in weekend soon will bring nearly 14,000 more people to campus – and an influx to the community as well.

In the days before their arrival, UM staff and faculty were completing final tasks before the start of the school year. Provost Perry Brown, racing into the president's office at Main Hall, was also anticipating the fresh vibe from the student body soon to descend on campus.

"That energy just goes like this, you know," said Brown, moving his hands higher and higher. "It's really cool."

***

At the UC Market, student workers Alex Cook and Sampo Hall were in the midst of some deep cleaning.

The duo took turns standing on a ladder to vacuum the tops of the lights in the market and holding the ladder steady. Cleaning isn't always a favorite chore, but Hall saw at least one tangible benefit to ensuring the grocery store and espresso shop were spic and span. 

"You get to wear a jet-pack," Hall said of the vacuum mounted with shoulder straps like a backpack.

Kevin Wright, market manager, said the crew had been gearing up the past month or so for the start of school. The reward would come when smiling students lined up before class for their mochas and lattes. 

"Our espresso bar folks, they really love finding a way to make somebody's day," Wright said.

At The Source, the welcome and information booth at the University Center, Amy Robertson was bracing herself for all the fans who would want to pick up tickets Monday to the upcoming football game against North Dakota State.

Robertson, student supervisor at The Source, said the question of the month has been this: "How do I get my tickets?"

Student ticket distribution takes place the Monday before each Griz home game, and Robertson was getting ready to hand them out.

***

In the Liberal Arts Building, Karin Schalm had just purchased airline tickets for fiction writer Stacey D'Erasmo to come to Missoula for the creative writing program's visiting writer series.

"I'm about to send out a calendar for the whole year to our incoming MFA students," said Schalm, creative writing program coordinator. 

The calendar maps out events from beginning to end, starting with a meet-and-greet Tuesday and ending with commencement far, far away. She's seeing her colleagues in the building ramp up for the school year, too.

"The lights are on, more or less, in the offices," Schalm said.

Upstairs, Matthew Taylor was organizing papers in his office in the Economics Department and responding to student emails.

This summer, he worked on revising a paper on how people acquire information about risky choices in order to resubmit it to an academic journal. Really, he said, he and many other professors work all summer long because it's time they can use to focus on their own projects.

"That's when we get a lot of research done," Taylor said.

***

In one dorm, Hailey Michelson was getting ready to meet new students next week, along with the inevitable "helicopter parents." Thursday was quiet in the Miller Hall lobby, and she was looking forward to the bustle in the coming days.

In the meantime, the Residence Life staff member was ensuring the fire alarm in the dorm was up and running. The system is new, and she was going to make sure it would stay active in the case of a power loss.

"We're doing our final test with the fire panel," Michelson said.

No doubt the fire panel would get a passing grade, one way or the other, and soon.

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