The transition from high school to college is a difficult one to make. For incoming freshmen the first day of college can be very intimidating, especially when they don’t know where their first class is or who will be in it. Although the first day can be nerve-racking and stressful, it will go a little smoother for the 150 students who attended Cub Camp this year.
Cub Camp is the three-day, two-night experience for incoming freshmen. It gives them the opportunity to spend that time with upper classmen, faculty, and staff. Cub Camp began in 2004 and this last year had just over 150 incoming freshmen in attendance. Jory Christensen has been involved in Cub Camp as a camper in 2008, a counselor in 2009, and finally in the leadership position of Yellow Camp Chair in 2010.
He explains Cub Camp as a “giant icebreaker. For three days they [incoming freshmen] are challenged to leave their comfort zone and make new friends while continually learning.” It is an important step in the transition from high school to college. “It’s not just about students acting silly; it’s not purely social. They actually learn about starting college,” said Kerri Hughes, the Director of Cub Camp.
Planning for Cub Camp begins in late September the year before when the counselors and chairs are selected. Skits are prepared, banners are painted, and guest speakers are booked. The counselors work throughout the summer to develop the best experience possible for the incoming freshmen.
Once they arrive on the first day, “Cub Campers” are divided up into color camps and are then assigned to smaller “Den Groups” of five to eight with an upper classmen counselor as their “Den Group Leader.” They have various speakers from the campus and surrounding community as well as themed mixers to end each night. Freshmen come in as strangers, but leave with new friends and an excited attitude about their upcoming college experience.
Cub Camp was originally an off-campus experience, but two years ago the program moved on campus. Students have three days to become acquainted with the different buildings and people on campus. They meet staff from the different colleges and departments, learn UA Fort Smith traditions, learn where they’ll be living, and where their classes will be. All of this in hopes to make that first day a little easier.
“It gives an extra sense of comfort. Coming to college is a major change from high school no matter what the size of the university. Cub Camp helps to break down the stigma of high school cliques and gives the campers the courage to seek out information,” said Kerri Hughes.
Dr. Lee Krehbiel, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, said, “I personally have heard from students that Cub Camp helped them understand the university and sparked a desire to get involved in campus life right off the bat. That story, multiplied by dozens, begins to have a positive cumulative effect on the activity and spirit level we see.”
He added that Cub Camps strives “for a balanced approach” between social involvement and academics. Cub Camp is an important tool for allowing students to see the possibilities for their college experience. It opens doors and allows them to make new friendships with peers, upperclassmen, faculty, and staff. Cup Camp may only last three days, but leaves each camper with a lifetime of memories.