By Danielle Rideau
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Many students are unsure how to get involved, but Bear Down Camp opens the door for many incoming freshmen, showing them the importance of campus involvement and easing the tensions of an intimidating college experience.
Bear Down Camp, sponsored by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, aims to raise the freshmen retention rate while introducing incoming freshmen to campus life and living away from home, said Eric Leisey, the camp's executive director and former camper.
"A lot of incoming freshmen don't know what to expect when they come to college; our goal is to brace them to open themselves up to new experiences," said Leisey, a pre-business freshman.
Head counselor Becca Rodl said Bear Down Camp makes the beginning of college easier for freshmen.
"Bear Down Camp helps alleviate some nerves. Because they went to camp, campers will know some kids on the first day and will have some people to sit with in classes," said Rodl, a political science freshman.
The camp, like an extension of orientation, provides students with an opportunity to bond with other incoming freshmen with activities to boost school spirit like UA trivia and traditions, Leisey said.
Many of the students involved with the camp are also involved with ASUA and student government, Leisey said, and counselors encourage campers to get involved in college.
"A lot of the counselors are from Freshmen Class Council and Sophomore Class Council," Leisey said. "They show the campers that academics will come regardless but getting involved and making a difference on campus is so fun and rewarding."
Rodl, who was also a camper last year, said she became involved with Bear Down Camp because she wanted to have a part in creating something for incoming freshmen.
"I wanted to be a part of Bear Down Camp because I wanted to get involved with ASUA as a freshman and have a part in making the beginning of school for incoming freshmen easier," Rodl said.
Many students who go to camp remain friends once school begins, Leisey said, and while other students are coming to college not knowing anyone, campers have a group of friends from the beginning.
Leisey said the camp made him excited about going to the UA as well as turning him into a diehard fan.
"I have so much school spirit and Bear Down Camp introduced me to body paint and having school pride," Leisey said.
Bear Down Camp started in 1997 and is loosely modeled after a camp with a similar premise, Fish Camp at Texas A&M University, said Jordan Miller, ASUA executive vice president who oversees the camp.
"Fish Camp is a lot bigger with 67 percent of the incoming class attending; Bear Down Camp is a lot smaller than that, but I think we could work up to that," said Miller, a marketing senior.
The three-day camp runs Aug. 14 to 17, Leisey said, and is held at Traigle Y Ranch Camp in Oracle.