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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Bear Down Camp outshines traditional new student orientation

    As another school year begins, incoming students are bombarded by the hundreds of opportunities to get involved on campus through joining clubs, playing intramural sports, and Greek life. The one to two-day bore fest we call New Student Orientation is typically an incoming student’s first exposure to these opportunities. For students who feel orientation might be too overwhelming, Bear Down Camp is a four-day program that fully immerses new students in the UA experience more than traditional orientation held on the UA campus.

    BDC is a four-day long camp that fully immerses new students in the UA experience more than traditional orientation held on the UA campus. All camp counselors, or Gatos, are past participants.
    “The counselors were incredibly spirited and kindhearted, and they truly cared for their campers,” said former camper Tiffany Feller. She added that BDC “is an amazing way to meet people before school even started.”

    Created in 1997 by ASUA Senator Summer Katzenbach, the mission of BDC is to “provide a supplemental and integrative introduction to the University of Arizona for incoming freshmen students in order to improve their connection, retention and overall success.”

    A 2006 study in the Journal for Research in Higher Education cites that students involved in one or more activities on campus were more likely to continue at their university than uninvolved students, and BDC has demonstrated its ability to help students do just that. In a survey, 99 percent of campers became involed in other programs on campus.

    Traditional new student orientation does the bare minimum to situate students on campus and lacks the practical information freshmen actually want to know. Unlike at orientation, BDC provides students the opportunity to receive honest answers to questions about alcohol, drugs and sex in college that might feel awkward to ask during orientation. With student workshops like “Tradition, spirit and history of campus” and “Wildcat Diversity,” students experience the chance to learn to be an active student section member ­while learning about campus culture. According to the same survey, more than 90 percent of students felt prepared and would recommend the program to other incoming freshmen.

    “It’s so beneficial to incoming freshmen. It teaches you firsthand things that you don’t get to learn at orientation. It’s the little things that upperclassmen take for granted, like making friends and getting involved. It’s an awesome solution,” said Associated Students of the University of Arizona President Morgan Abraham.

    Instead of presenting information in lengthy and arduous lectures, BDC breaks students into smaller groups and is able to incorporate group discussions and activities to provide students with a more thorough understanding of the topics.

    Executive Director of BDC Chelsea Dysko reported that “100 percent [of respondents] agreed that the program helped them better understand the history and traditions of our school.”
    While BDC costs $120, as opposed to the free orientation, it offers meaningful information and an inside look at the heritage, traditions, and history of the UA. Traditional new student orientation explains the bare bones of the UA, while Bear Down Camp presents the bare bones in a new and enticing way to excite students about becoming involved on campus and prepare campers for success.

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