Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Privateer Camp Begins with Breakfast

pcampBright-eyed and bushy-tailed, more than 70 incoming freshmen sent up a cheer of "Geaux Blue!" at an 8 a.m. welcome breakfast, then boarded buses for Privateer Camp at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallmann, Miss.

Rolling out of bed on a weekday morning in summertime could be considered a chore by some teenagers, but this morning more than 70 fall freshmen at the University of New Orleans buzzed around breakfast tables making friends and sending up resounding cheers: GEAUX BLUE!

The newcomers to campus are headed to Privateer Camp, a three-day two-night freshman leadership retreat designed to help freshmen make new friends before school starts and optimize students' first-year University experience. The group will spend the next three days at Camp Wesley Pines, a retreat center in Gallman, Miss., practicing and learning new leadership skills.

"Privateer Camp filled up much faster this year," said Christy Heaton, associate director of Orientation and First Year Experience at UNO. "We had to close the event much faster. That's good. That means that people are excited about this."

Heaton started the program with Dale O'Neill, interim director of the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership, centering the three days of fun around three key principles: diversity, involvement and leadership. During the three-day session, fall freshmen will undergo education sessions on issues including: time management, transitioning from high school to college, how to get involved and how to balance involvement with academics.

Make no mistake: The three days are not classroom learning. Along the way fall freshmen will enjoy icebreaker games, volleyball, campfires, crawfish, tug-of-war and sailing. Divided into small groups called "Krewes," in true New Orleans fashion, the students will form new friendships and long-lasting bonds through friendly competition.

Around campfires and on couches, they will get a deep dose of UNO traditions, said O'Neill, who together with Heaton, said the Privateer Camp krewes typically turn out to be trail-blazers on campus.

Joining the students this morning for the annual Privateer Camp Breakfast and Send-Off were 20 "krewe leaders," upperclassmen who went through Privateer Camp as freshmen and now lead student activities on campus. Fifteen professional and graduate staff ready to board the 10 a.m. bus for Camp Wesley Pines with students and krewe leaders joined them too.

University leaders, faculty and staff from the new Privateer Enrollment Center and from across campus also turned out to give the future Privateer student leaders a warm welcome and send-off.

Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Brett Kemker sent up a round of whistles and cheers with a warm, heart-rending and spirit-rousing speech. He told the students to shout "Geaux Blue!" whenever they saw him and he would shout back.

"You are one of the smartest classes we have ever had on this campus," he told the students, alluding to increased admission standards demanding higher GPAs, higher standardized test scores and no remedial courses.

UNO is making a clear and obvious investment in expanding student affairs and enrollment management programs and resources to make sure that students have a positive experience at the University, said Charles Small, assistant athletic director for student-athlete enrichment. He believes the investment is a wise one.

"To me, the current students are the best recruiters we have," said Small, "because if they have a positive experience, they are going to talk to relatives, talk to students at their current high schools about what a great University this is."

Small attended the breakfast to help build connections.

"We want Athletics to be a way for students to be engaged on campus," Small said. "It's all about them having a great experience while they're at UNO and we want to be involved in that. We want to be visible at various programs that First Year Experience is coordinating, so that students will be comfortable with us, so they will see Athletics as an important part of the University and their experience. It's about building pride and excitement."


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