Campus Life 101: WSC Offers Various Activities to Help Students Settle in to the First Week of School
Aug. 24, 2009 -- With boxes of ramen noodles, TVs, microwaves and snowboards in tow, Western State College students began moving into the residence halls on Friday, Aug. 21. WSC staff and faculty, Mountaineer basketball players and the Rotary Club all pitched in to help the 840 students move into their new digs.
Freshman Sarah Ward gets her feet wet whitewater kayaking with fellow new students during a Wilderness Based Orientation outing with the college's Wilderness Pursuits program.
"It’s frightening, but joyful," remarked Marjorie Lynn Meder on sending her first child, Ashley, off to college. The freshman from Denver admitted she was "a little nervous" about starting school on Monday, but seemed eager about her new-found independence. Those sentiments were echoed by parents and students alike throughout move-in day.
"It was a long day, but the Residence Life staff and I were excited to meet and speak with all of the students throughout the day," said Kevin Taylor, assistant director of housing and residence life. "There was much enthusiasm about beginning the school year (and perhaps also getting away from home)."
Classes started on Aug. 24. The first week of college brings a mixed bag of emotions for students, especially those who are new to campus. To help with the transition to college life, the Office of Campus Life and Orientation along with the Program Council hosts the Week of Welcome, a series of activities to bring students together and show them everything the college has to offer. Campus-wide games, such as Ultimate Frisbee and capture-the-flag, outdoor concerts and free weekend trips hosted by Wilderness Pursuits (WP) help students start friendships and become more comfortable with their new "home."
Some new students got a jump-start at Western this summer through the Wilderness Based Orientation (WBO) outings organized by the college’s Wilderness Pursuits office. This unique program offers a variety of outdoor excursions exclusively for incoming students. Among this year’s trips were sea kayaking in the Gunnison Valley, backpacking in Lake City and Crested Butte, whitewater rafting through Cataract Canyon on the Colorado River, and a weeklong mountaineering expedition through the San Juan Mountains. Highly trained WSC students, who have Wilderness First Responders certification, guide the trips and provide entry-level instruction to participants.
Sarah Ward from Augusta, Ga., was among the 70 new students who participated in a WBO trip this summer. She got her feet wet whitewater kayaking the rivers of the Gunnison Valley in August. Simply put, she had a "blast."
"It was my first time whitewater kayaking and I definitely got to push my limits and comfort zone, which is always good," she said. "Our guides, Buck [Crocket] and Tom [Sunderland], were amazing. They were some of the coolest people I have ever met."
According to WP Director Janna Hansen, studies have shown that students who participate in wilderness orientations are more likely to remain at the college and graduate. In addition to helping students connect with their peers, the outings help them develop decision-making and problem-solving skills, as well as boost their confidence as they step outside their comfort zones. The student-led programs also enable new students to connect with upperclassman who serve as role models and provide them with realistic expectations of college.
"This is a difficult time for students as they transition into college life. They are unsure about so many things, such as making friends and fitting in on campus. WBO allows students to form a cohort before they come to campus. The trips help them develop bonds and new relationships. I see a lot of seniors who are still friends with classmates they met on a WBO trip," Hansen remarked.
The Week of Welcome wraps up this weekend. Friday’s events include an open mic hosted by WSC student Evan Bennett and free music at the Gunnison Arts Center. On Saturday, the Mountaineers take on Fort Hays State at 1 p.m. for the first football game of the season. Other Saturday events include the Butte Bouldering Bonanza competition hosted by the WSC Climbing Team from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Crested Butte and the 24-Hour Play Performance (featuring plays produced by students in a single day) at 7:30 p.m. in the Studio Theatre of Taylor Hall.