|Vol. 17, No. 1||Sept. 4, 1997|
The first year of college can be a trying time for incoming students. At UD, the Department of Health and Exercise Sciences has developed a program to help incoming freshmen make the successful transition from high school to college.
At freshman camp, upperclass students and faculty help new students focus on the skills necessary for personal development and academic success.
"We are preparing them for campus life, and trying to get them ahead of the game academically," Maryann Rapposelli, Intercollegiate Athletics, Recreation Services, said.
The camp attempts to get students off on the right foot by focusing on a study skills block, which includes time management, reading and test-taking strategies and note taking.
Now in its fifth year, the freshman camp was developed jointly by health and exercise sciences faculty members Barbara Kelly and Ann Rhodes-McNeil, as a result of their involvement with a national group of freshman advocates called "Freshman Year Experience."
One aspect of the program designed by Kelly and McNeil involves an intense academic session where students are given tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MTBI), an experience that tells students a lot about themselves, and how they can best learn individually.
"It explains to them how others, especially students and faculty, have styles that may differ from their own," Rapposelli said. "It helps them to recognize these differences and deal with them more effectively."
While getting students to succeed in the classroom is the primary focus of the freshman camp, there is also a strong emphasis on physical challenges and learning to work together as a group.
While taking part in the camp, students lived together at Carpenter Sports Building (CSB), shared meals and took on physical challenges that fostered team-building skills.
One of the more imposing physical challenges was Giant's Ladder, an awe-inspiring, 30-foot structure of steel cable and wood that stands in the back of CSB facing the tennis courts. Here, campers had to function as a team in order to help each member reach the ladder's summit and return safely to the ground.
In addition, campers had to scamper down a 60-foot wooden wall located in the woods on Laird Campus, and they mastered a trapeze set.
Although these obstacles appear to be in the nature of a physical challenge, Rapposelli said they also test the campers mentally and physically.
"We try to get these people to look closely at the challenges that they put themselves through," she said. "We try to get them to correlate this to challenges they will be encountering in the new and very different world of their freshman year."
The success of the program was evidenced in the voices of the campers who had just completed three long days and nights of working together as a group.
"Negotiating Giant's Ladder establishes a sense of trust," said Julie Earman, an athletic training major from Severna Park, Md. "We all worked together, and we used each other's strengths and weaknesses to reach the top."
Earman and fellow campers also liked the idea of moving in early, which allowed them to do things like beat the crowd to the bookstore and set up individual e-mail accounts.
Meaghan Hall, an exercise science major from Salisbury, Mass., enjoyed the physical challenges and the opportunity to meet new people that the camp afforded.
"We didn't know what to expect when we got here," Hall said. "We went to many college-related activities and seminars and also got to do some physical things, like climbing the 60-foot tower."
Joe Rolewicz, from Newark, found the camp to be a good experience and said he would definitely recommend it to new students as a way to make friends.
"Everything in the camp is done as a group," Rolewicz said. "The result is that you end up with nearly 50 new friends."
This new-found friendship was instrumental in helping Rolewicz and his camp mates respond to some of the more challenging physical aspects of the camp.
"I've never thought I was afraid of heights, but it got interesting when we climbed the pole and reached for the trapeze," Rolewicz said. "The members of my team encouraged me to jump, and I thank them, because it helped me a lot."
Ashle Lukoff, a Wilmington native, found that the support among her group, the first team to go up the Giant's Ladder, helped campers like herself overcome certain fears and meet new challenges.
"We learned things for school and also for real-life situations," Lukoff said. "We also learned how to get along with other people, and to trust each other."
Photo by Robert Cohen