Camp Blue – a pre-orientation program put on by the university for incoming students – received a national award. Photos courtesy of Dr. Re’Shanda Grace-Bridges
News Staff Writer
This story was written before the suspension of in-person classes and closure of campus housing for most students due to the coronavirus pandemic
University of Dayton’s Office of Student Transitions and Family Programs (STFP) was recently awarded a Bronze Certificate for Camp Blue, the high-energy, action-packed week of leadership development that is open to all incoming first-year students.
The certificate was awarded by NASPA, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.
Considered to be an extended orientation experience, Camp Blue is one of the many programs put on by Student Transitions and Family Programs. Led by director Dr. Re’Shanda Grace-Bridges, the department plans all orientation and transition programming for incoming first-year and transfer students.
Because of its nature as an extended orientation program, Camp Blue won its award in the category of Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, First-Year, Other-Year, Orientation, and Related. The entire STFP Team was excited and proud when they were notified of their achievement.
“The NASPA Excellence Awards are a pretty big deal in the field of Student Affairs,” Grace-Bridges said. “Camp Blue fell into a very competitive category that receives some of the highest number of submissions each year. It really is an amazing accomplishment to be recognized.”
Camp Blue takes place at Camp Ernst, a YMCA campsite in Northern Kentucky, and on the University of Dayton campus. Students participate in a variety of presentations and activities designed to build leadership and make them aware of various resources available to them as Flyers.
“Camp Blue is a transition support tool that uses the lens of leadership development to support the transition of incoming students,” Grace-Bridges said.
While the focus on leadership is specific to the University of Dayton, many other universities put on similar camp programs as an extension of orientation.
The program at Dayton was developed by Grace-Bridges in August 2012, and since then, 747 incoming students have participated in the high and low ropes courses, leadership competitions and team bonding activities that make Camp Blue such an exciting introduction to life as a Dayton Flyer.
Although not all first-year students attend Camp Blue, many hear about it from their friends after the fact and decide to apply to become upper-classmen counselors. This was the case for sophomore Megan Hernandez.
“A bunch of my friends had gone to camp and were going to be counselors, and they encouraged me to apply and said they thought I’d really like it,” Hernandez said. “I had heard a lot about camp from the other counselors and during training, so I was super excited to get to go. Camp definitely lived up to all the great things I had heard.”
According to Grace-Bridges, the thing most students say when reflecting on their time at Camp Blue is that the friends they made over the course of the week are still their friends, and she is proud that Camp Blue fosters such deep connections.
“My favorite part of Camp Blue was definitely all the people I met and the friends I made. I wanted to be a counselor so that I could help incoming first-years have the best experience possible,” said sophomore Elizabeth Gallagher, who went on to be a counselor for Camp Blue in 2019.
In addition to making new friends, students also recognize the leadership skills they gained from participating in Camp Blue.
“My favorite part about Camp Blue was getting to meet lots of new people and being able to experience new things in order to grow as both a leader and person,” Hernandez said.
Grace-Bridges said that Camp Blue gives students the confidence to embrace their leadership potential sooner than their peers who did not attend camp.
“It is really a jumpstart to getting your leadership development on. We’re seeing campers who started to not just join student organizations but to go out for leadership roles within student organizations at much earlier intervals than what was happening before camp existed,” she said.
In addition, students who have participated in Camp Blue become aware of the multitude of resources available to them on campus and learn how they can become involved sooner than their counterparts who do not participate.
“You can come to Camp and not even realize you’re learning because we’ve made learning fun,” Grace-Bridges said.
Camp Blue has traditionally taken place the week leading up to New Student Orientation, but the schedule will look slightly different in 2020 and beyond.
Due to new policies and guidelines regarding the recruitment of students, New Student Orientation will take place throughout the summer. Based on their school or college, incoming first-year students will be able to choose a day and a half orientation session when they will come to campus and become acquainted with various resources as well as participate in an evening social.
Camp Blue will take place Sunday, Aug. 16 through Thursday, Aug. 20. All other first-year students will move in on Friday, Aug. 21, and Welcome Weekend, which includes a Welcome Mass, Rudypalooza and other activities, will run through Sunday, Aug. 22.