Incoming students to Brock University are being offered the chance to experience a bit of the great outdoors before starting their studies this fall. Called Brock BaseCamp, the program runs from mid-July until late August and offers first-year students the choice of participating in either a five-day canoe trip, five-day backpacking trip, or three-day rock-climbing trip.
The program is the brainchild of Tim O’Connell, associate professor of recreation and leisure studies at Brock. Its purpose, he says, is two-fold: it gives third- and fourth-year students in his department, who lead the expeditions, a chance to gain some practical summer experience; and it offers the incoming students the chance to meet new people and have some fun. “Really what we’re after is creating a sense of community and creating an opportunity for friendships to develop,” says Dr. O’Connell.
Aside from teaching a few outdoor skills, the student leaders will deliver a more formal university orientation, including healthy choices around nutrition and fitness, drug and alcohol awareness, time management, and other tips and tricks of campus life.
There are numerous examples of outdoor orientation programs at U.S. universities, says Dr. O’Connell, but to his knowledge this is the first such program at a Canadian one.
Brock BaseCamp was offered for the first time last summer as a pilot project for a handful of students; this year’s program will be able to accommodate 78 registrants. Dr. O’Connell says he’d love to see the program expanded further to accommodate specific groups, such as graduate students or integrated groups of international and domestic students.
Many years ago I participated in an optional off campus trip that St. Lawrence University offered to incoming freshmen. At the time, SLU presented them as “Orientation Trips.” Unfortunately, I do not remember ever course I enrolled in during my 4 years there, but nearly 30 years later, I still have fond memories of my orientation trip experience; it provided a great start to a new chapter of my life. Bravo for Tim O’Connell and Brock University for initiating this program and providing this opportunity to their students.
I second Lisa’s “bravo” and wish you great success! At my alma mater, Dartmouth College, the Dartmouth Outing Club has run trips for incoming students for 75 years. These optional trips have grown into a beloved tradition.