It was a trip packed with fun outdoor activities—and a bunch of new friends.
About 20 first-year students made connections with University of Wisconsin Oshkosh staff and fellow students during a three-day Titan Camp adventure at Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo.
“The idea is to give these students a bit of a head start in making our campus feel like home for them,” said Greg Batten, assistant director of student recreation programs at UW Oshkosh. “They meet peers, get to know older students and meet staff and faculty who care about their success.”
Campers were placed in one of two trips that were held on consecutive weeks in mid-August. Included were talks each night around a campfire on ways to build success as a first-year student.
The days included a lot of climbing, rappelling and hiking as well as time at the lake kayaking and hiking some more.
The groups spent their final night in Oshkosh and used the next morning to bike around town and through campus, learning their way around the area.
“I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect but I had an amazing time,” said Joseph “Sifi” Fafalios, of Waukesha, who is a first-year student majoring in music business and recording technology. “It was such a unique experience to get out of my comfort zone and meet people who enjoy similar things. The counselors and student volunteers were extremely kind and understanding and never made us feel like kids on a camping trip, but like adults just hanging out doing fun outdoorsy things.”
Fafalios said the trip offered a great opportunity for campers to meet incoming students as well as upperclassmen and faculty—providing some familiar faces on campus.
He said he had a great time climbing and rappelling for the first time.
Claire Stone, of Lockport, Illinois, plans to major in Japanese. She said after trying climbing at Titan Camp, she is considering joining the University’s climbing club.
“Titan Camp helped me make friends and made me feel more comfortable about the campus and the town of Oshkosh,” she said.
Self-described as an “outgoing person,” Daytona Thelke, of Lake Mills, said the camp provided an opportunity to try new things and meet potential new friends as well as get more comfortable with campus.
The experience offered “people I’m comfortable going to if needed,” Thelke added.
Campus leaders focus on getting students connected to campus during the first few weeks of fall, knowing that the student’s engagement at the six-week mark is important to predicting future student success.
Art Munin, UW Oshkosh associate vice chancellor and dean of students, was part of the experience both weeks. He said he enjoyed joining the students for a day and leading a conversation about inclusive excellence.
“And, of course, I find a way to draw in music to the conversation so that I have an excuse to break out the acoustic guitar around the campfire,” he said. “We sang songs, ranging from Johnny B. Goode to the theme song from the movie Moana.”
Munin has been a camp facilitator since the program started in 2017.
“The connections these student draw through this experience goes a long way to setting them up for success their first year at UW Oshkosh,” Batten said.