Ram Camp Welcomes Ag Students to CSU

Diving into campus life is a key to academic success for university students, and the Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences has a model program to help its undergraduates jump right in.

Called Ram Camp, the program caps orientation for incoming freshmen and transfer students at the start of each fall semester. Ram Camp is part of a university-wide transition program Aug. 18-21 for new CSU students, called Ram Welcome, yet the College of Agricultural Sciences program is the only one of its kind on campus tailored for students enrolled in a specific college.

“During Ram Camp, we welcome and celebrate our most important tradition – our students,” said Ruben Flores, assistant director of undergraduate programs for the College of Agricultural Sciences. “We convey the concept that, ‘You are part of our family, the ag family.’ This is an important part of their transition because it gets students engaged, helps them feel connected, and puts them on a path for academic success.”

About 250 freshmen and transfer students will participate in 2011 Ram Camp on Aug. 19.

During the daylong program, the students will meet with faculty in their home departments, hear about majors and career options, participate in activities that introduce core concepts, and gather for a college barbecue. The college’s student leadership group, called Ag Ambassadors, leads much of the day – allowing new students to connect with established students.

“The Ag Ambassadors have already gone through many of our classes, and they share their experiences. The new students really identify with the established students. Couple that with the hands-on activities, and it really resonates,” Flores said.

Indeed, a growing body of research shows that student success – the acquisition of essential knowledge and skills, and the ability to graduate in a timely way – often is tied to campus activities that motivate college students to learn and grow. Activities that provide useful interaction with professors and other students, and build smaller “learning communities,” often are especially effective.

“Voluminous research on college student development shows that the time and energy students devote to educationally purposeful activities is the single best predictor of their learning and personal development,” according to the book “Student Success in College: Creating Conditions that Matter,” published in 2005 by Jossey-Bass.

The College of Agricultural Sciences uses Ram Camp to start students on this path.

Jess Milstein, an Ag Ambassador who will help lead Ram Camp, said she attended the program as a freshman, and it helped her connect with people and resources she would need during her academic career.

“In our college, you always have people there for you,” said Milstein, now a sophomore majoring in agricultural education. “The student-to-student connection also puts an extra emphasis on education.”

Shelby McCracken, who graduated from high school among a class of just 10 students in a tiny town on Colorado’s Eastern Plains, said Ram Camp aided his successful adjustment to a campus of some 25,000 students.

“I was really worried coming to CSU. But on that first day at Ram Camp, I met students in my classes, and it made me feel more comfortable,” said McCracken, now a junior studying agricultural education and sociology. He also is an Ag Ambassador who will help lead Ram Camp.

“Ram Camp helped me put my roots in the ground here, and I hope I can help other students do the same,” he said. “I hope we can show incoming students that we’re here for them. Our college really is a family, and we strive to make new students feel comfortable.”