Incoming students bond with classmates and connect to campus during inaugural 'Wolves. Orientation. Wilderness.' program

September 18, 2009

Nineteen incoming UM-Dearborn students participated in the campus's new outdoor orientation program. They are (front row, from left) Eric Will, Matthew Mazurek, Gerard Roberson (middle row, from left) Dhanya Menon, Rachel Bawol, Ashley Garner, Rachael Lawrukovich, Ian Cartmill, Chelsea Cobb, David Gardocki, Allison Boatright, and Daniel Dakoske (back row, from left) John Yoon, Devon Moore, Simon Michalik, Elizabeth Bara, Megan Roemmele, Amanda Dillon, and Saidah Murphy.

DEARBORN / Sept. 18, 2009---They came.  They paddled.  They conquered not only the exhilarating rapids of the Pine River in Irons, Mich. but a four-day outdoor adventure with future classmates and university administrators, too.

Nineteen incoming University of Michigan-Dearborn students said adios to summer last month by joining UM-Dearborn staff members for an inaugural canoeing excursion in the heart of western Michigan’s Manistee National Forest as part of a new orientation program called Wolves. Orientation. Wilderness.

"The intent of the program was to give these students a head start--a connection--with the university before the semester started,” said Kristine Day, director of student activities at UM-Dearborn, who served as a group leader during the four-day, three-night activity.  “The experience did that and even more, as evident by the relationships that were established at camp, and now strengthened on campus."

Simon Michalik, a freshman majoring in electrical engineering, found that the trip lived up to his expectations of being a great way to meet new people, easing the transition to campus life.

“I was absolutely amazed at how quickly all of us got to know each other,” Michalik said.  “After only a few days it seemed that we had known each other for months.  It's great to be able to walk around between classes and already know 18 other freshmen.  It certainly makes it easier to stay on campus all day if you have people you know to hang out with or eat lunch with between classes.”

The program, which has been in the works for three years, is a collaboration of UM-Dearborn’s Department of Athletics, the Office of Admissions and Orientation and the Student Activities Office.

Each student pays his or her way for the trip, which includes transportation to/from the site, all meals, canoe and camping equipment and a reflection journal, and provides his or her own personal hygiene items and sleeping bag.  University staff members serve as group leaders, guiding the students through canoeing and team-building activities along with active discussion around the campfire about hopes and fears of starting college and campus life.

The outing allows students to make a solid connection with campus staff members and provides an experience that confirms the approachable nature of the faculty and staff at UM-Dearborn, according to Steven Rotta, director of athletics at UM-Dearborn, who also served as a group leader for the trip.

"This was an excellent opportunity for us as staff to get to know this generation of young adults in a way our regular professional experience may not readily lend itself,” Rotta said.  “I hope that we can create a way for more staff and faculty to experience this adventure in the future."

Christopher Tremblay, director of admissions and orientation at UM-Dearborn who joined Rotta and Day in leading the group during the excursion, agrees.

“Until a few weeks ago, they were just an application and transcript that passed through the Admissions Office,” said Tremblay.  “Now, I know their personality.  It was a wonderful glimpse into their hearts and minds and their hopes, fears and dreams about entering college at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.  I was impressed by their attitudes, their interconnectedness and their focus.”

About UM-Dearborn
The University of Michigan-Dearborn is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout the 2009/2010 academic year. Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, UM-Dearborn has been distinguished by its commitment to providing excellent educational opportunities responsive to the needs of southeastern Michigan. The university has 8,700 students pursuing undergraduate, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in the liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business, education, and public administration. With a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of interaction with business, government and industry in southeastern Michigan, and is committed to responding to the needs of the region in the future.

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