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Trends and Issues in Higher Ed

February 26, 2016

UW Bothell’s Husky Leadership Camp

First years interested in leadership get a head start with the right tools and a network of peers

Orientation & Transition Programs at UW Bothell offers incoming students multiple ways to begin their university journey. Its award-winning Husky Leadership Camp (HLC) is one such choice that uses leadership as an organizing concept to bring together students from all backgrounds before they begin their courses in the fall.

“I think the whole camp is a way for the students to learn about themselves, and to learn about their leadership style,” says Taylor Sims, a senior studying community psychology and consciousness studies and who has been both a participant and a student organizer for this supplemental orientation program. Structured as a three-day retreat, it provides students with tools for leadership and personal success in order to create their most fulfilling Husky Experience.

How Husky Leadership Camp gets students involved

Taylor Sims, UW Bothell Senior

Senior Taylor Sims kicked off his college career with Husky Leadership Camp and now mentors incoming students as an Orientation Leader. Photo courtesy of Taylor Sims.

Incoming students learn about HLC when they sign up for their Advising & Orientation Program. It is currently offered on a first-come, first-served basis for $100, although the organizers are looking into adding an application and developing a process for providing financial aid. Other similar programs for transfer and international students are also being considered.

Sims, who took a year off after high school graduation, saw HLC as a way to become familiar with the Bothell community. “I was never really involved in school other than sports, but then I saw how much fun my friends were having at college, so I signed up [for Husky Leadership Camp]. It’s nice to have that first connection when you walk into class and know somebody,” says Sims. “To me that was the biggest plus.”

According to Terry Hill, director of Orientation & Transition Programs, the primary goal is helping students get a jump start on leadership opportunities their first year. Along with that, the camp addresses a common student concern: “We know many students…feel like they are starting over and it can be intimidating to try and get involved,” says Hill. HLC helps them figure out where to start and to identify what they have to offer in a new environment, regardless of their level of involvement in leadership opportunities prior to enrolling at UW Bothell.

Leadership activities introduce new skills or build on existing ones: As a student organizer for HLC, Sims has learned about the important connections among self-discovery, reflection and leadership style. At the camp, new students spend time bonding and thinking about skills through games and activities grounded in student development theory. “They all come in with different styles, so the games show them that they can work together to get the task done,” he says.

Also embedded in the program is a diversity training module. Through this segment, students learn how to work through difference and with people of diverse identities, whether that means different ethnicities, socioeconomic status or even personality types. Reflecting upon this element of HLC, Sims added, “Our community is leadership-oriented around diversity, so it’s how a UW Bothell student can show this and the leadership perspective we gain from coming here.”

Peer-to-peer insight makes the challenges of new college experiences more manageable: Orientation & Transition Programs made a purposeful decision to put much of HLC’s organization and implementation in the hands of student leaders. Hill points out that this eases the transition for incoming students since they are likely to see the student Orientation Leaders who ran HLC when they are making their way around campus during the first few weeks of the quarter.

This peer-to-peer approach helps new students feel as though they have someone to talk to or ask questions. “Plenty of students come in with no idea of how the system works, so we assist them anyway we can — give advice about work and courses, what the workload is like,” says Sims. The time management workshop was particularly popular for the way the students broke down the hours they spend outside class each day. “We can use our personal experience as students to get them to think about a different perspective,” says Sims.

Putting new skills into practice with leadership opportunities reserved for camp participants: To continue the learning initiated through the HLC program, its organizers provide participants direct paths into campus volunteer opportunities. In addition to meeting the needs of campus organizations, this is intended to help the students stay connected to their network
while branching out to build new ones. Such opportunities include working with ASUW-Bothell, the Campus Activities Board and the Universal Leadership Conference committee.

Kimberley Cross is a first-year student who is now vice president of the Residence Hall Association after attending the 2015 HLC. “Husky Leadership Camp allowed me to use skills and apply them to a new environment,” says Cross. “One of the concepts we discussed was inspiring a shared vision, and I have done that in my current leadership position and in my classes. What this essentially means is contributing to something that everyone in a group wants, or motivating others to help create an environment or outcome that is wanted by everyone.”

Reflecting on the outcomes

UW Bothell Students at Husky Leadership Camp

The activities at Husky Leadership Camp are designed to encourage self-discovery and reflection, and help students form a community so that when the academic year starts, they see some familiar faces around campus. Photo courtesy of UW Bothell Student Affairs.

A spring reunion is an opportunity to bring HLC members back together to check in with each other and with peer mentors. “We have them reflect as a group on their experiences so far, and set goals for the rest of the year,” says Hill.

The efforts and organization are paying off. “So many of our student leaders on campus have actually done the camp,” says Hill. “It’s great to hear them talk about how the camp really helped them jump in.”

Sims himself is an example of a student who recognized the immediate and longer-term benefits of the HLC program. Today, as an Orientation Leader, he works with new students throughout the year.

“It’s leadership, so the whole point is taking that next step in your education,” says Sims. “If you’re at HLC, you’re an ambassador showing what a UW student should be.”

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