“Woooooo Pig Sooie!”
The energy of the familiar chant echoes across the campus at the start of each semester. But it’s not coming from the Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium or a game day pep rally at the Greek Theatre. No, the voices belong to the newest Razorbacks participating in a different campus tradition.
This August, nearly 800 students participated in the ROCK Camp orientation at the University of Arkansas. Intended to welcome new students to the U of A, the program teaches freshmen what it truly means to be a Razorback through immersion in campus life.
According to Whitney Jones, assistant director of New Student & Family Programs, providing this program for students at the start of their career can be crucial to their success.
“Students find their identity in their first few years, and those early moments on campus often decide how a student will do in the rest of their college career,” Jones said. “If we are able to help the students feel connected, like the university is their home, then we will almost always see those students graduate. ROCK Camp is a fun and unique way to do that.”
Speakers and presentations make new students aware of offices and programs available to help them in their collegiate careers. Service projects teach the importance of giving back to the U of A community. Team-building challenges brings participants together and help them form fast friendships with peers.
Each event is designed to make new students comfortable in their first semester on campus and feel a part of the Razorback community. But the lessons taught in the program last far beyond freshman year, with many students later returning to give back. This year, 40 upperclassmen volunteered their time to serve as mentors for the program.
“We have a passion here that can’t be duplicated. I love being a Razorback and sharing that with freshmen, teaching them what all goes into that. There’s nothing like it.”
Senior Apparel Merchandising major Sharnell Coleman joined the ROCK Camp leadership team for her third consecutive year and said she learns something new each time.
“I didn’t get to participate in ROCK Camp as a freshman, and as a result I think I was more quiet and really didn’t have much of a voice my first year,” Coleman said. “But once I got involved as a mentor, so many doors opened for me. I can confidently say that ROCK Camp is why I am a leader.”
Mentors like Coleman go through a rigorous program before being selected. Jones said they look to find upperclassmen who are adaptable, can work well with others, and, most importantly, exhibit extraordinary levels of Razorback pride.
Though ROCK Camp is only one of many extended orientation programs offered at national colleges, coordinators, participants, and mentors agree there is something special about the U of A way of doing things.
“We have a passion here that can’t be duplicated,” Coleman said. “I love being a Razorback and sharing that with freshmen, teaching them what all goes into that. There’s nothing like it.”
To make sure ROCK Camp stays relevant to incoming students, Jones and her team are constantly looking to improve the experience for participants.
“We try to be very attentive to the desires of the incoming students,” Jones says, “and one thing that we consistently see is that our students are already arriving with a great deal of Razorback pride. They love the idea of calling the Hogs and being a part of what we have here. ROCK Camp just immerses them into that lifestyle and they love it!”
Feedback from students has led to new versions of ROCK Camp being offered. In addition to the traditional ROCK Camp sessions, U of A has created ROCK Camp Adventure and ROCK Camp Service. These camps all contain traditional elements of the extended orientation, but each has a unique twist.
According to freshman Everett Lilly, who attended ROCK Camp Service and traditional ROCK Camp, there is benefit to attending multiple camps.
“I think the combination of the two camps really set me up for success here,” Lilly said. “I came here not knowing anyone else, but by the end of ROCK Camp, I made new friendships, learned about volunteer opportunities in the area, and even called the Hogs for the first time!”
It is the appreciation from students like Everett that makes Coleman so enthusiastic to be a mentor.
“I came here not knowing anyone else, but by the end of ROCK Camp I made new friendships, learned about volunteer opportunities in the area, and even called the Hogs for the first time!”
“ROCK Camp is a commitment and it’s a lot of work,” Coleman said, “but when you see students meeting new people and really finding their place, it’s so rewarding. They say thank you and tell you how much you’ve impacted them, and it’s just really powerful.”
Lilly says there should be no question about whether or not students should attend ROCK Camp, and for students who are unsure, he has some advice.
“Just do it,” Lilly said. “If you have the ability to go, you should. Why not put yourself out there, meet great people, and go have fun?”
Want to support students like Everett Lilly?
Learn more about how your generous gifts can help support students like Everett Lilly in the ROCK Camp program. For more information about giving to ROCK Camp directly, contact Carolyn Collins at 479-575-5007 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Development Graduate Assistant, Division of Student Affairs
Matthew Matney is a graduate assistant with the Development office for Student Affairs at the University of Arkansas. Matt helps to tell the story of the Division of Student Affairs by highlighting outstanding students and featuring programs through his writing. Matt is pursuing his M.A. in Communications at the U of A.