Students' experiences during their first two months of college often determine whether they will muddle or soar through the next four years.
The two leading factors that determine whether students stay at the university are the connections they make with a faculty member or adviser and how engaged they are academically, said Rita Kean, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's dean of undergraduate studies.
With that in mind, the College of Engineering unrolled the welcome mat for the Class of 2010 before classes even started.
The college invited freshmen and exchange students to move to campus early and attend N.U.B.E. camp. Pronounced like "newbie," N.U.B.E. stands for Nebraska Undergraduates Becoming Engineers. The inaugural two-day camp was designed to let new students meet their classmates and professors before classes began.
To Kean's knowledge, engineering is the first department to offer such an event.
Jacob Greenburg of Creighton said his transition into cellege at UNL would be easier because he already knew people.
"We won't have that awkward first month where you walk around a classroom trying to find someone to talk to," said Greenburg, who also was grateful to meet a classmate with whom he could study calculus.
That built-in support system was what Bing Chen had in mind when he organized a retreat last summer for new students in the Department of Computer and Electronics Engineering. He said it was so well-received that he thought it should be offered to all freshmen.
Programs like N.U.B.E. cultivate a sense of unity among students, Chen said, which is key to an enjoyable college experience. More than 90 percent of the students who participated in last year's retreat stayed at the university–an amazing retention rate for any program, especially engineering, he said.
This year's camp had 68 participants–a strong start to what administrators hope will become a College of Engineering tradition, said Trish Fenster, N.U.B.E. event coordinator.
The following photo essay captures the first of many days that the freshman class will spend together.
To break the tension, upperclassmen led a bingo
game in which students asked others a series
of questions such as "What is Bart Simpson's
father's name?" and "Name a song by the
band U2." The objective was to get each bingo
question answered by a different person.
For Nicole Frisbie of Seward, pictured above
with Siera Gage of Lincoln, it was how she met
several of her Neihardt dormmates. "I know
I'll stay in touch with the people I met today,"
The next assignment was a scavenger hunt
through the engineering complex, a task that
puzzled even the orientation leaders. The
Green Team was the first to arrive at the final
destination, the Concrete Materials Lab–only to
discover it had skipped several stops.
Undaunted, the team (pictured below) turned
around to search for the remaining clues. Junior
Cassie McBride listened closely to laughter from
another team echo through the hallway, hoping
it would help her get the Greens on track. It
Steve Moody of Lincoln voiced what his
classmates might have been thinking: "Is this
supposed to teach us where to find things?
Because I'm pretty much completely lost."
"Don't ask for money because we're not going
to send any … well, maybe your mom will," said
Don Wall, hugging his daughter Danielle.
Danielle Wall is from Fort Worth, Texas,
but has been a Husker fan since childhood
because her father is a UNL graduate. Like many
freshmen, Danielle said she was excited to leave
home–and a little scared, too.
"It's going to be weird being away from my
parents, but I have uncles and aunts in Lincoln
that I can call if I need them."
The Walls snuck in a parting conversation as
Danielle boarded the school bus that took the
newbies to Camp Calvin Crest near Fremont,
where students from the Lincoln and Omaha
"Bye, Daddy. I love you," Danielle said.
"Stay away from the boys," Don sighed.
Danielle's mother, Shelly, glanced at the bus
and said wryly, "There's a whole busload of
Following an afternoon jam-packed with
activities and an un-air-conditioned bus ride,
students were grateful for downtime before
dinner. During a game of Frisbee football, Katie
Pfeiffer of Clarkson attempted to block a throw
from Josh Rhodig of East Lyme, Conn.
Across the gravel driveway, a more traditional
form of football was underway. A group of
exchange students from Brazil and Peru dutifully
kicked off their flip-flops and started playing
soccer. They were joined by Heidi Gengenbach
of Blair, who headed the ball 30 feet to score 10
minutes into the game.
"That's very good," a teammate said
Unbeknownst to him, Gengenbach has played
soccer since elementary school. "They're good,"
Gengenbach said of the exchange students. "It's
fun to play with them."
It might've been an intramural team in the
In a mess hall more reminiscent of an
elementary school cafeteria than college, Dean
David Allen addressed the students.
"You're now officially newbies. In four years, I
want you to be the leaders.
"… The people here are going to be your
closest friends for the rest of your life because of
this common bond of participating in something
new to the university. … Please remember this as
a very important changing point in your lives."
Bing Chen added, "We want you to meet and
depend on each other during this first year. We
want you to have fun in addition to everything
else you'll have to do."
Laughter–and a few falls–was more evident
than skill during the Dragon Tails game,
pictured above. Each team formed a line, and
the person at the end of the "dragon tail" placed
a handkerchief in his or her back pocket. The
team to gather the most handkerchiefs from
other teams was declared the winner.
The evening took on a more competitive mood
when the dean challenged students to create
an official camp cheer. He agreed to take the
winning team, as determined by faculty and
staff, to lunch at Vincenzo's. Team Linoma's
cheer proved that appealing to people's
emotions is a surefire way to win a competition:
I don't know what I've been told
But newbie camp is like finding gold
I don't know what's been said
But engineers aren't brain dead
Sound off! / 1, 2 / Sound off! / 3, 4
I don't know what I've been told
But Dean Allen is really old!
The crowd laughed approvingly and turned its
attention away from Team Linoma to gauge the
dean's reaction. Luckily, his flushed cheeks and
wide smile indicated he was taking the ribbing
well. Team Linoma tied Herbie and the Hotheads
to win the cheer competition.
The first evening of N.U.B.E. ended with students
gathering around a campfire and listening to
Detloff's rendition of George Thorogood's "Get a
Haircut and Get a Real Job."
Detloff lent his guitar to other musicians,
including Kalen Shuck of Davenport (pictured
Robert Froeschl of Falls City said it's hard
for students to imagine what their instructors
are like outside the classroom. Seeing them at
camp, he said, "made them seem more human
Jacob Greenburg said the camp reassured
him that he's pursuing the right career.
"Sometimes I worry if I've made the right
choice, but after talking to the professors and
seeing how much they love it, it makes me