Camping Crimson Style
With the first day of the 2015 fall semester on the University of Oklahoma campus a little over three weeks away, it may be surprising to learn thousands of incoming Sooners began their OU journey in the heavy heat of June and July in Oklahoma.
Camp Crimson, OU’s camp for new Sooners, gives students their first taste of campus life and ignites friendships that last a lifetime. As importantly, it provides a first glimpse at the extensive support system available to all OU students and comforts the adjustment to what, for many, can seem like a daunting environment.
Camp Crimson coordinator Zac Stevens will be the first to tell you: This three-day, two-night camp keeps you busy. Days are filled with team-building activities like constructing cardboard boats and setting sail across a pool and get-to-know-me exercises that help campers find a common ground with one another. In addition, there are sessions aimed at giving students a jump on such necessities as just knowing where everything is on campus.
Mixed in with those boat races and bonding experiences is the chance to get to know Camp Crimson Namesakes, OU faculty or staff selected by Camp Crimson organizers to spend time with campers and share their favorite OU memories. Stevens said the namesakes get across to students that faculty and staff are accessible and willing to help.
Among this year’s namesakes is the Audas Family, led by JP Audas, vice president for Alumni and Development. Audas, his wife Ally, and daughters, Lexi, Cami and Izzy, spent three intensive days, and some relaxing evening hours, with their “adopted” students. From casual conversations about future dreams and cautionary tales of past mistakes, to formal sessions about the keys to making the most of a college experience, namesakes provide an opportunity for campers to discuss their serious, and not so serious, concerns. Intended or not, it’s also a chance for the namesakes themselves to reignite their own spirits.
“Our entire mission is centered around helping young people realize their dreams and become their very best,” Audas pointed out. “You’re reminded of that.”
Kicking off in 1996 with 120 campers, Camp Crimson has grown to about 2,000 annual attendees, with five sessions each summer.
Students become familiar with campus as their daily activities take them from one building to the next. Zac Stevens, Camp Crimson coordinator and assistant director of Student Life, said the camp isn’t intended to overload students with facts and figures. Instead, the campers learn time-honored traditions and focus on connecting with their small group leaders and group mates.
The most important part of Camp Crimson, though? Building that circle of friends and establishing a support system in them and others.
Part of that support system includes those serving as namesakes. Namesakes such as Audas take seriously the role of conveying to new students the importance OU places on providing a full array of support for all facets of student life.
“The effort and passion that goes into helping new students get off to a successful start here at OU is not only impressive, but also inspiring and powerful,” Audas was reminded.
Part of each Camp Crimson session includes plenty of opportunity for campers to use their creative abilities in developing cheers, dances and general lung capacity. It’s loud. A great kind of loud that results in lessons that flow upstream, from campers to namesakes. One of those lessons, for Audas, came in the form of a reminder of how lucky he is to do what he does.
Reflecting Thursday morning on the session’s opening the day before, a time in which he could have easily appeared a bit worn, Audas’ enthusiasm for his camp experience was evident.
“Being a part of Camp Crimson has renewed my energy and enthusiasm, and it has given me a profound reminder of why I chose to work at a university, specifically my alma mater.
“Yesterday was easily one of the best days of my entire career,” he concluded.
Hopefully, for those starting down the same path Audas traveled as a young student, the Camp Crimson is the first in a long series of OU bests.