Training for Service with a Smile


Students need to know how to use their leadership skills before leading in the best way that they can.

That’s why Frostburg State University places an emphasis on preparing freshmen as leaders. No matter the student organization, there are opportunities to lead.

At the same time, there is a call to service for these students.

In the fall, 80 freshmen were whisked about an hour away from campus to a bucolic campground in Stoystown, Pa., so they can learn more about themselves and how they work with other people through team-building exercises.

I completed a story used for the Alumni eNews and packaged it with photos I shot and a video I produced, to help round it out so you can get a feel for what’s going on.

My favorite moment captured is the honesty from student Alexis Thomas. It shows you how aware students are of the branding and marketing by colleges and universities to attend. FSU’s tagline is “One University. A World of Experiences” and had an ad campaign to go with it.

“I have a better idea of what Frostburg is about,” said the Bowie resident and biology major. “When they show us the video about how they are one community, I thought they were just saying that to get us to come here. But I see that the professors here, the advisors here, really care, and they really want their students to do well and graduate on time.”

A big part of this trip is to train students who signed up to be a part of ECHOSTARS, which stands for Empowering Communities Helping Others: Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability. It’s quite the mouthful, but it’s a residential volunteer program at FSU offered through AmeriCorps. FSU also sponsors an AmeriCorps program for Western Maryland.

Here’s an excerpt from Beth Bair, FSU’s National Service coordinator with ECHOSTARS about the experience:

“The goal is to help the students dig deep into their strengths,” Bair said. “All of them have completed the StrengthsQuest Survey, which is part of the Gallup program we do at Frostburg State. Once they learn their top strengths, it’s a matter of what their strengths reveal about them and applying it to this weekend.”

When the students return to FSU, the lessons and experience will serve them well in student organization leadership roles, Bair added, whether it’s working at the Lane University Center, leading a Greek organization or being involved in community service.

Here’s the story in its entirety:

Freshmen Start Off Strong With Leadership Retreat

Team members help a student navigate a spider web ropes course to learn team-building skills.

FSU’s Annual Retreat Gives Budding Leaders an Early Jump Start

By Charles Schelle

As the Appalachian Mountains turned golden for the start of autumn, a group of FSU freshmen headed to Camp Allegheny to turn over a new leaf.

Working together to build egg launchers, navigate obstacle courses and build relationships at the bonfire, the new FSU students are taught how to lead while working with a team, thanks to the FSU Office of Leadership and Experiential Learning. FSU has been offering a form of this freshman leadership retreat since the 1980s.

(Watch a video about this experience here.) 

The campground is near Stoystown, Pa., which offers a secluded site where some of the 80 freshmen and dozen camp facilitators, including seniors and FSU faculty and staff, can get to know one another.

Alexis Thomas

Alexis Thomas

The trip solidified what Alexis Thomas learned about FSU after her first month on campus.

“I have a better idea of what Frostburg is about,” said the Bowie resident and biology major. “When they show us the video about how they are one community, I thought they were just saying that to get us to come here. But I see that the professors here, the advisors here, really care, and they really want their students to do well and graduate on time.”

Thomas, whose focus is pre-med, added that she was happy to meet people outside of Cumberland Hall where she lives. She was motivated to sign up for the retreat from a mentor who spoke to her freshman orientation class.

“This retreat will help me open up more because I’ve always been a shy person,” she said. “I’ve met all these people from all over, heard their stories and where they came from.”

Students came from freshmen orientation classes with a variety of focuses, said Beth Bair M’14, FSU’s National Service coordinator with ECHOSTARS. ECHOSTARS – Empowering Communities Helping Others: Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability – is a residential volunteer program at FSU that’s offered through AmeriCorps.

The leadership retreat weekend gave students a chance to break away from their studies to discover their own qualities of being a leader.

“The goal is to help the students dig deep into their strengths,” Bair said. “All of them have completed the StrengthsQuest Survey, which is part of the Gallup program we do at Frostburg State. Once they learn their top strengths, it’s a matter of what their strengths reveal about them and applying it to this weekend.”

When the students return to FSU, the lessons and experience will serve them well in student organization leadership roles, Bair added, whether it’s working at the Lane University Center, leading a Greek organization or being involved in community service.

“Some freshmen want to focus on getting their degree, but other students are here for a bigger experience,” Bair said. “For those students, this is the place to get it started. It launches you out into a variety of things. This is a chance to get to know the people who are in charge of that and some of whom are already doing it.”

Thomas broke out of her shell even more during an egg-launching activity where her team had to build a contraption to launch an egg without cracking, as well as create a marketing presentation for their invention.

Andrew Wall

Andrew Wall

One of her teammates, Baltimore County resident Andrew Wall, loved how his group bonded to win for “best spirit,” thanks to a marketing rap they created for their product, named “Yolko Oh No.”

The freshman ethnobotany major and ECHOSTARS member could already see how this experience would give him a boost for his start at Frostburg.

“It’s helping me work with a group,” he said. “I haven’t had to work on a group project yet, and I know I will eventually, so this is helping me with communication.”

For more information about Frostburg’s leadership programs, contact the Office of Leadership and Experiential Learning at 301.687.7013.

 

 

 

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