Learning the ropes
By Emily Baldauf
Like most incoming freshmen, Travis Harpenau, from Tell City, Ind., had mixed emotions about starting college.
Photo provided by Mindy Meckstroth
Boiler Gold Rush team leaders and incoming freshmen participate in a show of residence hall pride. Throughout the week, students have many oportunities to get to know their fellow residents.
Excitement, nervousness and anticipation were all part of the emotional rush he felt days before classes started. However, within hours of arriving on Purdue University's West Lafayette campus, Harpenau began finding his place in his new home.
Harpenau was one of the thousands of incoming freshmen who participated in Purdue's orientation program, Boiler Gold Rush (BGR). The five-day program offers a variety of activities to make new students feel more comfortable on campus. BGR, originally called "Camp Corn," has been offered since 1993.
"I had an excellent experience with BGR," said Harpenau, who is now a senior majoring in food processing engineering and biochemistry. "I not only met many great people, but I also felt more comfortable about finding classes and getting around campus."
Last fall, more than 3,600 incoming freshmen participated in the program. During the orientation program, students get to move into their residence halls early and begin meeting new people right away. Each student is put in a small group with about 10 other freshmen. Together, the small teams learn everything from the Purdue fight song to how to buy textbooks to which bus loop to take to class.
"With a school this big, a program like this can make the campus seem smaller," said Patti Dulik, senior assistant director of orientation and new student programs. "It makes people feel so much more comfortable that they don't have as much anxiety when classes start."
In addition to learning the ropes at Purdue, students also have the opportunity to experience the social life on campus. "They are introduced to so many other freshmen right away," said Marc Skjervem, assistant director of orientation and new student programs. "Many of them meet their best friends during BGR."
Harpenau is one of the many students who met some of his best friends during the orientation's small group program. And four years later, he said he is still close to his BGR friends. "The best part of BGR is the small group interaction that occurs within the freshmen group," Harpenau said. "Getting to know people is one of the main goals of BGR. I met my best friend during my freshman year at BGR, and we are still always doing things together."
Besides making long-term friends, the experience Harpenau had during BGR has made him want to reach out to other incoming students. Harpenau is now one of the hundreds of upperclassmen volunteers who lead the orientation. Sharing his love for Purdue is his favorite part about the program.
"Purdue is an excellent college with a great deal of spirit, tradition, and hard work," he said. "Boiler Gold Rush can prepare you for all of it. It's an excellent way to meet new friends, gain an understanding of campus, learn traditions and prepare for your future."