Combine enthusiastic upperclassmen, open-minded freshmen and transfer students, world-renowned speakers and roughly 200 exotic animals, and you have Central Michigan University’s Leadership Safari program.
Leadership Safari, which was started in 1996 by residence hall students, is a week-long event that has been helping new students feel comfortable in their college environments by organizing fun activities. Safari has been growing in number for the past 17 years, and this year is the largest it has ever been, racking up at 1,888 students.
“Safari is a great ice-breaker for college. It helps new students adjust to the college environment, meet new people and have fun,” said Parchment senior Steven Steele, a core guide in his third year with Safari. “No other university in Michigan does this. We’ve got all sorts of activities planned throughout the week: comedians, team building exercises and guest speakers.”
Every Leadership Safari has a keynote speaker, and this year was no different. Special guest Nev Schulman, the creator of MTV’s “Catfish,” gave the keynote speech this year, telling students to be true to themselves despite what others might say.
“Safari gives students a unique opportunity to get involved with the school right away,” said Galesburg senior Sara Krajnik. “It’s extremely fun. Students get to meet new people and participate in team building exercises to strengthen unity.”
Students, new and transfers, are shown a promotional video of Leadership Safari at orientation that highlights all the activities and events participants enjoy in the program so they can decide if they want to sign up to be part of it.
“During orientation, I watched the video for Safari and it looked like a lot of fun,” said Alexis Foley, a Canton freshman. “We get to meet new people right away and they have cool seminars. I think it will be a lot of fun, but I guess we’ll see.”
Although Safari promotes how much fun it is to incoming students, some prefer its logistical benefits.
“I like that you get to move in early if you’re part of Safari,” Grand Rapids junior Nate Swanson said. “I’m sure Safari will be fun, but I like being able to move in to the residence halls a little earlier to avoid the rush.”
Safari has been a program of students helping and welcoming other students since its inception. Students such as Grayling sophomore Sierra Dyer got a lot out of the program and enjoyed it, later signing up to be part of its staff.
“I was part of Safari last year. It was a very positive experience. Now, I’m part of the staff,” Dyer said. “I’m a sophomore now. It was great to see so many new students come out of their shells in the first few days. Safari is having an amazing impact on everyone this year.”