50 students attend first Spring Leadership Safari


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Incoming transfer students participate in Leadership Safari on Jan. 7 at the UC.

Roseville sophomore Sam Zeeryp didn't know what to expect before taking part in the inaugural Spring Leadership Safari program. 

The orientation-style program, which usually happens in the fall, is meant to show incoming students how to get involved in the Central Michigan University's community. The event kicked off Jan. 7.

Despite his initial trepidation, Zeeryp quickly became comfortable with the event and his new community.

“The things we did were ridiculous, but the good kind of ridiculous,” Zeeryp said.

The goal of Spring Leadership Safari is to allow students to be introduced to leadership, connection, and resources offered through CMU, said Alex Kappus, assistant director of the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute.

The majority of Spring Safari participants included new students, transfer students and first-year students who missed the Fall Safari, Kappus said.

A Spring Leadership Safari event had been planned for more than a year, said Dan Gaken, director of the Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute.

"For more than 20 years, students who have participated in Leadership Safari have proven to be more successful during their time at CMU," Kappus said. "The Sarah R. Opperman Leadership Institute’s goal is to provide a Leadership Safari experience for every student that wants to be able to attend."

Safari activities took place Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 in the Bovee University Center and Finch Fieldhouse. Royal Oak junior and staff assistant Harrison Watt said this was due to the cold weather.

There were significantly fewer participants for the Spring Safari, with 50 students compared to  2,500 students for the fall event. Although there are fewer students, Watt said that most of these students signed up on their own accord, meaning they would be more engaged.

Participants in the Safari program were separated into small groups, participating in discussions about expectations at CMU and meeting fellow students during their first days on campus. 

The event took place over a two-day period – three days less than the fall Safari. Staff assistant Laura Kolbicz said there were significant difficulties fitting the content of the Safari program into such a short time.

“Planning for the event took place in late October," Kolbicz said. "We had to build everything from the ground-up. We took from the strongest elements of the fall Safari to make the most out of the two days."

Watt said the Spring Safari is focused more on using the universities tools and services to aid students as much as possible along their path towards getting a degree.

Saturday activities included students developing a plan for their time at CMU, checking into residence halls and learning about the overall community. 

Also included was an obstacle course, an exercise that included students doing trust-falls and a large-scale game of rock-paper-scissors in which participants used their entire body to form a rock, paper or a pair of scissors and divided into teams depending on their choice and tried to tag people over to their side.

Saturday activities ended with a dinner and entertainment from slam poets Natasha T. Miller and Ebony Stewart.

Miller, of Detroit, has appeared in commercials for Sprite and CNN, as well as being named a top five finalist of "Women of the World Poetry Slam" three times.

Stewart is a sexual health instructor turned slam poet who is the 2017 "Women of the World Poetry Slam" champion. She was voted Top Female Touring Poet by the Spoken Word Awards.

The two poets told stories – humorous and serious – and used the smaller group to engage by answering questions. Miller asked people directly while Stewart used a bucket and picked written questions out of it.

The participants all laughed, snapped and shouted their thoughts throughout the end of the night.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” said Brian Souffrin, incoming student from Saginaw and Team Penguin member. “I really enjoyed the stories that they told.”

Sunday started with a choice between a worship service, a movie screening or trivia session. 

“The choices allow for the participants to connect with others who share similar interests,” Kappus said.

The rest of the day continued with a service project where students made blankets. University groups, such as Student Activities and Events, Career Services and the Center for Inclusion and Diversity were present to provide information for the newcomers.  

The keynote speaker who spoke at the end of the Sunday session was Leadership Speaker Michael Miller, who has worked for six higher education institutions in positions such as assistant dean and multicultural advisor. He is also the co-author of the book “The NOW Factors of College Success.”

Pumphry said the long day was tiring, but ultimately rewarding, and her team agreed.

Gaken and Kappus both said the event went well, and they are hoping that the participants will feel the same when they fill out their feedback surveys.

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