Fish Camp at Texas A&M University has always been about teaching new Aggie freshmen — who are called “fish” in Aggieland — about the university’s traditions, but this year something new has been added: an SEC primer.
Texas A&M has formally entered the Southeastern Conference and Aggie athletes will be playing a whole new lineup of schools. So, in addition to teaching incoming freshmen about Aggie traditions, Fish Camp counselors will also teach them about the sports traditions of the other universities in the SEC. They also will share information such as fun facts and trivia about the other SEC schools, as well as note their famous alumni and the schools’ claims to fame.
“We are excited about this move to the SEC, and we realize that part of successfully transitioning our new students is welcoming them into the SEC family as well as the Aggie family,” says Abby Howell, Fish Camp adviser. “We want to take advantage of the opportunity we have to help create a connection to an amazing conference, especially for the first class of students who will experience all of their undergraduate years in the SEC.”
While Texas A&M has many outstanding programs to help new students begin their academic careers successfully, Fish Camp is the one that most makes them a part of the Aggie family — and it is the first Aggie tradition that new students experience.
The unique orientation program for freshmen is a series of four-day camps during which the new Aggies spend time with upperclassmen who have volunteered as camp counselors. The vast majority of the incoming freshman class will attend one of this year’s seven sessions of Fish Camp.
Fish Camp organizers say the new students arrive at camp unsure of what to expect or what will be expected of them, but by the time they leave, they are the newest members of the Aggie family.
“I loved Fish Camp. It was probably the best way to come into the Aggie Family. I really felt as if I was meant to be here,” said one of last year’s freshmen, echoing the prevailing sentiments of the incoming students.
“It was honestly one of the most amazing experiences of my entire life, the perfect way to begin my new life at Texas A&M,” said another.
Members of the first Fish Camp session for the Class of 2016 will gather July 30 outside Reed Arena where they will be welcomed to Aggieland. They will then board buses to travel to an East Texas Piney Woods encampment near Palestine.
In addition to Aggie traditions, during their time at camp the new students will also learn about the university’s core values: integrity, excellence, leadership, loyalty, respect and selfless service. They will learn about the university’s 800 student organizations and how to join them, how to find the help they may need while on campus and much more. By the time they leave the camp, many of the students will have formed lasting friendships.
More than 1,000 counselors, crew and staff members have been working since last October to create a special experience for the members of the Class of 2016.
“Fish Camp welcomes freshmen into the Aggie Network by providing them with a dedicated and compassionate group of individuals who work close to nine months getting ready for camp,” says Zach Brimager, a senior in charge of public relations for Fish Camp 2012. “Our student leaders all have a passion for serving the Class of 2016 and want to help ease the freshman transition into Texas A&M. Ultimately, we hope that every freshman will come out of Fish Camp excited and enthusiastic about finding their place at our university.”
In addition to welcoming the new freshmen, the student leaders and counselors work to create a support system that allows the new Aggies to build relationships and share in the Aggie Spirit. The Fish Camp staff and counselors say they are aware that they are role models, as well as leaders for the freshmen class and, as such, it is important to act with utmost integrity and to set an example.
The last Fish Camp sessions will begin Aug. 17 and end Aug. 20, the week before fall semester classes begin on Aug. 27.
Fish Camp is still unique, even though other schools across the country have discovered the value of such a positive program and have begun somewhat similar programs in recent years, university officials note.
Fish Camp began in 1954 when the late Gordon Gay, a former student activities director, took a few students camping as a way to help them adjust to life at college. The program has evolved over time, and the result is the record number of participants this year.
The days at camp are filled with information sessions and fun. They also include team-building exercises such as intramural sports and small group discussions. Each evening, special guests are brought in as motivational speakers for “campfire” programs.
Each session has six individual “camps,” and each camp has a namesake. These namesakes are individuals nominated by Texas A&M students, faculty, staff and friends of Fish Camp. They are chosen by a committee of students, so it is considered an honor to be selected as a Fish Camp namesake because these individuals can become part of the incoming and current student leaders’ campus resource network.
For a list of individuals honored by having their names associated with a camp, go here.
For more information, contact the Fish Camp office at (979) 845-1627 or go here.
Dates for Fish Camp 2012 are: Session A, July 30-Aug. 2; Session B, Aug. 2-5; Session C, Aug. 5-8; Session D, Aug. 8-11, Session E, Aug. 11-14; Session F, Aug. 14-17; and Session G, Aug. 17-20.