Fort Hays State University aims to increase persistence and retention with a new extended orientation camp.

In its second year, Golden Beginnings Extended Orientation Program focuses on the idea of social integration, acclamation and transition for FHSU students.

The 48-hour program is open to 50 first-year new and transfer students.

"Extended orientations are becoming trends across the nation," said Brett Bruner, director of persistence and retention for First Year Experience programs. "It provides that extra chance for students to really prepare for the social transition and adjustment to campus."

Golden Beginnings focuses primarily on social integration, while Tiger Stripes pre-enrollment is dedicated to academic resources.

"Students are spending 48 hours of their summer meeting a pool of 49 friends to have that connection with," Bruner said. "When they begin classes, they have that connection base, so hopefully they'll be retained and persist to graduation. We also embed school spirit, learning the fight song, giving students that net of other students before they even step foot on campus on the first day of classes."

Students will engage in conversations and group discussions with upper-level FHSU students.

"The guides and student leaders start the conversation about, 'What are your hopes, and what are your fears about starting college?' " Bruner said. "Some of those conversations we don't have when the student comes through Tiger Stripes. They appreciate that social acclimation and social transition opportunity."

Bruner worked with similar programs at other universities, and after reading research on the effect of extended orientation programs, he brought the program to FHSU.

"People have started to do research specifically on student transition during that first-year," Bruner said, "but also retention and persistence to graduation. I looked at the research, and we thought it would be a good fit to bring an extended orientation program to FHSU."

Each year, Golden Beginnings is given a camp namesake.

"Every year, the student directors and student guides will identify a faculty or staff person who they feel makes a positive impact on first-year students," Bruner said. "The namesakes were identified as being influential and truly trying to make a positive impact on the lives of first-year students."

This year is Camp Brungardt, after leadership studies professors Curt and Christie Brungardt.

"We were honored to be selected," said Curt Brungardt, Omer G. Voss distinguished professor of leadership studies. "We also thought we should play a role in whatever we can to make sure it's successful, and the folks from student affairs and First Year Experience would be happy with the results."

After several nominations, it was clear the Brungardts were leaders in the race for most influential among students.

"That was very meaningful for us that students recognized the value of our work and think what we're doing is impacting young people," said Christie Brungardt, assistant professor of leadership studies. "I think we were honored on a number of levels."

Faculty interaction is minimal during Golden Beginnings, but the namesake piece aims to provide some sort of faculty connection.

"Our goal is, hopefully students will establish that connection with the camp namesake," Bruner said. "That way, they can go to the namesake as a resource, not necessarily as an adviser, just another connection point to the university."

The namesakes have the opportunity to give a 30- to 45-minute presentation on a topic of their choice.

"Our charge to the students will be to encourage civic engagement," Curt Brungardt said. "During their time at FHSU, we want to be sure they're not only successful academically, but we want to encourage them as students to be civically engaged in the Hays community and other communities throughout the region."

Christie Brungardt added, "(and) to help encourage them to make civic responsibility a habit for the rest of their lives, not only in college but after they leave."