Similar to many students here, one of the main attractions that brought me to this campus was the CAMP program. The promise of working on real world projects from the start of my freshman year could not be matched by other universities, and to this day still remains unique among other elite undergraduate engineering campuses. Comparable programs exist at Missouri S&T, Olin College, and Harvey-Mudd College, but seeing how the cost of attendance (COA) at those schools are over $38,000, $64,000, and $66,000 respectively, the CAMP program is a huge benefit to our university, with a COA of just under $20,000 for out-of-state students.
But another factor that brought me to this campus was the ability to be a leader. While I had confidence in my skills as a high school senior, I wanted to continue to thrive in a smaller pool rather than be drowned in an ocean of students with much alike ideals. The CAMP program seemed to fit the bill, giving me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills while exploring a technical project that complimented my studies. In its entirety, the CAMP program can be seen as a breeding ground of leaders; students are molded by their respective teams into the executive roles available and given the utmost opportunity to succeed.
With no disrespect to other organizations on campus, there are currently no other student groups or student-led umbrella organizations at this school dedicated to developing student leaders to the extent that the CAMP program is. Yet our Leadership Hall of Fame (LHOF), the yearly award given out to the most exemplary students of the graduating class, has seen a sharp decline in CAMP students being recognized over the last 5 years. There are other areas on campus where students have found places to thrive and contribute to the university well-being, and they have been deservingly elected into the LHOF, but I found it concerning that an organization committed towards developing those skills struggles to ascertain recognition for their students. I wanted to know more.
I spoke with Dean Mahon about the predicament, and while she recognized the large contribution that CAMP plays in both student recruitment and retention she did note that some CAMP leaders concentrate on CAMP and are not as involved in the other arenas, referring to the multiple facets of student involvement opportunities that are available. She continued, “They are totally committed to what they are doing, so that’s where they spend their time, energy, and resources.”
Dr. Dolan, Director of CAMP, supported Dean Mahon’s comments, while also suggesting that outside factors play a role, including consistent job offers from companies that are impressed with the accomplishments that students have ascertained as team members. However, he also noted that CAMP does provide opportunities for students to grow their personal development skills. “We encourage [students] to broaden and to get out into other organizations...they are not finding the time to get out there…they aren’t seeing the reasons for it.” He also suggested that sometimes students can, “get so into the technical [experience], they miss what we are really dealing with.”
As a student who has been involved with CAMP to varying degrees over the last 4 years, I can also attest to the opportunities that we students have to expand our horizons. CAMP is one of (if not the only) student body that organizes the Wharton Memorial 5K/10K run annually. The faculty leaders of CAMP consistently push students to reflect on the purpose and results of team activities. CAMP also sponsors students to attend the leadership retreats hosted through other student organizations, namely the Professional Development Institute for Student Leaders, where students develop skills that make them people, not just engineers.
The discrepancy between the LHOF and CAMP comes down to the students on these projects. I applaud the efforts of my fellow CAMP participants. We go to national and international competitions that require so many different disciplines and we perform well. But I cannot say at this point that the majority of CAMP students are developing into the well-rounded leaders that not just make the LHOF, but reach their maximum potential for the betterment of society. To quote fellow CAMP-ee Scott Lindborg, “It becomes very easy [in the CAMP program] for students to become very specific leaders as opposed to well-rounded ones.”
I challenge you, my fellow CAMP students. Don’t be just a CAMP engineer, but be a CAMP person.