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Due to the generous support from our friends at Kapstone in Roanoke Rapids, NC, the new freshman Paper Science & Engineering class had an experience they will not soon forget. It was time for the annual Freshman Retreat.

The new assembly of PSE students ventured out on August 25, on route to the Airfield 4-H Conference Center in Wakefield, VA. This retreat guaranteed to be both a rewarding and special event, and serve as just one example of the time and energy the College of Natural Resources is willing to devote to the PSE freshman.

Looking Forward to the Future

Shortly after arriving at the camp we were given time to get settled, and then it was down to business. The students all sat attentively as Dr. Med Byrd and Jennifer Piercy, with the help of upperclassmen, Alex Hight, Brandon Balicki, and Kable Young, laid out the schedule for the weekend and what was to be expected. The first event would be a teamwork challenge. Each team was given five wooden tracks, one marble, and a cup. The objective? Working as a team to transport the marble from one side of the room to the other and have it roll into the cup. This exercise demonstrated the value of teamwork and communicating effectively. When teams were unorganized and did not strategize,  the exercise was incredibly difficult. With clear communication and a thought out plan, teams started making it very close to the cup. Finally, after countless attempts, accidental collisions, and a lot of defeated sighs, one team did succeed and finished what started feeling like an impossible task! Jennifer Piercy then described the importance of effective teamwork as a crucial competency for the students’ future careers. The night then shifted to Dr. Byrd providing insight on how students can succeed with a PSE degree as he emphasized the limitless options afforded to students if they are willing to, in Dr. Byrd’s words, “lean into it.”  The students then discussed with the group their career ambitions, and how a PSE degree may help them achieve their goals.

Kapstone Mill Visit

On Saturday, students were greeted by the generous folks from Kapstone and placed in groups for the tour of the mill.  If we thought we were going to day dream our way through….think again!  Note taking was a must, as later in the evening we would have to prepare and deliver a PowerPoint presentation.  All but the red carpet was rolled out….we received the royal treatment.  The tour involved viewing  the wood yard, pulp mill and the paper machines.  It was a true mill experience and left us in awe. For some, it was the first taste of the industry, its expansiveness and its technicality, and  it left us hungry for more.

Teamwork and Challenge Courses

To wrap up the weekend the students practiced some of the life skills they learned at a challenge course that was wonderfully staffed by the Airfield 4-H Center. Challenges included trust falls, tight-rope walks, and wall climbs, and emphasized values of teamwork and communication. After the challenges, it was time to pack in and return to campus. The trip proved to be a lighthearted and enjoyable experience that provided life long lessons. The freshman class, no longer strangers, but friends re-affirmed in their choice of major, will never forget this year’s freshman retreat.


By guest blogger: Ethan Schwartz