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Jim Zietz | Eddy Perez | Office of Communications & University Relations  

STRIPES Program Gives Incoming Students an Insight to LSU Life


Going away to college can be an intimidating experience for anyone. Students are on their own for the first time, typically in a new city. There are financial responsibilities, class schedules to maintain and a massive campus to navigate. But for students entering LSU, there is a way to gain a leg up in the weeks before classes start.

The STRIPES, or Student Tigers Rallying, Interacting, and Promoting Education and Service, program is offered through the LSU First Year Experience department. STRIPES is a four-day, three-night retreat designed to prepare incoming students for the transition to LSU.

“It provides them with a well-rounded view of the LSU experience and what opportunities are available to them during their college experience,” said Missy Korduner, LSU First Year Experience assistant director and STRIPES advisor.

During the optional program activities, current LSU students serving as student leaders help educate incoming freshmen and transfer students about the history and traditions of LSU; ease the transition from high school to college; familiarize participants with university resources, facilities and programs; and facilitate the establishment of a strong bond with the university.

The program is structured to focus on academic success, college readiness, leadership development, relationship building and student resources. In addition to information about LSU, students learn about the unique aspects of Louisiana culture through events such as a “Fais Do-Do” with live Cajun music and dancing.

During the four-day program, students are broken into small groups of about 12-15 participants and two student leaders. The small groups are named after significant LSU historical figures or campus buildings.

A few of the group names used this year include Mike (after Mike the Tiger), Reveille (after the campus newspaper), Miles (after LSU football coach Les Miles), Tureaud (after Turead Hall, named for Alexander P. Turead Sr., the father of LSU’s first African American undergraduate student A.P. Turead Jr.), Alex Box (after the former LSU baseball player and the stadium that bears his name), Pistol Pete (after Pete Maravich) and Kingfish (after Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, who served from 1928-1932 and was a strong LSU supporter).

According to Korduner, the small groups help students connect with other incoming first-year students while providing an opportunity to have a closer connection with an upperclassman student in their group leaders, as well as a mentor from the professional staff at LSU.

The groups provide a smaller setting for hands-on activities and facilitated discussions where more attention is paid to the individual student. They also instill a sense of pride in the university and in their group itself since the students get to create cheers, a flag and a roll call – each representative of their group name and history.

The relationships built during the STRIPES small groups don’t stop after the four-day session.

“The small groups also stay connected throughout the academic year with mini reunions and activities,” Korduner said. “The small-group leaders and mentors contact the small-group members throughout the year to check in, see how things are going and answer any questions the students may have.”

STRIPES participants are also placed into two “streaks” – named Purple and Gold after LSU’s colors. These groups help the students to create bonds and enhance teamwork strategies for STRIPES activities.

“The streaks are an opportunity for the students to network with other incoming students,” Korduner said. “The students learn and create cheers representing their streak and really become passionate about the streak they are a part of.  Our larger sessions are broken down into streaks – academic mock lecture, learning strategies session, personality assessment, leadership challenge, money management, etc.”

One of the program’s most popular activities is a visit to Tiger Stadium for a Spirit in Sports session and a mock football game with cheers. The STRIPES participants have the stadium to themselves to learn the LSU athletic cheers like the Chinese Bandits’ salute for when the defense forces the opposition to punt or turn over the ball. The students are also addressed by the coaches from various athletic teams. This year, the students were greeted by Paul Mainieri, head coach of the 2009 national champion baseball team, along with Van Chancellor, head coach of women’s basketball, and Debbie Hensley, associate head coach of soccer.

Many students say they also enjoy the Alma Mater session, where they learn the LSU alma mater and receive their “key to the university” with their streak color on it and a replica of an LSU ring.

STRIPES began in 2000 and was able to expand into two sessions in 2007 through the generosity of a $1.1 million gift from Charles Barney, an LSU alumnus. The first STRIPES program had 65 participating incoming freshmen and was held off-campus at Tickfaw State Park, but since then, the program has remained as an on-campus activity welcoming more than 500 incoming students over two sessions each year.

“It is exciting to see how the program has evolved and the positive impact on student transition and retention,” said Darrell Ray, assistant vice chancellor for student life.

The program is now in its 10th year, and each year, it provides valuable experience to 58 student leaders who assist in planning and implementing STRIPES activities across campus.

“(Being a student leader) provides them with a great opportunity to mentor incoming students and to share their knowledge, passion and spirit for LSU with other incoming students,” Korduner said. “It builds their leadership skills through group facilitation, team building and program development.”

A tradition was started at the first STRIPES program, mostly by accident, but it’s one that is still active and enjoyed today: the Blackout.

“At the first STRIPES, the power went out, and the students used the time to get to know each other better through asking questions and going around the group for everyone to answer,” Korduner said. “This is reenacted every year at STRIPES when the small groups sit together on the last night of STRIPES and get to know each other through a series of questions.”

For more information on STRIPES, including how to register for next year’s program, visit http://www.lsu.edu/stripes/, call 225-578-4987 or e-mail stripes@lsu.edu.

STRIPES is one of the programs offered by the LSU First Year Experience department within the Division of Student Life. Other FYE units and programs offered include Orientation, Bengal Bound, LSU Ambassadors, Parent & Family Programs and LSU Family Association. FYE is located in Johnston Hall on LSU’s campus. For more information, visit www.lsu.edu/fye.

Ernie Ballard | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
August 2009