Freshmen bond over public service leadership learning at third annual Camp Co-Op


Paul Atkinson

124 freshmen from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions took part in Camp Co-Op, an annual fall event designed to instill a sense of community and leadership in new students. The weekend retreat took part at Camp Sky-Y, a YMCA facility outside Prescott.

“Learning how to connect as a student body is an important precursor to students’ ability to join our cooperative of faculty and community members as we seek to implement real world solutions to complex social problems,” said Cindy Lietz, vice dean of Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “I was so pleased to see students engaging with the workshops and connecting informally during the breaks by playing volleyball or taking a walk in the pines.”

Group photo of students from 2018 Watts College Camp Co-Op

A group photo of students and counselors from the 2018 Camp Co-Op held at the YMCA Sky-Y camp near Prescott.

During camp, students were placed into teams and completed a series of workshops and activities that exposed them to important concepts in public service leadership. They were also introduced to the Community Solutions Cooperative, a solutions-based learning approach that immerses students in their local community and challenges them to think critically about public service within the context of their chosen field. To that end, students were asked to envision what they want to accomplish during their time at ASU.

“At camp, students have the opportunity to consider how they want to map out their Sun Devil journey within Watts College," said Bailey Borman, Community Solutions Cooperative project coordinator. “They are challenged to think not just about how they will be a part of their community after graduation, but how they can start making a difference now.”

Students were divided into teams for the weekend. Each team had to complete a low ropes course designed with obstacles requiring team members to work together to overcome them. Teams also took part in four different workshops to create self-awareness, community empathy and affinity for their college. This year, the camp featured a mindfulness session that Borman says students seemed to appreciate.

Criminology and criminal justice student Cynthia Celaya takes part in a low ropes course team challenge.

Criminology and criminal justice major Cynthia Celaya in a low ropes course challenge during Camp Co-Op.

“We hope that students come away with a greater sense of self, an idea of how they might want to develop as a leader while in college, and a deep connection to the Watts College community,” Borman said.

Students heard from faculty and staff with tremendous experience in public service. School of Public Affairs professor of practice Jerry Oliver, who served as chief of police in Richmond, Virginia; Detroit, Michigan; and Pasadena, California, talked about the power individuals have and what it takes to be a leader in public service. ASU Leadership Academy director Andy Tobin, a member of the Arizona Corporation Commission and former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, talked about bipartisanship and how to move things forward, even when you don’t agree with those you are working with.

“I think our students had a blast in Prescott in late October," said Borman. “They were challenged to think about who they wanted to be as leaders in public service, and hopefully had the opportunity to create deep, long-lasting relationships with one another that will benefit them professionally and personally."

Lietz singled out Borman for her leadership in advancing Camp Co-op, as well as student services manager Amanda Andrew, and student services coordinator Melissa Tong, for their help in making the weekend a success. Lietz also credited the 30 student-leaders who served as camp counselors for the weekend.

“They created a meaningful experience for our freshmen,” Lietz said. “Students left camp with a sense of affinity for our college, and, more importantly, a passion for public service.”

Camp Co-Op students listen to Dean Jonathan Koppell

Watts College students listen as Dean Jonathan Koppell talks about public goods.