Reagan Heppner, a 19-year-old vocal music education major at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith, is a natural leader who is always seeking a new challenge, and her upcoming role as Cub Camp director will undoubtedly be one of her most rewarding challenges yet.
Cub Camp is a three-day welcome event held on the UAFS campus that introduces hundreds of incoming first-year students to the campus, faculty, fellow students and university traditions. Entirely led by UAFS students, Cub Camp helps new students create connections that will last far beyond their years at UAFS and ease their transition from high school to college.
Like many freshmen, Heppner went into Cub Camp both enthusiastic and apprehensive. “As a freshman, Cub Camp was really scary for me. I knew that I had to meet a lot of new people, and that was very intimidating. But when I got there and we all started yelling our camp colors at the top of our lungs and practicing our camp dances, everything changed. I came into college terrified that I wasn’t going to make any friends, but I was proven wrong on the very first day of Cub Camp.”
“Freshman year can be such an intimidating time, but Cub Camp made me feel so secure, I knew I wasn’t going to get too lost on the first day of classes, and I knew that I would see people I recognized from Cub Camp on campus.”
Those three days on campus shifted Heppner’s loneliness to her feeling right at home, and that transformation is what she hopes to lead this year’s campers through as director.
“Everybody was so kind and helpful, which is a true testimony to the character of UAFS and its leaders. This university cares about its students, and the mission of Cub Camp is just the same. We want students to know that they have a place here, that we care about them and that we will do whatever we can to make UAFS their home. I wanted to be a part of that mission, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be director this year.”
Heppner will lead the year-long process of planning for Cub Camp, beginning this month with the interviewing and selecting directors and support staff. In the coming months, she will develop content, oversee camp registration and plan the camp schedule with her director staff by her side.
More than 115 student staff members will report to Heppner, and she and her team will manage a budget of nearly $40,000 to host the three-day event, explained Dean of Students Dave Stevens.
“Being the Cub Camp director is a significant responsibility,” Stevens said. “We had perhaps the deepest and most talented pool of candidates I’ve ever had for the position this year, but in the end, Reagan stood out. Her compassion for others, love for Cub Camp, and leadership abilities have always been evident to me, and she highlighted those strengths in her interview."
The challenges of leading an operation of this size along with a full academic course load aren’t lost on Heppner.
“I knew being director would challenge me in absolutely every area, and I wanted to be able to help execute Cub Camp and take the skills that I learn with me to whatever I do in the future,” she said. “I have such a passion for people, and I wanted to be a part of the process to help incoming freshmen feel at home and know they have a place here at UAFS.”
After graduation Heppner plans to continue her education, seeking a master’s degree in music therapy that will enable her to work as a music therapist in a children’s hospital.