Before LSU students step foot in a classroom, they are encouraged to show their stripes.

STRIPES is a four-day program that prepares incoming students for the transition to LSU by teaching them what it means to be a Tiger. These new Tigers earn their stripes by learning LSU history and traditions, meeting other first-year students, identifying opportunities to get involved, finding out about academic resources/support, and exploring the campus.

The incoming students play games and activities that test their LSU knowledge, hone their Cajun dancing skills, engage in a mock lecture with a faculty member, participate in bonding activities, and learn the alma mater. The program launched in 2000 with only 65 students. In 2005, alumnus Charles Barney made a game-changing gift of $1.1 million to expand the program, more than doubling its size. STRIPES now reaches 900 first-year students each summer. Students who participate in STRIPES have higher retention and graduation rates than their peers who choose not to participate.

Beverly Suffern, a 2011 chemical engineering alumna, shared, “I had family friends who went to STRIPES before I went to LSU who said how much fun it was and recommended that I attend. When I decided that I was going to go to LSU, it was the first thing that I signed up for. I couldn’t wait to learn all the traditions and the football cheers in Tiger Stadium.”

Suffern chairs the program’s alumni council, which works to develop a strong alumni base that supports bringing STRIPES and its traditions to incoming students. Several council members have invested in the program by funding students’ registration fees. Suffern explained, “The donation is our way of showing our commitment to the STRIPES program. It will cover the registration of a student with financial needs. It is a small way to make sure that someone has the experience at STRIPES that means so much to all of the council members.”

Though the idea of alumni giving began with the council, all STRIPES alumni are encouraged to contribute however much they are able to the program’s scholarships and activities.

“STRIPES is the first impression of the university for incoming students,” Suffern shared, adding, “It is what gets incoming freshmen excited and ready to start their college journey. It lays the foundation for getting involved, understanding how the different aspects of the university work, and generating overall love for our great university.”

Published in Cornerstone Summer and Fall 2014.

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