To spark a change in thinking, a change of scenery never hurts.
Thus, in the fall semester, a group of 17 New School students and five staff members from Student Services traveled to rural Huguenot, New York, two hours north of the city, to reflect on leadership and community at the First Annual Student Leadership Retreat Weekend. Sponsored by the Office of Student Development and Activities (OSDA) with additional support from the University Student Senate and Student Health Services, the weekend welcomed participants from OSDA-recognized student organizations, student government, New School-affiliated student groups, and peer groups such as resident assistants and peer health advocates. The outing took place at Huguenot’s YMCA Greenkill Retreat Center.
Leading for Social Change, served as the weekend’s overarching theme, and participants attended workshops on topics such as action planning, identity and social issues, and creating a mission and vision. Some of the workshops promoted practical skills such as programming and marketing, while others were dedicated to personal reflection and teambuilding. Scott Gassman, a faculty member at The New School for Public Engagement, joined the group early Saturday morning for a keynote address that began the conversation about mission and vision.
In addition to workshops and activities, the YMCA Greenkill Retreat Center provided a low ropes course, which allowed the group to hone their teambuilding skills by engaging in exercises such as walking blindfolded across a wooden beam that was placed a few feet off the ground. The seeing, members of the group directed the blindfolded player where to take his or her next step on the beam. (Our correspondent assures the New_S that no one was harmed in the high-stakes exercise.)
The retreat allowed students to develop their leadership skills and gain knowledge to share with the New School community. Student participants shared that meeting different students from various divisions who are interested in social change, coming to a positive place where ideas could be voiced and ideals expressed, and re-energizing away from the city were some of the most valuable outcomes of the retreat.
Staff members who attended were impressed by the bond that developed among the participants in just two short days, which resulted in a Facebook group and the promise of a monthly get-together as well as new campus alliances to further promote social change within the community.