Today: Jun 25, 2024

Behind The Scenes of Leadership Retreat

Jeff Nowak — Editor-in-Chief
Bethany Tuller standing outside the Office for Student Life.

RYAN MORGANManaging Editor
About 150 student leaders attended the semi-annual leadership retreat last weekend at Southern. Bethany Tuller served as a co-chair with Mary Galaska to put together the retreat. Tuller shared a first-hand account of the behind the scenes action.
(RM) What was your role in the planning of leadership retreat?
(BT) [Mary and I] were basically in charge of the committee and making sure that everything got done. We came up with to do lists and the theme and some ideas like the campus challenge and to plan the separate tracks. Student Life kind of took a step back in the planning and let us do it so we were able to implement that, put up registration, contact presenters and do it all. Everything you saw was done by students.
(RM) What was the campus challenge?
(BT) [It] came from idea from the Future Project, a non-profit organization, they work with high school students. Students pick a cause they’re passionate about and we figured we can do it on our campus and in our community because we have these student leaders who don’t have the opportunity normally to use what they learn at leadership retreat. I think, collectively, it allows us to team up and see what they can plan and what they can really do.
(RM) What do you think it will do for the campus?
(BT) We had some great ideas come out and we got to see there are a lot of different things students are passionate about from creating events to working with schools around New Haven. Student leaders might not have known there is funding through SAFAC. It was a chance to put ideas out there and find out about SAFAC and who they can collaborate with. I think it will lead to a lot more programming next semester since they could start before the semester started.
(RM) Could you explain this year’s theme?
(BT) It was the letters L-E-A-D. It stood for learn, evolve, act and develop. We wanted to have four different types of programs so you could choose which one you wanted. Learn was for new leaders. Evolve was for people who had been to a retreat before. Act was for community service opportunities and social justice programming. And develop was mostly about time management and stress relief. All of those things play into what the leaders wanted to get out of leadership retreat. It just so happened they worked together to spell the word lead.
(RM) What steps did you take to improve this leadership retreat?
(BT) We tried to cut down on the amount of empty time. A lot of students don’t live on campus and for those who do live on campus it may be easy to go back to dorm if you don’t have 30 minutes of program so we tried to fill that time. On Saturday we had some light refreshments and networking time and we put on the football game so people could stay and socialize instead of having to go back to their rooms. It’s the first time they get to see a lot of people since break so we wanted people to socialize and hang out together.
(RM) Would you say you had more input from campus professors and administration or students?
(BT) We definitely had more faculty and administration than students this retreat. It was different. I wouldn’t say it was different or worse. We did try to not repeat previous presentations. We did have a few presentations in the learn track that leaders may need, but I contacted faculty and they were very receptive to present. They always are and asked what we needed and accepted. They were very open to presenting whatever our student leaders wanted.
(RM) Tell me about the process in getting Elaine Penn. Why did you choose her? How’d you find her?
(BT) There’s a conference called the National Conference of Student Leadership and a lot of the speakers come from that conference. She attended and presented last year in Orlando and everyone said she is a great speaker; let’s try to get her. We tried to get her last semester and she wasn’t available but this time we could. We try to get people some students have heard and liked so we can bring them back to Southern.
(RM) What kind of feedback did you get? Which session would you say was a highlight?
(BT) I definitely think looking at what students said, the campus challenge was the highest rated part of retreat and that was something we really wanted. Everyone was really receptive of doing the project themselves and hearing about other club’s projects. It was really interesting to hear.
(RM) Looking forward, what do you think the program needs?
(BT) I think for next year we’re definitely going to see if we can structure it so that student leaders can get the most out of it. A lot of students have attended in the past and they want to keep going deeper into their leadership skills and want to learn more. And we have brand new leaders so how can we make it fit the two different types of students. It’s hard to do something for everyone but we want students to be able to get the most out of it.

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