Recently I had the honor of co-planning a women’s leadership retreat for students on our campus with a colleague. This was the first-ever program of its kind at our small, private institution. We settled on this idea after realizing it was an awesome opportunity for collaboration across campus, to bring together a diverse group of students, and provide targeted programming to female students. Due to the nature of our campus and our Lutheran affiliation, the retreat was open to all students who identify as female in both sex and gender.
The retreat lasted for three days and two nights. We used the theme “BeYouTiful” to guide our planning, because we wanted students to walk away feeling empowered to be who they are, confidently. Using this theme, we identified various faculty and staff across campus who could develop an educational session that would provide some information that would empower the women in attendance. We ended up with 12 faculty and staff members from 8 different departments on campus. This was very exciting because, even on a small campus, we are really good at staying in our own lanes. We all generally like each other, but our work seems to stay divided on a day-to-day basis.
Over the course of the weekend, the participants engaged in activities such as career networking, personal branding, values clarification, self-image, assertiveness, not letting others’ words define us, integrity, meditation, and overcoming the Imposter Syndrome. The breadth and depth of programs was fascinating, and really did cover a wide scope of the leadership spectrum, with the twist of identifying as female.
The students in attendance were just as diverse as the faculty and staff. There were athletes, orientation leaders, RAs, first year through graduate students, and some who came just to meet new people and become more connected to campus. We were also able to accommodate two hearing-impaired students, which was a new experience for some of our hearing-able students. Their identities and values ran the gamut, and provided for rich, important dialogue.
After the retreat, we are planning to implement semi-regular touch points through a mentoring program. Each of the faculty or staff members in attendance will connect with 3-4 students to check in and continue conversations. Students who attended are also invited to assist in planning and presenting at next year’s retreat, turning the event into a student-led initiative.
I feel this program showed there is still value in creating and supporting identity-based programming. Yes, interaction among folks of all identities is invaluable and necessary in our world that sometimes feels full of hate. However, there is also power in experiences among those with a shared identity.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Ann Marie Klotz on Women in Student Affairs