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Student Retreat Focuses on Leadership

September 08, 2015

Category: Events, Students


By Anna Beth Carter '16leadership-retreat.jpg

I was one of over thirty Catawba College students who attended the College's annual Leadership Retreat. Focused on helping students to tap into and really harness their potential to be leaders on campus and in the community, the retreat had several special sessions that enabled all of us to redefine what it is to be a leader and how we might go about being one in our everyday lives.

Our group left campus on Friday evening around 6:30 p.m. and made our way to the Black Lake Retreat Center in Asheboro. The retreat center is situated around beautiful Black Lake, with cabins on one side and a large, rustic conference center which was to be the site of all of our leadership activities. Our stay at Black Lake was not going to be long, so as soon as the vans pulled into the driveway, the leadership activities began.

The group consisted of leaders of varying degrees, all coming from very different backgrounds and experiences. Some were seasoned veterans of the Leadership Retreat, having attended in years past. Others were newcomers, such as myself, who hadn't necessarily held a formal leadership position, but who were willing and able to learn. Leaders and key players from an array of on-campus clubs and organizations were present, representing things such as the Student Government Association and Environment Catawba Outreach, just to name a few. It should also be noted that this group of students was one of the largest to attend a leadership retreat in several years. On top of that, roughly half of the attending students were freshman or first-year students.

We participated in a number of fun group activities in order to break the ice, but it did not take long for our group to begin to bond and recognize strengths and weaknesses in one another. The leader mentality was so strong and focused that even during downtime on the retreat, students were pointing out how they might be better leaders in games and discussions that otherwise were not connected to the actual agenda of the retreat. This active and mindful reflection of one's self is exactly the kind of thing that can be found all over Catawba College's campus.

The leadership sessions began with a brief introduction by Blake Brewer, executive vice president to the student body. Mr. Brewer discussed SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) Goals, a useful acronym to help aid in the planning and execution of goals.

On Saturday, students had the privilege of being visited by the following: three members of the Cabinet; Brien Lewis, Catawba College President; Dr. Michael Bitzer, Provost; and Rex Otey, Vice President of Development. Each session with the cabinet members was very relaxed, with students sitting in somewhat of a circle of chairs and the speakers positioned at the peak.

President Lewis spoke primarily on his experience in leadership roles throughout his career, giving students three major points of advice. First, the President emphasized the need for leaders to have passion and be persistent in everything that they do. Next, he recommended that when negotiating or persuading someone, it is important to remember to put things in perspective for them and to indicate why they should personally be interested. Finally, President Lewis advised us to never be malicious, regardless of what leadership style we chose.

Provost Bitzer had students take a much deeper look into the definitions of the words "leader" and "power." The result of this kind of brainstorming was a general consensus that the words can mean the same things, but can also be wildly different. Several students pointed out that a person's intentions, as well as place in society, had a lot to do with the distinctions and made all the difference. Specifically, Dr. Bitzer made the point that while all those in power may technically be leaders, not every leader is necessarily going to be the most powerful person around. He then related leadership and power to our country's current political situation with the impending presidential elections.

Rex Otey, Vice President of Catawba's Development Office, gave a compelling presentation on the power of being a leader behind the scenes, so to speak. After a comprehensive explanation of what the development office does for the College, students reflected on the act of fundraising and "friendraising," both efforts in an attempt to keep the Catawba community connected while also allowing it to grow and flourish.

One of the last leadership sessions involved our group participating in parliamentary procedure using Robert's Rules of Order to guide in the proceedings. For Harry Potter fans, and there were plenty attending this retreat, the procedure had a magical twist put on it when students were asked to advocate for or against supporting house elf rights. 

Justin Burroughs, executive SGA president, and Blake Brewer, executive SGA vice president, were instrumental in the planning and facilitating of what became a truly memorable retreat. Additionally, meals were prepared by and various activities were supervised by the College's own Dr. Ken Clapp (Chaplain, Senior Vice President, Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy, and Director of Catawba's Lilly Center for Vocations and Values).