Interview about Leadership Retreats: Advantages and Integration into Programs

I did a short interview recently about developing leadership retreats. Here is the text from Magna Publications:

Student Affairs Leader recently interviewed Eich about the topic in preparation for the live event.

SAL: What advantages do retreats have over other leadership development experiences?

Eich: In traditional leadership program activities, students might meet on campus only once every couple of weeks, if that often. In contrast, a retreat is intensive. Instead of spending eight hours learning about leadership over eight sessions during a semester, they spend eight hours learning in one day. And because the retreat is nonstop, students must participate in the entire experience; in semester-long programs, they can skip sessions.

Because students are together in retreats for a longer continuous time block, they can warm up and extend their comfort zones to have better, deeper conversations. Also, retreats are often offsite, overnight, and feature different ways of learning, such as using problem-based learning, ropes courses, and other activities that are more creative than traditional lectures. Students learn leadership best by doing it and reflecting on it. A retreat also offers students a special place to step back and reflect on what they do and who they are.

SAL: Should retreats be “stand alone” experiences, or should they be part of a larger leadership development program?

Eich: Retreats can be stand alone or part of a larger program. If a leadership program is just starting, a great way to begin is by offering a retreat and growing from there. This gets a group of students involved and gives them an intensive learning experience as well as interest in being a part of or even co-creating other leadership program sessions. So you can grow a larger program from that first retreat.

Also, leadership learning and retreats can be offered by a wide variety of college departments—they don’t always need to be owned by the leadership program office. Residence life, student government, multicultural student organizations, religious organizations, Greek life, athletics, or even the English department can offer a retreat and help students learn about leadership and themselves. These departments can hold single retreats that then plug students into the larger leadership program on campus.

Any larger leadership program should have a retreat component. Most begin the year as well as end the year with a retreat. The retreats have become great campus traditions and catalysts for deeper involvement, learning, and development for students.

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