Thursday, May 1, 2014

Student Leadership Retreat Recap

By Carolyn Terry

One of the major reasons that students like me choose Peirce is because we have seen how the College’s alumni have used their degrees to excel in leadership roles in various organizations. Peirce knows how to cultivate the necessary skills for these roles-- both inside and outside of the classroom.

Earlier this year, I learned that Peirce would be hosting its annual Student Leadership Retreat, where students travel off-campus for a weekend dedicated to developing our leadership skills through workshops, activities, and exercises.

UNLOCKING YOUR POTENTIAL: Peirce students gather for the annual
Student Leadership Retreat where they focus on developing leadership
 skills through workshops, activities, and exercises.
This year’s retreat was held from March 14 to March 16 at Bryn Mawr Mountain Retreat and Conference Center in Honesdale, Penn. I've heard many of my classmates say that this is an experience you don’t want to miss, so I quickly signed up. I was eager to network with my peers and learn leadership skills that I can apply to my daily life. I was especially looking forward to the team-building exercises that I had heard so much about.

From the start, I was impressed by the effort the Walker Center put into the surroundings and activities. Our theme was “Unlocking Your Potential,” and at the end, I certainly felt ready to move on to the next level in my leadership journey. Here are my top takeaways from the retreat.

  • Be accountable and help others be accountable. The first thing we did was establish an accountability partner – someone who’s responsibility it was to follow up with us to make sure we were meeting our goals.  We would then have the same check in with them. As an example, my partner’s goal was to share new ideas during a staff meeting at work. I called him to remind him of his goal the following week – and after his meeting I was pleased to hear that he met his goal! This important lesson on how to help others meet their goals is something every future manager needs to learn and fully understand. 
  • Be an active listener. To demonstrate what is needed to be a good listener, we were put into groups of 15 and given a rope. The directions were for everyone to jump over the rope at the same time with an appointed leader giving us directions. Of course at first, everyone thought they were the leader, and it wasn't until we all recognized one leader and the rest of us quieted down that we were able to get through the exercise successfully. This was eye-opening for me, because it took us maybe five minutes to complete the actual exercise, but almost half an hour to decide how to approach the assignment because at first, no one was listening. 
  • Be supportive. One of the best pieces of advice I've gotten from this exercise is that the best leaders know when to follow. As a leader in any organization, you need to be able to switch roles and listen to what others need you to do, and take direction just as well as you can give it. It’s about putting the organization’s goals before your own; and this can simply mean being available for someone when they need you to help solve their individual problems. 
  • Be adaptable. Another important quality that we went over is the ability to be adaptable. I immediately found several examples in my own life of when I needed to be able to do this more – whether in group work with other students or in the challenge of completing assignments for moving deadlines as dictated by professors. These things don’t end with school; they carry on into the work world, where much more is at stake. Learning to be flexible and having a back-up plan for every situation are essential qualities that every student needs to embrace. 

Of course, much more was covered, and I encourage every student who is thinking about participating in this retreat next year to do so. At first, it might seem intimidating – almost like that first day of summer camp as a child; you’re in a new place with new people, preparing to overcome difficult obstacles. But it is so worth it in the end!

My advice to future retreat attendees is to keep an open mind and learn to listen to others – it will take you far!

Carolyn Terry is currently enrolled in the Business Administration Program with a concentration in Management. She is employed with the City of Philadelphia in the Office of Housing. After graduation, Carolyn plans to use her degree to start a non-profit organization specializing in life skills training for those in need throughout her community.