UNO Leadership Cabinet Holds Annual Leadership Retreat
Singalongs, storytelling, s'mores and student success marked a cozy October weekend in central Louisiana for nearly 100 University of New Orleans students aiming to become better leaders on campus and in life.
"Leadership Retreat brings together new students to UNO and students who have been on campus a while and gives them a chance to meet each other and develop relationships, not only on a personal level, in terms of personal friendship, but in terms of organizational leadership," said undergraduate student Edie Talley, who co-chaired the weekend retreat with undergraduate student Luis Murillo.
"What we see are many new students who are trying to find their place at the University who make friends, but also find out about organizations that interest them. Through Leadership Cabinet they are encouraged to participate in other groups on campus and take on Leadership roles within them if they are already participants."
The 23-member Leadership Cabinet plans leadership activities on campus throughout the year with a goal of improving and enhancing student success in college and beyond, UNO officials said. At the heart of this diverse group of student leaders is a common goal: inspiring fellow students to become effective, ethical leaders and responsible citizens both at the UNO and in the community.
The Leadership Retreat is one of the largest events the Leadership Cabinet hosts each year and this year's retreat, with 91 participants, marked the event's highest attendance eve, said Talley. Students headed to the hills from Oct. 25-27 and stayed in cabins at Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center, a retreat near Alexandria, La.
Throughout the three-day two-night annual retreat, members of the Leadership Cabinet present briefly on topics related to leadership, with an aim of demystifying leadership and making leadership roles seem less intimidating and more fun, said Talley.
"And I think because the presentations are given by their peers, the students who attend find more validity in them. They're more valid because they are presented by their peers and (students) identify with their peers," she said.
"So the retreat not only serves as a leadership development opportunity for new students seeking their place at the University, it also gives the members of the Leadership Cabinet an opportunity to develop their leadership skills in an environment that is friendly.
"There are no grades to this," she added. "It's a nurturing environment for those who are investigating leadership."
The weekend is designed to be fun, said Talley. One of the most anticipated highlights is a Friday night "Bonfire By the Lake," where the group tells ghost stories and makes s'mores. By Day Two, the group is working in small groups of eight, addressing hopes and fears and building relationships, while learning more about leadership and skills for success. A Saturday night talent show is an event that everyone looks forward to and enjoys, said Talley.
"It just goes on and on until people collapse. It's just a big ol' karaoke at the end," said Talley. "At the end of the day, you've made a lot of friends."
As a so-called "nontraditional" student who returned to college as an adult with several children she initially felt "fairly disoriented" on a college campus, said Talley, who has since served as a UNO ambassador and managing editor of Driftwood, the University's student newspaper, and studied creative writing in Cork, Ireland on a Benjamin Gilman Scholarship as part of the University's acclaimed Creative Writing Workshop and study abroad programs.
"Going to Leadership retreat helped me make friends who will be my friends for the rest of my life, helped me identify organizations and activities at UNO that interested me and people who made me feel accepted," said Talley. "And it made the difference between just going to UNO and being happy here and staying," she said. "And I think that's what Leadership Retreat does. It helps students who are new find their place -- and stay."
Talley encouraged a lot of her nontraditional student friends to attend this year's retreat, she said. Whereas when she attended her first Leadership Retreat last year, she was the only nontraditional student in attendance, approximately 10 percent of this year's participants were nontraditional students.
She made a concentrated effort to encourage other nontraditional students to apply and participate, Talley said. Her goal was to provide everyone involved with new and different perspectives.