In an effort to further Augusta University’s embodiment of its values, the Office of Student Life and Engagement has made strides to improve student leadership on campus — and their efforts have seen excellent results so far.
Over the summer, Student Life and Engagement hosted its first “LEAD Up” Student Leadership Retreat. The retreat, hosted at Camp Gravatt from Aug. 5-6, was the first of many enhanced leadership offerings to come in the next few semesters.
And now, with fall in full swing and the campus passing through midterms, student leaders are reflecting on how they’ve applied what they learned over the summer to their respective organizations.
The LEAD Up retreat was a summit for current student leaders, including fraternity and sorority chapter presidents, Fraternity and Sorority Life Council presidents and vice presidents and the executive boards of The CREW and the Student Government Association (SGA). The program was designed to help student leaders bond with other groups on campus and gain strategies to take their organizations to the next level.
Joe Pierce, the director of Student Engagement, also used the retreat as an opportunity for the groups to share resources, as each community has unique assets.
“The CREW hosts events that are open to collaboration, SGA has significant access to administration, and our Fraternity and Sorority Life community has lots of manpower, substantial connections to the community and a large alumni base,” said Pierce. “These are all resources that can be shared among different groups.”
The LEAD Up retreat was split into two themes: Day 1 focused on the self, and Day 2 focused on others. Day 1 explored each student’s leadership style, strengths and weaknesses, while Day 2 tackled the issue of disengaged group members and what leadership can do to encourage involvement.
At the end of the retreat, student leaders wrote out specific goals and milestones and created a plan to follow up with Student Life and Engagement every month to report their progress.
“This retreat was unique in that it was both fun and informative,” said Pierce. “Our students had a chance to socialize during fun activities like bonfires and rock climbing, but they also networked and created an action plan to better their respective groups.”
Talecia Cistrunk, vice president of membership for The CREW, said her organization has improved significantly since the LEAD Up retreat.
“During the retreat, student leaders learned how to edit our leadership style based on the type of member we were leading,” said Cistrunk. “As a result, The CREW has seen an increase in general member retention this semester.”
Miranda Burgstiner, vice president of the College Panhellenic Council, values the relationships the retreat built — relationships that are now contributing to increased collaboration. “The leadership retreat created connections between different student organizations and encouraged different councils to work together.”
Taili Cid, president of the Student Government Association, thanks the LEAD Up retreat for pulling her out of her shell. “I now take the initiative to reach out to people, especially when it comes to organizational collaboration,” she said.
This month, there will be a larger group follow-up with every student leader who attended the summit.
Pierce said Student Life and Engagement plans to make this retreat an annual tradition that improves every year.
“Next year I want to extend the retreat by a day, and offer more opportunities for social engagement,” he said. “So ideally, Day 1 one would be ‘Self,’ Day 2 would be ‘Others’ and Day 3 would be ‘Community,’ where we have a social activity centered around community service.”
The LEAD Up retreat and its recent follow-ups tie into Student Life and Engagement’s larger strategic plan. One of the office’s 2019-20 unit goals is to enhance student leadership skills that foster confidence, civil discourse and civic responsibility — and this includes creating consistency in how student leaders are developed.