Be the Change: An IonE Student Retreat
Being your authentic self, meeting others halfway, and bringing intention to your actions were some of the takeaways from the Institute on the Environment’s Be the Change Retreat that took place on Saturday, September 16th. Over 80 students attended this day-long event that provided skill and community building opportunities for students passionate about and wanting to take action on sustainability, environmental and human rights issues.
The day started off with energy, laughs, and critical thinking with Phyllis Braxton, President and Founder of Pink Consulting, leading us on a journey of self reflection and an eye opening activity that brought the idea of new perspectives and opposing views to light. Taking time to reflect on how one’s own role in how they engage with others was a main focus in the talk along with helpful ways to intentionally become aware of different communication styles while working and connecting with cultures other than your own. Engaging, thoughtful and eye-opening were just a few of the positive comments made by students at the retreat reflecting on Phyllis’s talk.
After the inspiring keynote, students were asked to attend an action group to collaborate and share thoughts on sustainability with other students. These action groups included the Sustainability Network Coalition, led by Will Macheel, UMN Student and Sustainability Committee Director of the Minnesota Student Association, What do you want to do about Climate Change?, led by Jessica Hellmann, Director of the Institute on the Environment and Aaron Carlson, UMN Student and Member of the Student Unions and Activities Board of Governors, How can Acara support you in addressing social and environmental issues?, led by the Acara Student Board, and finally a section tailored to those who may have not known exactly what group to attend called Finding my Place on Campus, led by Mary Hannemann, the Education Coordinator for Sustainability Education. One student expressed their thoughts on the action groups stating, “It was encouraging to hear about what others are doing and it gave me some ideas about changes I could make in my own life.”
Thanks to 1851 Heritage Catering, attendees ate a delicious vegetarian or vegan meal for lunch. A spectacular musical guest, Colin Peters, played guitar over the meal while conversations and stories were exchanged among students. Dave Ellis, founder and CEO of Dave Ellis Consulting, followed lunch with Tips for Hosting Successful Groups where he touched on how hosting diverse groups should be in the front of any leader’s mind when planning and facilitating meetings. The day followed into a workshop section dedicated to the themes of Time Management, Project Management, Personal Sustainability, and Public Speaking and Presentation Skills. Students then had the chance to write a word or phrase on a stone that they could keep for motivation, inspiration, or a reminder of what they learned from the day.
To close the day, Patty O’Keefe, a UMN Alumni and Divestment Coordinator at MN350, shared her inspiring journey from college into career, and the ups and downs that go along with that transition. She sparked enthusiasm throughout the room and provided a perfect ending to a day full of action, and inspiration. As a last reflection and send-off students gathered in a circle outside of Bruinicks Hall to state one word that described how they felt at that moment.
We want to thank everyone who attended the retreat as well as those who helped make it all happen! A special thanks goes out to the C. Charles Jackson Foundation for generously funding the event. We look forward to seeing all the positive change to come!
Banner Photo Courtesy of Mary Hannemann