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Learning to make waves

Interested in an all-expenses-paid trip to the beach? There's a catch: "You will be responsible for being a serious, dedicated participant who will carry out a year-long commitment to a student organization."

About 40 student leaders took the University up on its offer in late August, and today administrators will meet for the annual debriefing meeting of the Duke Student Leadership Retreat.

The retreat, with its emphasis on managing student groups, is now in its fourth year of existence. Each year, student leaders from various campus organizations, along with administrators and professors, get together at the Beaufort Marine Lab in a weekend-long discussion of the components of effective leadership.

Skills like event planning and programming, networking and developing and promoting integrity among their peers are emphasized through a series of workshops. These sessions are aimed at engaging and encouraging student leaders to develop innovative, creative ideas for their Duke career and beyond.

Overall, administrators and students alike reported the retreat a success.

"I would definitely recommend the retreat to anyone--I had a great time," said senior Will Melendez of the Latino student group Mi Gente. "Each group of students did a great job at presenting their ideas, and I got to know students that I never thought I would."

The outcome of promoting interaction among various campus organizations is exactly what Sue Wasiolek, dean of students and assistant vice president for student affairs, had hoped for. "One of the main purposes of this retreat is to promote students from various groups to interact with students that they normally wouldn't," Wasiolek said.

Students also said they enjoyed the retreat's location at Beaufort, on the North Carolina coast. "When I first saw the advertisement for the retreat... I thought that it was a cool idea to have students get together at the beach," said sophomore Hannah Ludwin, a peer educator. "It sparked my interest."

Wasiolek said the University chose Duke's small coastal campus to enrich students' understanding of the University.

"With the location being at Beaufort, students get to see a part of Duke that they may never have seen," Wasiolek said.

At today's meeting, administrators will review and discuss these aspects of the retreat using student evaluations. "We aim to make this retreat student-centered," Assistant Dean of Students Andrea Caldwell said. "We want the students to run the course of the retreat. And we also want the retreat to appeal to all students."

Melinda Roper, assistant dean of student advising and programming and one of the planners of the retreat, supported this goal. "We aspire to improve the retreat every year and will certainly be making changes once again," Roper said.

The retreat's timing and scheduling have been debated throughout previous years. This past year, the retreat was conducted on the week prior to upperclass move-in.

"I had heard that in previous years the retreat was a little bit longer," said sophomore Jennifer Beall of Women in Engineering. "I truly enjoyed the retreat and wished we had more time than the two days or so."

Ludwin also voiced some suggestions about the retreat's scheduling. "It was such a packed schedule that we did not have much free time. I wish we had more time to develop friendships," she said.

Such suggestions are exactly what the administrators said they are looking for. "We want to always continue to raise the standard of this retreat," Caldwell said. "Perhaps we can work with the student facilitators of the retreat earlier on in the semester in order to engage students even more and enhance what the students want to do."

Another suggestion Caldwell made was in regards to overall campus awareness about the opportunity. Applications for the Beaufort Leadership Retreat are available during the Spring semester. "We want to make sure that all students know about this opportunity, not just students who are in [major] leadership roles," she said. "Our goal is to have a crosscut of leaders."

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