Connections for Success Retreat Fosters Personal Growth and Professional Development
The Fleishman Center hosted its third annual Connections for Success retreat at Pocono Plateau in Cresco, Pennsylvania from March 16-18, recently recognized as an award-winning program by NASPA.
The Connections for Success program is aimed for sophomore students and allows them to network with each other and alumni to gain professional development and leadership skills. The retreat is free for students and includes valuable workshops from professional staff and alumni, and meals for the whole weekend.
Forty sophomore students attended this year's retreat, in addition to eight junior student mentors and several alumni and staff members.
The weekend kicked off with a Speed Networking icebreaker Friday night to learn more about one another, followed by a game of Family Feud. The next day was filled with workshops and activities led by alumni and staff ranging from Building Your Brand to identifying values, Financial Wellness, and strengthening a LinkedIn profile. Students identified strengths, weaknesses, short and long term goals, and used these traits when identifying their core values, a newly added component to this year's retreat.
According to Lexie Avery, Fleishman Center Career Consultant and Coordinator of Connections for Success, identifying values helps students gain a better understanding of themselves and gives them more confidence in making career decisions. She said her hope for the future is to host more events like this one, either on or off campus.
"Every year is a little different because there is a different mix of students," Avery said. "This year, students were really ready to be vulnerable about their experience - what scares them, what makes them nervous about career exploration - and when you're open to meeting different people and connecting with alumni, it makes for a transformative experience for students."
In between goal setting and team building, students spent their free time sledding before making s'mores around a campfire.
Robyn Henderson, Assistant to the Director of the Fleishman Center, said that watching how much the students grew both individually and as a group during the short 48-hour retreat was incredible.
"I hope the students stay in touch with each other and use each other for help because they really got close and enjoyed being with each other, which was inspiring and awesome to see," Henderson said. "I think those who took advantage of this opportunity are going to be light years ahead of their peers."
Jessie Rubin, a junior majoring in business administration, attended last year's retreat and returned as a mentor this year. She said this was a perfect role because she built upon her experience from last year and was able to act as an example for sophomores who were unsure of their direction careerwise.
During the weekend, mentors led activities, team building exercises, and facilitated conversation with their mentees.
The retreat culminated in a group reflection exercise in which students shared growths and strengths they noticed in other students. Attendees said that writing out and aligning their goals and strengths was more effective than just hypothesizing them. Additionally, some students noticed strengths in their peers who struggled to identify them.
"It's nice to see how much change can occur when you're guided through workshops versus when you're trying to reflect on your own," Rubin said. "It was a great opportunity for me to be a leader and also a learner and even though I learned a lot as a participant last year, there's always room for growth."