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Student leaders were randomly assigned groups which they had to work with for the duration of the retreat. Photo by Kristina Soetje.

Leading Orgs challenges student leaders

Seventy-one students from 24 different organizations that gathered in the Skylight room early Saturday morning all shared one similar goal: to become strong leaders.

Leading Orgs is an annual leadership retreat hosted by Student Life, aimed towards building up leadership skills among student organization officers. This is the second year Romy Hübler, Coordinator of Student Life for Student Organizations and Involvement, has led the retreat.

“Leadership can be learned,” said Hübler.

She believes this retreat equips student leaders with the tools and resources necessary to help them find a purpose for their organizations on campus. This is the fourth consecutive year Student Life has put on the retreat.  

Student organization officers were welcomed with breakfast and given an overview of their day. They were split up randomly into teams and expected to work with their group throughout the retreat. The groups participated in team building activities and were challenged throughout the day to pay attention to group dynamics. The goal of these activities was to mimic possible scenarios and situations that may arise within organizations, so that officers would be equipped to deal with different challenges and conflicts within their clubs.

David Hoffman, Assistant Director of Student Life, acknowledged the importance of leadership in organizations on campus: “Communities thrive when people step up, take responsibility, pull people together and solve problems. That’s what leadership is about.”

After the team breakout sessions and super secret shenanigans which took place on Erikson field, student organization leaders gathered back inside the Skylight room and listened to several keynote speakers who touched on the topics of leadership, recruitment and retention. One of these speakers was UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski. As Hrabowski walked into the room, student leaders cheerfully welcomed him with the UMBC fight song.

Hrabowski shared with the crowd of students his advice on being a successful leader.

“The best leaders really want feedback,” said Hrabowski, “The important question always is, ‘How can I be better?’”

Nancy Young, Vice President of Student Affairs, followed Hrabowski’s speech by emphasizing that leadership brings about great responsibility. Young claims that an important role of student organization leaders is facilitating tough conversations among members of their organizations.

A unique part of the program included the workshop sessions which highlighted different important skill sets among student leaders. One workshop session called “Involvement Fest is Over… Now What?” assisted students in continuing to find strategies to recruit new members and maintain retention rates at club meetings.

After workshop sessions, student organization officers and facilitators ended the day over ice cream and reflected on the skills and information they took away from the retreat.

Junior media and communications studies major Timmy Farrell was a peer facilitator of the event and a member of the National Alliance of Mental Health. “Being a facilitator and helping others find themselves as leaders so they can make a difference on the UMBC campus is powerful,”  he said. “I hope through this program, participants can help figure out what leadership is, so they can bring it back to campus.”

As the day wrapped up, many students expressed feelings of inspiration and hopefulness for the future of their organizations. It is clear that the retreat prepared all 71 students to be strong and successful leaders in their organizations at UMBC.