More than 48 Seton Hall students attended a retreat for inclusion training at Camp Bernie on Sept. 22 and 23, strengthening their leadership skills and bringing lessons to freshmen in University Life classes.
Winston Roberts, the associate dean of students, said he believes that the weekend of exercises was beneficial for the whole Seton Hall student body in becoming a more accepting culture.
“It’s a step,” Roberts said. “It’ll open the conversation to become a more cultivated campus—a more open campus.”
At Camp Bernie, the group worked with the Ceceilyn Miller Institute for Leadership and Diversity, which ran through in-depth exercises that revolved around one’s culture and personal experiences. Roberts said the purpose of these exercises was for students to take these lessons and put them to use in University Life classes so that freshmen can become more comfortable adjusting to their first year of college.
Roberts said he feels that freshmen will take this lesson better since they are coming from fellow students. “Too often, it’s the administration who provide those, deliver the framework and hope that it works,” Roberts said. “This idea allows students to take that step.”
Despite learning how to give back to the Seton Hall community, the weekend retreat also helped those students recognize potential within themselves to dissect and navigate through difficult conversations.
Freshman advisor Lauren Mitchell said she found the trip to be very successful. “We were able to witness some very motivated students who are really committed to making Seton Hall a more inclusive environment,” Mitchell said.
She said she found importance within the trip as a whole, as she witnessed the group’s self-awareness deepen. Having students relate to each other and grow bonds was one of the main goals that both Mitchell and Roberts said they hoped would come out of the trip.
Mitchell said the skills acquired and lessons learned by students during the trip are some that she hopes will be utilized once their time is up at Seton Hall. Some of these included new skills, new friendships and a deeper appreciation for their own identities.
Ronald Babiak, a sophomore economics and finance major, attended the trip and shared his experience, “We all learned from our experiences at the camp, how to keep our biases in check and treat everyone equally and with the respect and dignity they deserve,” Babiak said.
Babiak said the students conducted a number of activities to show how different individuals would deal with certain issues and situations. Those activities also helped bring the students closer as a group. Babiak said he embraced each of those students who attended.
“The people that I met and got to know over the course of that day were nothing short of incredible and brave,” Babiak said. “We were talking very freely about subjects most people tend to shy away from. I would definitely do it again. It was a great experience not only because of what we were learning but who we were learning from and with.”
Ronald Castaneda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.