Student leaders attend retreat

studentprograms-2On Monday, Dec. 10, the Bellevue College Student Programs hosted the Mid-Year Leadership Retreat for student leaders on campus. The event was attended by 53 students from every Student Programs faction. Facilitator Maketa Wilborn, who specializes in equity and diversity training for organizations, led the event.

The focus of the retreat was diversity, an ongoing theme on the BC campus. “The thought was to look at the concepts of equity, inclusion, and some various constructs that we have in place in our country and globally, because what happens in this community is a microcosm of what happens in the larger community,” said Assistant Dean of Student Programs Faisal Jaswal. Jaswal, Vice President of Diversity and Pluralism Yoshiko Harden and many other members of BC’s faculty have been hard at work this year to increase awareness about diversity issues on campus, and fostering a safe environment where students of every background can thrive. “If one of us is unsafe in a community, all of us are unsafe, so it’s not about creating pockets of safe space. It’s either we have a safe space or we don’t,” said Jaswal.

Students from each division of Student Programs participated in challenges and discussions in randomly assigned teams, led by Wilborn. The student response to Wilborn’s facilitation was overwhelmingly positive: out of the 53 students in attendance, 43 gave Wilborn a five-star rating on his evaluation and no one gave him anything less than a three. LGBTQ Resource Center Leader Lauryn Shinaul said, “He kept up the energy and he asked us questions that actually made us think about some stuff on campus, and I was really excited about it. I was like, ‘Wait! I wanna talk about this some more! Can we talk about this again?’” Chris Robertson, Opinions Editor from The Watchdog, added that he appreciated Maketa’s ability to involve everyone, saying that “people who otherwise would never have gotten up and spoken at the end found the courage and leadership to speak their mind.”

The subject of the keynote speech, delivered by Harden, was racial micro-aggressions and aimed to open the eyes of students who may not realize the consequences of thoughtless actions. Ali Collucci, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said Harden’s speech was “amazing” and added, “I’ll reschedule meetings that I’ve already had planned for months just to go to her forums…[she has] a different kind of passion that I’ve never seen before at BC.”

At the end of the day, students sat in a circle and shared their thoughts on the day. Said Jaswal: “To me, that’s the most valuable part of their day is when…I get to hear how [students] feel, because if we’ve created a safe space people will give themselves the permission and others the permission to say, to feel, to be who they are. And within that context, I heard a lot of sharing. Those thoughts are the thread that holds the fabric of our community together.”  Collucci’s confidence was boosted by Wilborn and Harden’s words. “It was one of the first times ever in my life that I was able to get up [and speak],” she said.  The next leadership retreat will be held on June 19, 2013.