Boston College LeaderShape had street teams tabling, giving out candy, and taking polaroid pictures across campus this week to recruit applicants for next year’s retreat in January.
“The goal of the street teams was to bring the LeaderShape community together in an effort to attractive new participants and to shift our recruitment to students who are currently at BC in order to give those who have expressed interest time to prepare for the weeklong retreat,” said JonRobert Bagley, Graduate Assistant for Experiential Leadership in the Office of Student Involvement (OSI). “Engagement is one of the pillars of the LeaderShape retreat. The street teams are an embodiment of that pillar: Bringing past LeaderShape participants together again, and growing the community for the future.”
A free six-day leadership and community-building experience under the OSI, LeaderShape is open to students of all classes. The program emphasizes living and leading with integrity, identifying one's core values, discerning what type of leader one is, vision planning, and having a healthy disregard for the impossible. Next year’s retreat will be the final week of winter break: January 9-14th, 2017.
Unlike other BC retreats, LeaderShape is tied to a national non-profit as part of a larger network of other LeaderShape chapters at universities across the country. There have been more than 65,000 LeaderShape graduates nationwide over the past three decades, including Google co-founder Larry Page, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan, Girls Who Code founder and CEO Reshma Saujani, and NFL quarterback Brian Griese.
In the five years that it has been at BC, LeaderShape has grown tremendously. “The growth that I have seen is the level of impact that comes back to campus, whether that’s through new organizations, new conversations, or people changing their direction or major in life,” said Adrienne Dumpe, OSI Assistant Director for Experiential Leadership. “I feel like there’s a LeaderShape force on campus that wasn’t here three or four years ago.”
The specifics of the LeaderShape retreat are kept under wraps, making it difficult for those who have gone to explain what, exactly, the week-long commitment entails.
“I signed up for Leadershape not knowing what I was getting myself into, especially since it was the longest retreat I’ve ever been on,” 2016 LeaderShape participant Vivien Yang, MCAS ‘18, said. “The days were tiring from eight in the morning to 11 at night, but honestly, it was one of the highlights of my sophomore year. I’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many wonderful memories.”
Fifty to 60 students are chosen to attend LeaderShape, which will be held at the University of Rhode Island’s W. Alton Jones Retreat Center. Time is divided between the “Learning Community,” which includes all the retreat members, and the “Family Cluster,” a small group of 8 to 12 peers led by a Cluster Facilitator. Cluster Facilitators are BC staff and administration who take a week off work to lead and devote themselves to the experience.
Having attended LeaderShape when he was an undergraduate student at Texas A&M University, Thomas Harwell, Assistant Director of the Career Center, went back this past January as a Cluster Facilitator. "I think the most impactful part of being a cluster facilitator last year was seeing people change together over the week. You start out 50 strangers and over the course of the week you live this impactful shared experience students change and have realizations,” he said. “I participated as a student and remember its impact on me then. As a facilitator I showed up expecting to help the students, but ended up connecting to students in a unique way, getting to reflect on my own values and creating another community within BC."
Each day of LeaderShape has a theme, such as “Challenging What Is, Looking To What Could Be”or “Living and Leading With Integrity,” taking an immersive and inclusive approach through group activities, large and small group discussions, and personal reflection. Those reflections apply Jesuit values grounded in personal growth rather than in any particular faith.
“I think LeaderShape is important because it challenges people to ask the questions of who they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it,” said Katherine Nozfiger, MCAS ‘16, 2016 LeaderShape On-Site Coordinator and 2015 LeaderShape participant. “It offers a different perspective from what I’ve gotten anywhere else at BC, so my experience of reflection at LeaderShape has only enriched the Ignatian tradition of reflection. As a result, I’ve seen a positive change in myself and in other people because of LeaderShape, which has then translated into positive impact on campus.”
The week of tabling allowed students who were unfamiliar with the retreat to meet and talk to LeaderShape alumni about what their experiences were like, culminating with a barbecue that was open to past LeaderShape participants, nominees, and those who stopped by at a table throughout the week.
To find out more about LeaderShape at BC, one can visit their Facebook page and follow them on Instagram (@leadershapebc). The LeaderShape application can be found here: https://orgsync.com/83570/forms/183753. Spring registration ends May 9.