From Friday, Jan. 20, through Jan. 21, about 50 students and 14 student, administrative and faculty facilitators participated in the fourth annual Next Step Social Justice Retreat. The two-day long event took place in College Park Hall.
The retreat was organized into large and small group activities and dialogues intended to, as described by Director of Multicultural Affairs Jason Benitez, “increase empathy, awareness and action.” Those who participate also shared personal stories and experiences that related to the overall theme of social justice. “Differences are respected and appreciated,” highlights Benitez.
Benitez emphasizes the opportunity to “carve out an intentional space where challenging yet needed dialogue can occur, and where students can speak their own truths to power.”
Benitez continues, “These conversations surround difficult topics such as power, privilege, oppression and discrimination. All with the goal of fostering the types of connections that tend not to occur anywhere else on campus. Diverse students, sharing deeply meaningful dialogue with the goal of fostering allies to action around social justice.”
Student participant Emmanuella Oppong ’19 says, “I was grateful to be a part of such a phenomenal event. If the world were to have a day of this; learning from one another through our experiences as we bring different perspectives to the table discussing complex and difficult issues of society – there could be hope for world peace.”
The Next Step Social Justice Retreat intends to meet the growing need to bring the campus together on matters of diversity and encourage quality communication about such matters.
Benitez also comments that, partially through specific outreach, this year’s social justice participants were a more thorough representation of all areas of the campus community, a major reason why Benitez declared this retreat a success.