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The first Walsh Discover retreat

Brian Hopkins

Brian Hopkins - Class of 2007

We finished up our first Discover retreat in the basement of the Timken Natural Science Center, but we'd still call it a huge success. A bad snowstorm was predicted for our area in February 2006, and the other team leaders and I decided that the retreat must go on. So we packed our gear and everyone else's into the vans to spend Friday night at Camp Nuhop in Perrysville, and returned to campus the following afternoon. At the time, the basement of Timken was all we could get to conclude our retreat, but as it turns out, it was all we needed. The important thing was that the students could experience a time away from their lives to reflect.

Since 2006, the Discover retreat has continued to be a spring-semester tradition to help freshmen transition to college life. The Discover retreat allows students to look back on their first semester, and to ask themselves if they are achieving the things that they had dreamed of. If not, the retreat allows students to reflect on the changes they need to make to achieve their personal goals and establish their identity. The Discover retreat continues to reach out to freshmen students every February, and usually spans from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. The retreat now takes place at Camp Aldersgate. Every year, students have spread the word to their friends, and Discover continues to help freshmen in a powerful way.

I developed and implemented the first Discover retreat for freshmen students as the Spiritual Programming Chair of the University Programming Board (UPB), which is comprised of undergraduate students who voluntarily create, organize, and execute campus events. In my junior year, the UPB wanted to make this retreat a reality for the first time. I was inspired by retreats I had participated in at my high school, Padua Franciscan, and Walsh's own Agape retreat. However, we wanted this to be a special event for freshmen specifically.

A few other students and I drafted a proposal and began sharing our idea with other university officials. When we got the green light from Amy Malaska, we knew that it was really happening! We assembled the first team of leaders and threw ourselves into preparations: advertisements in the David Center, planning events for the retreat itself, and cajoling students to join this new event. Participants for the first retreat and future retreat leaders Ben Daleiden, Tyler Corcoran and Kate Carlson knew that just posting advertisements around campus was not going to be enough, and personally reached out to many students. We were lucky to have a group of 24 students for our first retreat.

As a freshman, my own transition wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. People weren't always trying to be who they wanted to be, and that was a problem. We wanted Discover to be a place where these anxieties and worries could be lifted and people could be free to be who they are. I served again on the UPB during my senior year, and facilitated another successful retreat. I graduated in 2007 with a major in biology and a minor in psychology. I currently work at Syracuse University in New York as a residence director, and I am privileged to continue helping students on a daily basis.