Alaska Leadership Initiative Members Attend Weekend Retreat

kasey-chenBY KASEY CHEN
For the UAS Whalesong

Members of the Alaska Leadership Initiative (ALI) headed to the Eagle River United Methodist Camp this weekend for a retreat focused on community building and self-discovery. Student Coordinator Kyle Martini, described ALI as, “a leadership building/scholarship opportunity,” saying that, “(the members) put a lot of time, work, and effort into building their leadership skills and growing together as a group.” The retreat was a departure from the normal meetings, and was intended to allow members to the opportunity to forge new friendships with one another.

The fine-tuning of participants’ leadership abilities was included on the agenda for the weekend. Speaking about the objectives of the weekend, Martini explained, “They learn the different types of leadership, like what makes a good leader and a bad one. It’s really about learning how they relate to others and how they relate to themselves.” Lyndi Hall, a volunteer and non-member of ALI was present for the retreat, which granted her an outsider’s perspective on the experience.  She was responsible for helping with activities, food preparation, and keeping tabs on the attending students.

“It was interesting to see how the group was so diverse with their leadership qualities. Every aspect of someone’s personality can be attributed to how they make good leaders,” Hall said.

Members participated in an assortment of games, some purely for fun, and some targeted at enriching their leadership abilities. At one point, the students were asked to survey a collection of 81 cards, each one displaying a different value. The next step was to whittle the 81 cards down to the 5 values they hold most dear.

Hall considered this assessment especially beneficial to the members, saying, “One of my favorite activities for the retreat was the values assessment. I had just taken the value assessment “quest” about a month ago for CA training, and in that time the process of taking the assessment had already changed.”

“Their values shape how they lead and what their main focus is,” stated Martini, who played a large role in designing the exercises and team building activities. The game encouraged players to meditate on which principles they consider most important, knowledge they can later pull from when defining their personal leadership style.

The members of ALI typically attend hour-long meetings every Friday for 10-12 weeks each semester, and have the opportunity to receive a 1,000- dollar per semester scholarship for housing at UAS. According to Martini, “In normal meetings, it’s more about us lecturing, talking about leadership, and presenters coming in. The idea of the retreat was to get everyone together and discussing leadership styles. It was also a chance for them to get to know themselves.”

According to ALI’s program goals, participating students will gain the a better understanding of leadership, in both theoretical and experiential forms, discover their own way of practicing leadership, and receive an education in the ways of managing groups of people. ALI claims to help members, “Improve their communication skills, critical thinking skills, problem analysis results and management skills,” as well as encouraging their ability to, “lead a team through the successful design, planning, completion and assessment of a project.”

While ALI’s leadership ideals were present during the retreat, Martini thought students gained something extra from the experience, saying, “I think (the members) mainly just had a lot of fun. I think they realized that a school program could actually be fun and not just a learning experience. A lot of people met new friends that they maybe didn’t think they had too much in common with and through the games we played and the exercise we went through, I think they realized that they actually had a lot more in common with people than they thought.”

Over the course of the retreat, those attending were encouraged to develop both their leadership skills as well as the interpersonal relationships within their community. Making use of games and exercises, ALI leaders sought to create an environment for members that allowed them to better get to know one another as allowing for personal introspective. With the conclusion of the retreat, the group leaders hoped that participants came away with a stronger sense of self, a trait they believe is essential to both leadership and life skills.

“Alaska Leadership Initiative.” University of Alaska Southeast. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Sept. 2016.

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