Student Leadership Retreat

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More than 30 Duke Law students took a 24-hour break from job interviews and studying on the weekend of Oct. 4-5 to participate in the inaugural Student Leadership Retreat for organization leaders. The retreat, organized by the Office of Student Affairs with the Duke Bar Association and senior administrators, was designed to help students meet leaders of other groups while building leadership skills and self-awareness (students working on a ropes course are, from left to right: 1L Katy Soby, 2L Marta DeLeon, 2L Andrew Tripp, 3L Steve Smith, and 2L Sarah Davis).

The weekend began with a trip to the Carolina Adventures Outdoor Education Center, where students quickly became acquainted through interactive exercises such as "the black hole," in which each student controlled one of several ropes necessary to manipulate objects toward a goal, necessitating careful communication and teamwork. Afternoon activities increased in complexity and culminated in a balancing exercise for one group, in which all members had to fit together on a platform balanced on a cylinder, and a ropes course for the other group. The afternoon of camaraderie wound down with a picnic dinner, beach volleyball and other games.

During evening sessions, student leaders headed to a nearby conference facility for activities focusing on the importance of individuality and honesty. In "love my lemon," attendees selected a lemon from a pile of many, spent a few minutes scrutinizing its every feature, then tossed the lemon back into the pile and had to reclaim the same lemon. A few students developed strong attachments to their distinctive lemons, keeping them close by for the rest of the evening.

After considering the differences between lemons, students discovered similarities with each other as they divided into pairs to answer "20 questions." Working from a list of questions, they moved into intense discussions of backgrounds, shared tastes, religious values, personal quirks and other topics.

Saturday morning sessions focused on the dynamics of student groups and their contributions to the ongoing goals of the school. Participants completed a personality questionnaire in advance and received an interpretation at the retreat. Evaluations also showed how leaders can use differing personality types to the advantage of the whole group.

Members of the Duke Bar Association met with leaders to highlight the DBA's resources for student groups. Participants also explored a hypothetical situation in which an organization encounters ethical challenges and communications breakdowns, making suggestions as to how the group could rectify its situation. Finally, the group met with Senior Associate Dean Jim Coleman, Associate Dean Carol Spruill and Senior Lecturing Fellow Cindy Adcock to address issues facing the Law School and make recommendations for its future: an example of Duke Law's student leadership in action.