Retreat spurs teamwork, friendship

Nearly 75 NKU students spent last weekend in Gatlinburg, Tenn., listening to an array of speakers, enjoying teambuilding activities and learning what it takes to be an effective leader.

The students were participating in the Norse Leadership Society’s eleventh annual fall retreat Nov. 8 and 9.

Sophomore Stefany Koo, who attended the retreat for a second time and helped plan the event, was excited about the weekend because she had a great time the year before.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said, “and it’s a good experience for personal growth.”

This year was the largest NLS retreat to date.

Including presenters, there were 86 participants in 18 chalets, compared to their usual size of 50 participants.

“The size this year was a definite challenge, but it added so many new dynamics to the retreat,” said Mayse.

“I think the students had such a great time meeting so many new students and developing networking skills, networking with other student leaders and presenters.”

“The size of the retreat really added to the experience,” said Dustin Lewis, Northern Kentucky Leadership Institute director. “Being able to take so many students was an amazing thing.”

Lewis and Katie Herschede were co-chairs of the retreat’s planning committee.

“This was my fourth year attending the Norse Leadership Society Fall Retreat, and I think that each year it gets better and better,” Herschede said.

“This year was certainly no exception.”

Senior Rachel Whisner believes this retreat truly lives up to its hype as NLS’s biggest event of the year.

“The weekend was incredible,” she said. “(The retreat) taught us many dynamics of leadership, including how to not only be a good leader, but also a good follower.”

Although the retreat usually has the same format each year, Whisner said NLS works hard to get new speakers.

“All of the participants, both students and presenters, were outstanding,” Herschede said.

“This year we added several community presenters, including Johnna Fasold, Todd Duesing, and Toni Webster,” she said.

“They brought a new dimension to the retreat and helped students see beyond their role at NKU.”

NKU President Dr. James Votruba gave a presentation during last year’s retreat.

“It touched a lot of students,” Whisner said. “It was really nice to see somebody that high up in administration support us.”

This year, Whisner’s favorite presentation was on the topic of motivation and was given by Gennine Brewer and Tiffany Bellafant.

“It really did get us motivated,” she said. “All of the participants left really excited from that talk.”

Dr. Mark Shanley, vice president of student affairs, joined the students during part of the weekend.

Leadership Development Coordinator Tiffany Mayse was impressed that Shanley took time out of his busy schedule to help out with the retreat.

“This really shows his commitment to students,” she said.

Every year NLS develops a theme in effort to make the weekend more fun.

“We added a ‘Road Rules’ theme to the retreat and incorporated various missions for the participants,” Herschede said.

One of the weekend’s most memorable missions was the karaoke contest. Whisner’s group won the contest with a rendition of “Lady Marmalade.”

R. P. Proctor and Valerie Shanks were two of the few freshmen able to attend the retreat. While they were mostly excited about enjoying the Gatlinburg atmosphere and missing classes, they learned that the weekend meant much more than that.

“It was definitely a teambuilding experience,” Proctor said. “I know so many people now.”

“All the presenters were very energetic,” Shanks said.

All NLS members were required to attend the retreat, but the rest of the group was a mix of different students, according to Whisner.

The retreat is open to all students at the university, with the exception of freshmen, who must be a part of Freshman Service Leadership Committee to go. All students wanting to participate must fill out an application.

“I recommend it for anyone,” Koo said.

At a cost of $60, she can’t see how anyone would pass it up. This fee doesn’t cover all the expenses of the retreat, however.

Koo said the NLS Silent Auction is one of the biggest fundraisers for the event.

Herschede was very happy with how the weekend turned out as well.

“This retreat is special to me because it is a time to meet other students leaders and strengthen bonds with old friends,” she said.

“Each year, I come away from the retreat completely refreshed and rejuvenated and ready to make NKU an even stronger institution.”