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Is it wise to have a mid-year retreat for our SG?

Q. Our SGA is planning a mid-year retreat to regroup and move forward. We have had to fill quite a few vacant positions and need time to get on the same page. What are your suggestions for a two-day retreat for a small group of 13-15 people?

Expert Butch Oxendine answers...

A mid-year retreat can be useful in recharging everyone's batteries and also in reminding everyone of your goals and vision for your group.

The key is to take the group off-site and away from the distractions of phones, relationships, school work, homework, jobs, etc. I don't know that a two-day retreat is needed or required, knowing how busy everyone is at this time of year. I think a one-day overnight event would be sufficient-- leave Friday evening, have dinner together at the retreat site, then start at 9:00 a.m. Saturday, work until 6:00 p.m., then have dinner and relaxation time together Saturday night, and then drive home that evening. 

Ideally, the retreat site would be no more than an hour or so from "home" so you don't have tons of commuting to do (although time in the vehicles together can be productive times to talk and socialize).

To top goal of this retreat should be to get to know each other as PEOPLE, not just as fellow officers and members. With all of the new people you have, that's particularly critical that everyone understands who you are, why you do what you do, and why you care about Student Government.

This means scheduling time during your retreat, particularly at lunch and in the evening, to relax and get to know each other personally. Even if you dislike certain members of your group, even intensely, getting to know them as more than fellow officers will smooth a lot of the frictions and problems you're probably having. You may find out that a fellow officer is having family problems. Yesterday, for example, my wife went into premature labor and I had to be with her. I therefore didn't respond nearly as quickly to e-mails and calls as I normally do, and people who know me as a person knew that I would be with my wife over work in a time like that.

During this short retreat, you and your other top officers need to be able to share your vision for the organization and how everyone can have a hand in that. I encourage you to take the SG Effectiveness Test" and the "Test Your Administrators" test at the ASGA web
site. Both tests are very, very useful in helping you determine where your strengths and weaknesses are as a Student Government, which then allows you to focus on those areas in your retreat and then during the rest of your term of office.

Several members of the ASGA team, including myself, lead retreats like these for Student Governments nationwide. I would be honored to help you (members get 30% off the normal speaking fees, for the record-- see "Speaker Services" in the Member Resources section of the ASGA web site).

I hope this helps!

American Student Government Association  

The American Student Government Association will provide all Student Government leaders and advisors nationwide with networking, research, and information resources and will teach them how to become more effective, ethical, and influential leaders on their campuses. ASGA also will promote the advancement of SGs, conduct research as the nation’s only “SG Think Tank,” and advocate the importance of having a vibrant, autonomous Student Government organization at every institution in America.

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