Written by Colleen Ryan and Alex Crockett
Community is by far one of the most valuable aspects of being a Haslam Scholar. For scholars of all classes, this year’s Mini Retreat offered opportunities for building connections, sharing ideas, and making memories as a program.
These quintessential components of the Haslam Scholars Program are what make it such a meaningful part of our UT experience.
For first year scholars, the Mini Retreat introduced theminto the scholars’ community and helped them establish a support network to connect them with valuable information on resources, organizations, and opportunities that will shape their college experience. Older scholars reconnected with old friends and created new ones. For the motivated and involved students of the Haslam Scholars Program, the Mini Retreat provided a rare stretch of time where every scholar came together and took part in a day of service, growth, and camaraderie.
Ambassadors from the Center for Leadership and Service joined the scholars for a morning of community- and leadership-building activities. These activities challenged scholars to venture outside their comfort zone and engage in team building exercises designed to develop their ability to collaborate, communicate and organize. In line with the Program’s goals to develop lifelong scholars and leaders who are prepared and passionate about creating positive social change, the Center for Leadership and Service encouraged scholars to use their time, talents, and resources to affect change on campus and to serve as a catalyst for change in their communities, their country, and their world.
Scholars also competed in a rousing game of trivia, moderated by HSP Event Coordinator Stephen Wilke, which included categories in Arts & Literature, City Skylines, Science & Nature, Harry Potter, Music, Sports & Leisure, and Disney. The third year cohort won in a tiebreaker against the first year scholars, walking away with the handmade trophy designed and created by junior scholar, Elle Johnson. Then, scholars were divided into mixed-cohort teams for the annual campus-wide scavenger hunt and sent off to track down a picture with a llama, a Georgia license plate, and more. Each team was able to explore new parts of campus and build closer friendships across cohorts.
The retreat wrapped up with free time for studying, playing board games, and enjoying the company of fellow scholars. Some spent this time watching the first half of the UT-Georgia game and enjoying the ice cream sundae bar, while others baked cookies and brownies for teachers and staff at Pond Gap Elementary School. After closing remarks and the presentation of HSP notes and journals, the students broke for the day, marking the end to a successful program of events.
Many scholars look back on the Mini Retreat and the memories, lessons, and friendships developed during the day’s activities as the catalyst for a successful semester. As, first-year student, Oumar Souleymane Diallo phrased it,
“The Mini Retreat was something akin to a long-coming family reunion. For the first time, I had a chance to meet with, eat with, laugh with, and generally be around all the members of my new extended family. The smiles we shared and the bonds we formed on that day will never be forgotten.”
While academic excellence is a hallmark of the program, a growing sense of community within and among each cohort can be felt in the Haslam Scholars Program and is motivating scholars to work together to lead and create waves of change across campus and in the community.