By Liv Barry
Following their landmark event last October, junior Speaker of the Senate Emma Parker-Watt and sophomore Parliamentarian Kya Balin-Brooks were tasked with planning this year’s retreat to train students interested in leadership opportunities within the SGA.
On Sunday, Oct. 22, around twenty students gathered at the Hodson Boathouse from noon until 3 p.m. for the second annual Student Government Association retreat.
“Our planning process started off by modeling the senate retreat from last year. We knew we wanted to keep the location the same,” Parker-Watt said. “After we had the basics down, everything else came to mind rather smoothly.”
Upon arriving to the boathouse, students were given a free retreat t-shirt, as well as the chance to enter a raffle to win a $35 giftcard to the Washington College bookstore. Additionally, the SGA provided refreshments from Evergrain, including hot coffee and pastries, for attendees to snack on before the scheduled events began.
The retreat began with two rotations for students to learn skills frequently used by senators: a public speaking workshop and a graphics and flyer-making tutorial.
Sophomore senator Erin Helgerman, who did not attend last year’s retreat, said that she appreciated the chance to grow the skills that she already had after sitting as a senator for the past year, citing the graphic and flyer-making session as a particularly useful workshop.
“I learned new features on Canva [including the fact] that all students with an ‘.edu’ email can…get a pro account,” Helgerman said.
Senior treasurer for the class of 2024 Ketia Kamali also enjoyed the opening sessions.
“One most important skills I learned was public speaking, especially coming from students that have to speak in front of big crowds a lot,” Kamali said. “Their advice was very helpful.”
Following the opening sessions, President of the College Dr. Mike Sosulski gave an address to students, candidly speaking about the current climate at WC, including his hopes for future progress the school will make, as well as his own short-lived experience with SGA during his undergraduate years at Georgetown University.
While President Sosulski was not present at last year’s retreat, Parker-Watt said that she and Balin-Brooks wanted to invite him so he could provide “a fresh insight to the college’s climate.”
After President Sosulski’s address, students split into rotations once again for the final two sessions of the day, which included a workshop on Robert’s Rules of Order, the official procedures that the SGA employs during senate meetings, and a discussion on how to better advocate for yourself on campus.
During the Robert’s Rules of Order workshop, students had the opportunity to create mock legislation and present it to their peers. According to Parker-Watt, ideas posed included necessitating that every member of the senate receive a meal from Panera Bread before their weekly meetings.
“It was also so much fun to make up silly legislation and practice presenting it,” Parker-Watt said. “As speaker of the senate, I run the SGA meetings with Robert’s Rules of Order; leading a Robert’s Rules workshop genuinely helped me better understand what I’ve been using in senate.”
To end the day, students participated in a brainstorming session to discuss ideas for future campus events, including potential civic engagement endeavors.
“I enjoyed building stronger relationships with my fellow senators and learning more about what we can do…civic engagement is a huge part in what we do with events, we discussed possible upcoming events as well as what went well in the past,” Helgerman said.
Parker-Watt said that she is glad that every attendee had the opportunity to develop their leadership skills during the retreat, regardless of their involvement with SGA.
“My goals for the retreat were to have active engagement, and for everyone, including myself, to sufficiently understand the inner workings of how to become a better leader on this campus. My goals were achieved through not only the workshops, but the amazing participation from all who attended,” Parker-Watt said. “Everyone is invited to events like Senate Retreat, not just senators; if you ever have free time and want to meet some new people, come to SGA or any of our events. We all truly love seeing new faces.”
Photo courtesy of Emma Parker-Watt
Photo caption: President of the College Dr. Mike Sosulski addresses student government forum held in the Hodson Boathouse.