Over a beautiful fall weekend in October, twenty-seven students attended the third annual Transforming Privilege Retreat, funded by the Lilly Sustainability Grant through the Piper Cetner. The retreat is a two-day opportunity to reflect on the many faces of privilege that we encounter in our lives as students, activists, and community members, and the ways we can transform privilege into action for social change. The retreat was facilitated by five student leaders, Professor Devyani Chandran, and Piper Center staff members.
The first day of the retreat was dedicated to understanding the self
as the foundation to creating social change. When we reflect on our
privilege, we are recognizing who we are within broken systems.
Our mural activity helped us think about the question, “What is your
Getting to know each other through trust activities.
We also discussed vocational discernment. Recognizing who we are
at our core, and what gifts we bring to the world is the first step in
discerning what we are called or drawn to do with our lives.
The second day of the retreat was dedicated to brainstorming
effective ways to transform our privilege. We walked around during
an open brainstorming session and wrote down how we see privilege
currently played out in the St. Olaf and Northfield community, and
what we would like to see happen in the future. Then we wrote
down several feasible ways we think we could bridge the gap
between the world as it is and the world as it could be.
The retreat was a good reminder to stay healthy. It’s easy to get
excited about working for social change but it’s also easy to burn out
quickly. Remember to take time for personal reflection and fun in
Understanding privilege and all its complexities is not a final state of complete comprehension; rather it is a process of personal reflection intertwined with public discourse. The retreat provided the space to examine privilege as it affects my own life and hear the experiences of others. This better illuminated the discovery process to show me where I have been, where I am, and where I could be in understanding privilege and changing it to create the world I wish to live in.
Kristin Johnson ’10
The Transforming Privilege Retreat rejuvenated and refreshed my passion for social change, and served as a great reminder to take time for conversation and reflection. I was impressed by the people I met here and their own commitment to the common good. This retreat gives me hope.
Maren Gelle ’10
The Transforming Privilege Retreat has removed from the shadows that elusive concept of privilege which shapes our path in life whether we admit it or not. I’m a very idealistic person and this retreat has forced me to think realistically about my position in the world in comparison to others. It has shown me how labeling individuals limits them in so many more ways than indicated by the conspicuous categorization. I hope that I might be able to remove some of these limitations in the future.
Kelsey Hvidsten ’10
I’m more aware of who I am, what responsibilities I have for social change and what I can do personally to make these changes happen. Also I learned a lot from other students who have different cultural backgrounds through conversations and mural painting. I realize I should become a person who has both individual goals and social goals. And maybe I won’t be a social studies major, [but] I will still do much social work.
Yogurt (Yujie) Li ’13
I met several ambitious people that inspire me to be more involved in my community. I have recognized some of my many privileges and in doing so have recognized populations that are not privileged. I do not have to feel guilty because I am privileged, but I can use these privileges in ways that create change.
Kirsten Theden ’12
I learned there is a much stronger culture of St. Olaf students who care about issues of oppression and undeserved privilege than I originally knew. Brainstorming with other Oles uncovered first steps to take and ways in which we can take active roles in re-imagining society. I think I gained a deeper understanding of ways in which privileges like race, class, gender, sexual orientation, physical and mental capacity overlap…and what nuanced ways these privileges are engrained in society.
Justin Remer-Thamert ’10