Twenty-two students attended the fourth annual Transforming Privilege Retreat, funded by the Lilly Sustainability Grant through the Piper Center. The retreat is a three-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 Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb, and Piper Center staff members.
Getting to know each other through trust activities.
During the first night, we discussed vocational discernment as it relates to transforming privilege. We also discussed vocational discernment. Recognizing who we are
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 spent identifying the various forms of privilege that exist in addition to exploring our role in them.
The third 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 string activity provided an opportunity for participants to share what they learned and appreciated about another person on the retreat.
The Transforming Privilege Retreat had an immense impact on me as a student, as a person, and as a social activist, as well as on how I see the world. The fruitful discussions that we shared opened my eyes to how large of a scale the world’s problems are on, to how my everyday actions impact the lives of other people and the environment. My participation in this retreat has made me realize that good intentions are not enough, and that I need to make informed, intentional decisions EVERY DAY to help promote social change.
Arielle Johnson '12
I’ve realized that I need to be much more thoughtful in the ways that I approach social change. I’ve never considered that good intentions may not be enough. I am going to have to be much more honest with myself in the ways in which I progress. I must accept that mistakes are inevitable, but large ones are avoidable. I have a lot of hope in this community – it has made me appreciate St. Olaf even more than I had before. I am also much more comfortable with my uncertainty now.” Kate Bjorklund '13
Having 22 people come together that actually care about changing the current structure of our society was awesome. We heard from people with completely different backgrounds trying to pull together what they have and use it for something better. Because I was intentionally introspective, it was a way to order my past experiences, upbringing, values, etc instead of just acknowledging that events have shaped my current outlook and trying to move on without identifying them. I realized where I was coming from and am beginning to be aware of what that means for how I view social structures, for how I relate to people, and what I can use that for. I realized that I’m not quite as cynical and dismissive as I thought I was last week.
Annelise Brandel-Tanis '14
The retreat made me realize how lucky I am and how I am compelled to give back to the community as a result of my privilege. It forced me to stop accepting the excuse of having too much work to be able to give back to the community. It was mind-blowing yet clarifying, and one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Emily Goodhue '14
I learned a lot about my personal feelings about my own privilege and the relationship to other students. Having a group of students willing to vocalize their feelings, worries, and hopes about their individual roles in social change was powerful. Knowing there are students like that and having such a strong bonding experience with them is strong motivation. The retreat hasn’t redefined my goals but has really strengthened my resolve.
Kathryn Lees '12
This retreat has helped me to not only think about important issues but to connect those things that I am passionate about to my own vocational search. I hope to be in a position in the future where I can work with others to spread awareness about the privilege in our lives and to use those opportunities to help others who are without those same advantages. This retreat reinforced the knowledge that I can make a difference in the world and that I can start now with other people who also want to right the imbalances between groups to change our world.
Courtney Payne '11