On Aug. 23, 50 students from the Collegiate Scholars Program toted heavy blankets and duffel bags to their cabins to kick off an annual tradition of the program: a retreat at Michindoh Conference Center.
CSP students have been coming to Michindoh for seminars, card games, and water activities long before Associate Professor of Classics and CSP Director Eric Hutchinson took over three years ago.
“That’s really the first event that all of the new sophomores come to,” Hutchinson said. “It’s community building.”
Hutchinson used his welcome lecture to introduce this year’s theme: Fate and the Individual. Over the course of the next three days, a movie, lectures, and seminars highlighted the theme.
The retreat hosted four lectures given by Hillsdale College professors. Classics professor David Jones gave a lecture on Lucan’s “Civil War”; Assistant Professor of English Benedict Whalen spoke on Andrew Marvell’s poetry; Assistant Professor of Music Derek Stauff talked aboutAuden and opera; and Assistant Professor of German Stephen Naumann discussed the invisibility of monuments.
Afterward, students split into groups to discuss the lectures.
Sophomore Bryna Destefani said the lectures and discussions were her favorite part of the retreat. She said she was surprised it wasn’t completely academic, as she had expected the retreat to be more like a conference.
“They were more personal,” she said. “There was more interaction between the speaker and the group and lots of conversations in and amongst ourselves. It was a lot more relational. There was a lot more time of us getting to know the other people in CSP.”
The students have several traditions they repeat each year, including various improv games, a waterslide tournament, and singing bonfire songs. The student heads of the program, junior Junior Caitlin Weighner and senior Gill West, said these activities build community amongst the students.
“There’s definitely a tradition of playing board games between lectures, like Bananagrams and Dutch Blitz,” Weighner said. “You’re just having fun but you can also kind of let the things you learned that night trickle in the conversation.”
Weighner and West plan all of the events for CSP, and it takes the entire summer to coordinate preparations for the retreat.
“We have to coordinate a lot of things with the new sophomores to get all the information, getting them into the Facebook page, figuring out how we’re going to introduce them, get people to do improv,” West said. “Cait and I would talk once a week all summer about the next thing we needed to do.”
Destefani says the community of students felt very close-knit, even though she didn’t know everyone.
“I knew a lot of people in CSP, and they’re all people I really admire,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well, OK, if this is what CSP is like — having conversations with these people and learning from them and learning together with them — that’s definitely something that I want to be a part of.”