The Sam Houston State University Honors College hosted its inaugural annual welcome retreat Sept. 5 and 6 as a means of acclimating new members of the program to the faculty members and student ambassadors who lead them.
Roughly 60 faculty, student ambassadors and new members of the Honors College spent their weekend at the University Camp in Riverside climbing to new heights and building comradery.
“[We planned the Honors Retreat] to provide an extended opportunity for new Honors College students to connect and develop bonds with Honors faculty and also with the new students’ upper class peers who served as camp leaders, the Honors Ambassadors,” assistant director of the Honors College, Maria Holmes said. “We wanted our new students to quickly grasp all that the Honors College offers each student and immerse them in the Honors community early in their first semester.”
The two-day event included many ice breakers and activities including, line-dancing, zip-lining, kayaking and participating in the camp’s low ropes course.
“Our Dean Gene Young entertained the new students with his guitar and singing,” Holmes said. “Dr. Patrick Lewis shared his adventures in Africa and talked with the students about next year’s Study Abroad trip to Africa.”
Junior computer science major and president of the honors ambassadors, Shealynn Vogan, accompanied the group on the retreat.
“My favorite part of the retreat was the low ropes courses we participated in,” Vogan said. “They allowed the students and ambassadors to not only work together as a team but to build relationships between one another while working together for a similar goal.”
Months of planning both on the part of faculty and student ambassadors went into making the retreat a reality. Planned in place of the annual honors college luau, the welcome retreat only allowed students who are new to the program to participate whereas the luau was open to all members of the program.
Senior business major Summer Styles is another honors ambassador who attended the retreat.
“The retreat essentially served the same purpose of getting to know each other as the annual luau but was much more effective,” Styles said. “Instead of just spending a couple of hours at the luau, we had an overnight trip to learn effective team building and more about the Honors College.”
For Styles, the best part about the retreat was witnessing relationships and bonds forming before her eyes.
“My favorite part of the retreat was watching the new students get to know each other and have fun,” Styles said. “I think it helped the students tremendously. They know each other a lot better now and are probably a lot more familiar with what the Honors College has to offer them.”
Sara Bouldin, a sophomore mathematics major who is new to the Honors College, was one of those students who benefited from the retreat.
“It helped me because I met more people and learned more about the program all while participating in fun games and activities,” Bouldin said. “My favorite part was the family-like environment and all the new friends I made. I would highly recommend the retreat to anybody.”
Based on the positive feedback the Honors College faculty have received, the retreat may become an annual event.
“The retreat was even more successful than we had imagined,” Holmes said. “The new Honors students gained a sense of community and found friends with many common goals. At our wrap up meeting today, the Honors Ambassadors were very enthusiastic about continuing the retreat next year and expanding the schedule.”
According to Vogan, the retreat did more than just teach students about the Honors College.
“Students not only got to learn more about the college itself but also got to build friendships and learn more about themselves and what they can accomplish when they work together as a team,” Vogan said. “I would absolutely love to take place in an event like this again.”