Finding Passion in the Mountains

By Connor Bloom ’19

  GROUP PHOTO:  of the team of students and staff that participated in the retreat. 
GROUP PHOTO:  of the team of students and staff that participated in the retreat. 

On Saturday, January 28th twenty Claremont McKenna students began their day early and headed over to the Kravis Center to catch a 7am bus to the Kravis Leadership Institute’s second Passion and Purpose Retreat co-led by Scott Sherman, Senior Director of Social Innovation and Co-Curricular Programming and Gemma Bulos, Director of Social Innovation and Impact along with Shreya Bhatnagar ’20, Sydney Baffour ’20, and CC Schwab ’19—three students trained as Social Innovation Consultants (SIC’s). After a relatively short bus ride up into the mountains around Big Bear, the students unloaded their bags in their cabins and went straight into workshops. The students spent the rest of Saturday and Sunday morning doing activities designed to help bring out their creativity, innovation, improvisation, and ultimately their passions.

The first activity that the students were tasked with by Scott was to find someone in the room that they didn’t know and ask one another a series of increasingly personal questions. In describing the activity Scott noted that it is incredibly important in today’s world to be able to relate to people, to get to know them, and to make them feel valued; it is through making these types of connections that you can accomplish change. While some activities such as this were more serious, others pushed students out of their comfort zones in completely different ways.

One series of activities saw students work on their improv skills in various situations, encouraging them to think on the spot, even make mistakes and then run with them! Students also got to hear both Scott and Gemma’s stories—the meandering paths that they took to being social entrepreneurs, the lesson being that life isn’t always a straight path to where you are going. After hearing their stories, students took a half hour alone to themselves to write out three completely different life paths that they could see for themselves if they had no constraints. When they came together to share, many students found that the activity gave them a renewed sense of purpose and hope, both in what they can accomplish in their lives, and in what others chose to do with theirs. A common theme in life trajectories seemed to be giving back to the world or a community in some way. Saturday ended with a campfire and a capella sing-alongs (not always on key). With the smell of campfire smoke in their sweaters, the students retired to their cabins for the night.

Sunday morning saw the SIC’s—Shreya, Sydney, and CC—leading the activities. After collectively coming up with what they perceived to be the nine biggest problems facing the world today, students worked to come up with solutions. They were encouraged to write solutions, no matter how crazy or infeasible, on sticky notes and post them up around the room. After the solution portion had finished, each student took one solution idea and devised a realistic game plan to implement it. These individual implementation plans were then shared with the rest of the group.

As the students hopped back on the bus to head back to campus, there was a general sense that they had really gotten something tangible from the two-day retreat. Although they may not know exactly what their purpose is as they returned to campus, they were definitely feeling more passionate about going out there and finding it. Ellen Broaddus ’20 summed up the retreat nicely saying, “I think in college we sometimes learn that every decision must further our professional ‘plan’, but this workshop showed me that there is value in mistakes and dead ends and that as long as you work towards finding your passion, you’ll end up where you need to be.”

The retreat would not have been possible without the behind-the-scenes logistical work of Tori Gaines, Leadership Programs Coordinator, KLI.