What is the Growing Allies retreat?
The Growing Allies retreat is an annual retreat which strives to build a community of social justice allies committed to creating a safer and more inclusive environment at the University of Michigan and beyond. Operated through the Office of Multi Ethnic Student Affairs, each retreat interrogates the meaning of allyhood through the lense of race & ethnicity.
Every year we focus in on a specific intersection which allows participants to gain a broader insight on the how the dynamics of race, ethnicity, power and privilege influence a certain identity. In the past, we have focused on gender, socioeconomic status, (dis)ability and religion. The retreat incorporates various activities, dialogues, videos and other educational tools to draw participants into a conversation of their own identities, race & ethnicity, intersectionality and allyhood.
What exactly do we do on these retreats?
Maybe a better question would be, "What don't we do on these retreats?" We spend a lot of time bonding and getting to know each other! Many individuals leave Growing Allies retreats with new close friends and lasting relationships well beyond the retreat. We also have a curriculum of activities that help us all grasp (or at least start to) what it means to be an ally and how we can act as an ally to vulnerable communities.
Who runs these retreats?
This is a hard question to answer. There historically has been anywhere between 2 and 4 lead (meta) facilitators on a retreat, as well as cluster (small group) facilitators. All facilitators can be students, staff, or faculty. With that said, we work to create a co-learning environment, so no one is really "running" the retreat in the traditional sense. Meta facilitators learn as much from participants than the participants learn from the meta facilitators; they just have a lot of prior knowledge of the curriculum and the topics. Everyone has something to offer and experiences to share. So everyone is in charge of the retreat, in that you are in charge of your own learning.
What will I gain from attending the retreat?
You will gain social justice knowledge, skills, a framework to work with in terms of allyhood, and friendship.