The Office of Intercultural and International Life (OIIL) held a Women’s History Month dinner on Friday, March 1 at the Great Hall. The dinner was a celebration of the legacy of the Women of Color retreat, which is a leadership retreat rooted in Native American Spirituality.
During the dinner, a documentary was shown to illustrate the purpose and impact of the retreat.
Hudlin Wagner, Vice-President and Dean of Students, talked about the origin of the retreat in the documentary, “We noticed that after the beginning of the term, we were losing quite a few students of color, in particular, women of color. They would come [to Carleton] with excitement. And then about the third week, they began to experience a fear. And without any notice at all, by the time we realize, they have transferred or they have left.”
“Students left not because of academics, but because they don’t feel supported,” Melissa Logan, a former student said in the documentary.
Wagner said that the retreat offered assistance to female students to identify the fear of transition and find a sense of belonging at Carleton.
Many participants shared that they found the process of reflecting on their identity and unburdening their emotions cleansing and empowering. In one of the activities, theparticipants built a lodge and they entered it together. Cheri Lavender, the facilitator, explained, “In total darkness, you don’t see color. We are all the same. And we are going to go through the rebirth process together.”
From various sharing and teambuilding activities, students learned to find strength to deal with daily challenges they face and know how to mend themselves. It also helped women maintain spiritual connection with other women as well as with themselves.
Tenzin Youdon Lendey ’15 went to the dinner to show her support for the people involved in organizing the Women of Color retreat every year.
“As a past participant, I know the value of this retreat and how it has helped nourish and cultivate Carleton women. Seeing alumnae made me understand how the experience of the retreat goes beyond college and has a special place in every participant’s memories,” she said.
Shamis Adam ’15, also a past participant of the retreat, echoed this view. “Listening to the stories again made me think back on the beautiful memories we had during the retreat. It was nice that we had the chance to revisit the connection we had during the camp and how much that grew within us since we came back.”
Jonathan Lin ’13 said, “The documentary was a really good way to see first-hand the reactions of students who attended Carleton’s Women of Color retreat. It was a necessary ceremony to honor the inspirational female leaders that have so significantly influenced student life on campus.”
Apart from the documentary, Mari Ortiz ’13 and Debbie Wong ’13 performed One Voice by Wailin’ Jennys.
Debbie said that “Even though I had never been to a Women of Color retreat, nor do I strongly identify as a woman of color, I appreciated the love and support the community had for each other, which was made evident throughout all aspects of the dinner.”
Jessica Morrison ’13 performed a poetic story, and the dinner closed with energetic drumming and singing.
The dinner also honors the following women for their dedication and support in the development of women at Carleton College: Charlene O’Rourke, Mary Savina (Professor of Geology and Director of Archeology), Julia Uleberg (Dacie Moses House Coordinator), Petra Crosby, and Hudlin Wagner (Dean of Students).