Intercultural Unity retreat emphasizes ‘Empathy as education’


Courtesy / @sacintercultural

The community-oriented retreat discussed “the intricacies of racial diversity.”

Anna Raley, Crier Staff

Communities are a vital source of social connection and sense of belonging. In efforts to provide open opportunity for community expansion, the Saint Anselm Intercultural Center hosts a two day, one night retreat designed to bring together students creating a
diverse environment off campus of varying perspective and experience.

From February 10-11, twenty-three students traveled to Groton-wood Camp and participated in a series of discussion and programming that was thoughtfully created by student leaders months in advance.

This year students Devin Williams ‘23, Anna Raley ‘24, Noah Gutierrez ‘25, Sebastian Canales ‘26, and Sydney Merritt ‘26 led
discourse under this year’s theme, Empathy as Education. Racial and cultural issues were the focal point of the presentation
and retreat leaders reflected upon their own experiences as racial minority students at a predominately white institution.

Topics of discussion this year included empathy versus sympathy, being a BIPOC student at a PWI, the importance of privilege, how to imagine a diverse universe, and steps to take action. All of these honor the Benediction values back on campus of striving to serve others, living with integrity, and respect.

At the beginning of the retreat all students took the time to develop a covenant that encompasses the foundation of the retreat creating a respectable environment for all to feel comfortable sharing their own perspective, and, most importantly, to ask questions. Empathy as education was chosen as the theme to emphasize that despite being off campus, the retreat is designed to educate.

However, juxtaposed to a classroom setting, the lectures within the retreat were designed to be felt rather than memorized or analyzed. Experience and perspective are best learned through active listening with a compassionate mindset fraught with empathy.

The entire purpose of the retreat was designed to discuss, learn, and actively participate in ways and on topics that are not typically discussed in a classroom setting. The programming itself was intentionally designed by students, for students to provide an opportunity to learn about the intricacies of racial diversity and explore the ways in which individual students experience the world around them. After a series of open discussions at the retreat students were made to feel more included within their community. Learning of and sharing similar experiences to other students is a monumental event that many students at the retreat will hold with them as they all made the trip back to campus Saturday afternoon.

The axiom of racial activism requires active steps being taken for progression towards open and equal opportunity systems for all. The Unity Retreat served as an opportunity for students to take that step. At the conclusion of the retreat members were asked to write a letter to those they thought of during their time. A period of reflection, using empathy to address someone else. Because in the end, the most influential aspect to the retreat was human connection.


The retreat created a greater sense of
community among participants. (Courtesy / @sacintercultural)