North Central College - Naperville, IL

Men vs. Wild: A Leadership Retreat

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Leadership expedition
Leadership expedition

A D-Term adventure to Northern Wisconsin tested the mettle of 13 male students, who spent a night camping in the frigid wilderness as part of a leadership retreat. The three-night adventure, called “Men vs. Wild: A Men’s Leadership Expedition,” encouraged the participants to explore their life’s mission, spirituality and leadership capabilities while discussing themes like self-awareness and purpose and calling. The trip was led by Jeremy Gudauskas, assistant dean of students, Brian Rainville, director of ministry and service, and Perry Hamalis, Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion.

Throughout the three days, students and their leaders tackled the themes of Man vs. Self, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Society, addressing concepts like servant-leadership, emotional intelligence, solitude and vocational discernment. One day, the group hiked several hours through the snow into the woods, set up camp and spent a sleepless night trying to stay warm in single digit temperatures. “We had a common experience that brought us together and you find ways to survive and collaborate through the pain,” says Keeler Otero ’13. “Inside the tent, even with three other guys, we had frost. That was the hardest part.”

The trip was the result of discussions in fall term about how to engage male students in leadership programs. “It was a great mix of guys, some of whom met for the first time on this trip. Some had never camped before and many had never participated in purposeful time removed from daily life and technology—no cell phones, iPods or computers,” said Rainville. “We thanked the guys for taking a risk in discussions, embracing the adventure and truly making the trip special because of their involvement and enthusiasm.”

The expedition was based at Honey Rock Camp, which provided the equipment and a guide for the wilderness hike and campout. Upon returning from the overnight, the group spent the day chopping wood that’s distributed to needy residents in the area to heat their homes. “We had great fun, worked hard and felt we were doing something significant, even after the long trip with little sleep from the night out,” says Gudauskas.

Mike Prosia ’14 says he was challenged by the cold but found that forming new relationships was the best aspect of the trip. “I love getting to know new people,” he says. “Brian, Jeremy and Perry were the perfect three people to take us on this trip, each had different roles and personalities and wisdom. The session that caught me off guard was about finding solitude and journaling. I had never done that. But it was perfect for what we were doing and they did great job leading. We couldn’t thank them enough for putting this on for us.”