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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

PossePlus Retreat explores division on campus, and around country

<st weekend, around 100 students attended the 2017 PossePlus Retreat in Hudson, Wisconsin. The focus of this year’s retreat was “Us vs. Them? Division, Community and Identity in American Society.”

The Posse Foundation offers a competitive college scholarship program to public high school students with exceptional academic and leadership abilities. The foundation organizes scholarship winners, known as Posse Scholars, into multicultural “posses” of 10 and sends them to top U.S. colleges and universities.

“The Posse program is unique in its training and support of students from mid-senior year of high school through most of their college years,” Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Paul Thiboutot said. “The individual mentor/cohort support of a faculty member at Carleton is also a strong benefit and singular to the program.”

The PossePlus Retreat allows Posse Scholars to invite students and faculty in the greater campus community to join them for a weekend discussion about identity and personal values.

One of the first activities on the retreat asked participants to move around a room based on whether they agreed or disagreed with statements like “‘sex ed should be taught at a young age in the public school system,’ or ‘if it means I get paid less, I would want a world where everyone gets paid the same amount,’” according to retreat attendee Chiraag Gohel ’20.

Posse Scholar Funto Akindona ’20 particularly enjoyed the retreat’s small group discussions. “One discussion that interested me was the issue of whether cultural clubs are divisive,” said Akindona. “Personally, I don’t think they are, but it was interesting to hear other points of view.”

Two Ph.D. candidates from the University of Wisconsin facilitated discussions on “polarizing topics,” including race, class, religion, and politics, according to CSA President Walter Paul ’18, who attended the retreat.

“I was happy with how vulnerable and honest everyone was, including some of my friends, whom I’ve never seen cry before,” said Paul. “I think the power of the retreat rests in its ability to expose the human aspect of some of the issues we superficially discuss on campus. I learned and cried about the everyday struggles of students I briefly acknowledge during regular commutes to classes at Carleton.”

Gohel found it refreshing to have conversations outside the confines of a predominantly white institution (PWI) like Carleton, which he thinks has a “particular form of academic discourse” that can be “alienating.”

“I think at Carleton there’s this liberalism that’s working towards a goal, and is working toward ‘freedom of the people,’ but at times it can get super white or Western, which is what I really liked about this retreat,” said Gohel. “I think that these activities got us to see how we can imagine liberation in ways that aren’t the way we view it at Carleton.”

Posse Scholar Joseph Cardoza ’20 was surprised by “the willingness of people to put themselves in an uncomfortable situation in order to speak out about personal things that have had an influence on their lives.”

“I learned a little bit more about my own identities, which ones are invisible, hidden, and which ones I display,” added Akindona. “I also learned more about how other people on the campus think and how their experiences shape how they move through the world. It was a pretty eye opening retreat. I was learning something new in every discussion.”

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