BY DAVE MAYER, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
How should I describe LeaderShape? For students who are unaware, LeaderShape is a seven-week retreat into rural Pennsylvania exclusively offered to Susquehanna students for free. There, students absorb the expertise needed to become a trailblazer within Susquehanna and their own community. However, this excursion is much more than workshops and information sessions. This communal event is where acquaintances become friends, where the shy learn to move to the forefront, and where students can begin to express themselves within Susquehanna.
Prior to and after my arrival as a student at Susquheanna, I had heard all positive reviews about LeaderShape from graduates of the program. Upon asking what occurs during the week-long event, I received in reply “to let the process happen” and that it was a “really good time,” Everything else was shrouded in mystery. Even though it was starting to sound somewhat like a cult, I decided to apply.
I cannot speak too much about what the experience is or what happens during the retreat. LeaderShape is somewhat like the film “Fight Club” and the first rule in fight is “don’t talk about fight club.” LeaderShape members don’t talk about LeaderShape. Students aren’t patrolled or written up at the drop of an F-bomb, but they are asked to not ruin the fun for other students hoping to apply for the next class. That was the first of two rules I heard the entire weekend. LeaderShape also does not welcome drugs and alcohol, the second rule.
However, I can answer some of my concerns that arose before the trip. Students, faculty and staff live together in a cozy two floor hotel. While it was cold outside, inside was often warm. Each room has private showers. You will have free time. You make friends and, by the end of day, you know at least the first name of everyone else attending the trip. Finally, you may or may not become close with a certain group of seven to ten people, whom you have shared a considerable amount of time with.
Although finding friends has not been an issue during my time at Susquehanna, I was able to meet new and amazing people and make terrific friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise. I opened up in ways that were unexpected. At the end of the week, students are paired up together and given eight minutes to tell each other first impressions, what could be improved, and what they liked about the other. About five of my seven reviews began with “You seemed really mad when you first arrived, but after getting to know you, I’m glad you came. You are a really enjoyable person, you should be less apprehensive.”
This is one of the unexpected results of LeaderShape. They not only want you to work on yourself in the sense of leadership, they want you to understand and improve yourself in all aspects of your life. I’m eternally grateful to have been accepted as a LeaderShape class of 2013 student, and I recommend the program to anyone who asks. This well-structured and insightful program will happily surprise any skeptic, and I challenge those who fear it.