Quinnipiac University College of Arts and Sciences

VPA Freshmen Retreat

In Faculty, Students on October 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm


Notes from the First Visual and Performing Arts Freshmen Retreat

By Courtney Marchese, Assistant Professor of Interactive Digital Design and Pattie Belle Hastings, Professor of Interactive Digital Design

September 22-23, 2012 was the first annual Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) freshmen retreat at Camp Hazen in Chester, CT. Freshmen from each of the three majors—Game Design and Development, Interactive Digital Design and Theater—were joined by selected juniors and seniors from each of these programs for an immersive overnight experience designed to create a community of creative scholars through team building activities.

Full-time faculty members representing all of the VPA programs were involved throughout the weekend including Pattie Belle Hastings, Stephen Henderson, George Sprengelmeyer, Courtney Marchese, Charmaine Banach, Crystal Brian, Ira Fey, and Valija Evalds. The upper level students that assisted with the retreat were Ashley Barbuito, Samantha Epstein, Greg Rava, Nick Baldoni, Alexis Alexander, Ashley Sadej, Jason Barna, and Kristen Banaszak. These volunteer counselors were joyful, tireless, and an inspiration to students and faculty. The international and energetic Camp Hazen staff facilitated a variety of events geared towards helping students make connections outside the classroom and dorm with fellow creative discipline students. This overnight excursion also provided ample opportunities for students to meet and get to know full-time faculty outside of the classroom and office.

The freshmen retreat was designed to provide a counterbalance to the highly successful VPA senior capstone experiences by creating a foundation of camaraderie for students that will be working, learning, brainstorming, and performing together for the next four years. The idea was inspired by a three-day weekend retreat that the Yale MFA in Graphic Design holds at the beginning of every academic year at their Norfolk visual and performing arts facility. Another QU weekend retreat precedent was established several years ago by the Honors Program and this successful student bonding experience was used as a model for the VPA freshmen retreat.

Nick Baldoni climbing the hardest route on the alpine tower blindfolded!

After settling into the VPA cabin, the first day started out with an opening circle by learning names and forming individual intentions of what each participant hoped to gain from the retreat. After lunch, the Camp Hazen staff guided the students through various games and then led them into the woods for a variety of teambuilding and trust activities. The combination of camp staff, upperclassmen and freshmen provided ideal bonding conditions, with the group emerging from the forest a few hours later laughing and talking much more than earlier in the day. This elevated mood continued through free time, dinner, campfire, and late night games of Sardines and Manhunt. Over the course of the weekend, it was inspiring to see the students open up and begin to build friendships in the informal off-campus environment.

The second day began with a delicious breakfast followed by a choice of activities such as climbing the 55-foot alpine tower, archery, canoeing and kayaking on the lake. Some of the other activities that were available to the students throughout the weekend included basketball, tennis, ultimate frisbee, Pictionary, Ninja, sketching and visual journaling. It seemed as though there was no limit to the students’ energy as they went from activity to activity, until finally it was time to get on the bus and drive back to campus. During the closing circle by the lake, one freshmen IDD major remarked that he had really not wanted to come, but he was so glad that he did.

The VPA freshmen retreat was a deeply rewarding way to spend a weekend as our newest students created fond memories and became more comfortable with their department, programs, peers, and faculty. It was our honor, as faculty, to get to know the students from all three different degree programs within the department. Our departmental intention of having fun and creating a unique bond among VPA students for their studies at Quinnipiac was fulfilled.

More photos from the retreat:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pattiebelle/sets/72157631631403127/

Students and faculty climbing the alpine tower:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/pattiebelle/sets/72157631631386730/

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