October 20, 2017, BY Michelle Choe '18

After facing a flurry of midterms, many Bucknell students looked forward to relaxing at home over fall break, but some chose to take on a new challenge. They attended a retreat held by Common Ground, a student-led organization that seeks to create a space for Bucknellians to learn about issues of diversity and identity, and reflect on these nuanced topics.

The recent weekend program, held at Bucknell's conference facility in nearby Cowan, marked the program's 10th official retreat since its founding in 2008 by Scott Teagarden '09. Taking inspiration from a similar organization at Duke University, Teagarden aimed to initiate conversation on campus between students of various racial backgrounds. Common Ground's programming has expanded over the years to include several topics encompassing the theme of identity including race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic status and ability status.

Several student facilitators led 33 participants through a variety of activities designed to push comfort zones and to engage individuals in thoughtful reflections on their identities. "The intensity of Common Ground allowed me to discover a lot about myself and my peers across campus," said Leslie Galvez '20, an undeclared management major. "We all hold unique experiences that separate us from our neighbor, but it was through sympathy and our ability to connect that enabled us to find common ground."

Fostering a supportive community is a key factor in encouraging often personal and difficult conversations. Nicholas Simons '18, a student facilitator who became involved with Common Ground as a junior, prioritized this goal in his leadership role.

"In the first year I participated, I found friends that I never would've met without Common Ground," said Simons, who majors in psychology and computer science. "I wanted to become a facilitator to help others find the support system I did. It was a lot of work, but seeing the deep connections formed over the course of the break was worth it."

Ariana Fisher '19, anthropology, shared the importance of her role as one of three student directors responsible for organizing the retreat and creating an open culture.

"It's more than just a leadership position," said Fisher. "It's a catalyst for mentorship and social change. Willingness to express, learn and grow becomes a passionate endeavor that influences everyone involved. This is honestly one of the most humbling and self-reflective experiences I've ever had."

Michelle Choe '18, who majors in markets, innovation & design, is an Undergraduate Executive Intern in the Division of Communications. 

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