March 21, 2018, BY Michelle Choe '18

Members of the Bucknell community talk while sitting in a circle of chairs.
The PossePlus Retreat provides members of the Bucknell community with the chance to discuss issues related to race and identity. Photo by Julian Ricketson '21

How do we talk about race in America? It can be difficult navigating conversations about social issues without the proper tools in hand. At this year's PossePlus Retreat, a total of approximately 250 Bucknell Posse scholars and invited guests attempted to identify the best practices for effective dialogue related to today's sociopolitical climate on and off campus.

The retreat, held Feb. 9-11 at Eden Resort & Suites in Lancaster, Pa., is part of the national Posse program, which gives exemplary high school students full-tuition scholarships at partner institutions, including Bucknell. The aim is to make college more accessible for students who might otherwise be overlooked by the traditional application process. The PossePlus Retreat is designed to engage the broader campus community, including non-affiliated students, faculty and administrators, in examinations of local and national problems.

"The retreat provides an opportunity unlike any other at Bucknell," said Robert Midkiff, associate provost and dean of graduate studies & summer school programming. "While we often can have these conversations on a limited basis with small groups of people, this event allows us to engage the topics deeply over the span of a weekend."

In keeping with this year's theme of "Hope, Hate and Race," a series of interactive workshops pushed participants to think deeply about the role race plays in each person's identity and place in the world.

"I really enjoyed the activity that broke us out into our different ethnic and racial identities," said Effiem Obasi '20, a Posse scholar from Los Angeles. "We created a visual representation, called a sociogram, of our relationships with other racial communities on campus." She added that the project "showed how important it is to have these critical conversations about our environment."

Other activities included defining race-related terms such as ethnicity, white supremacy and power; a debate on controversial quotes; and smaller group discussions on topics such as Native American history and Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that overturned laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The retreat concluded with an active reflection on what individuals and the Bucknell administration could do to enact institutional change for the student community.

The retreat also challenged participants to share personal experiences related to sensitive topics in a group setting. "I'm incredibly proud of those who spoke honestly in front of everyone," said Charlotte Detwiler '18, a first-time attendee. "It takes strength, vulnerability and confidence to speak, but it leads to some amazing conversations."

Michelle Choe '18, who majors in markets, innovation & design, is an undergraduate executive intern in the Division of Communications.