FSU Social Justice Summit 2023

Oct 13, 2023 12:00 AM

This year was the 24th year of the FSU Diversity Retreat. The annual summit has been providing FSU students with the opportunity to increase their awareness surrounding issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. This weekend-long event gives students the chance to learn more about self, engage in discussion with other students on a variety of issues, and create strategies for implementing social change! Action plans developed during the weekend will assist them in being agents of positive change on campus. Students also get to interact with administrators, faculty, and staff that they may not encounter every day.

Group photo Retreat staff with some of this year's participants
Retreat staff with some of this year's participants

Below are reflections submitted by two first–year students in the Engagement FSU program.

Reflection #1

I attended the Social Justice Summit or Diversity Retreat. I had a fantastic time and met many amazing people. We spent the weekend discussing values, views, and our complex pasts. In doing so, we had many long and complex conversations about bettering ourselves and those around us. We used our previous experiences and this retreat to help shape us into better leaders and people. That is why I am so thankful that I was encouraged to go to this Social Justice Summit and learn more about what life is like for other people.
I experienced many successes while participating in the Social Justice Summit. Some of these successes were big, while others were small. One of the biggest successes I experienced was stepping out of my shell a little and meeting new people. I have struggled with this my whole life, but this Diversity retreat gave me a comfortable environment to open up. It also gave me many skills that I can use to communicate with others and the skills that I need to have difficult conversations with people. Opening this retreat has given me the stepping stones to make new friends on campus.
I also experienced many challenges on this retreat. The biggest challenge was trying not to do everything with Hailey. She was the only person I knew going into this event, and I might have spent most of my time with her because of this. I got closer to the end, mainly because the program's people encouraged working with different people. This challenge has made me more open to meeting new people and working with them on various projects.
My biggest takeaway from the Social Justice Summit is that no two people are alike. I discovered that no matter how much people tell you about themselves, you will only know part of the story. I can use this idea to help prevent me from stereotyping people before I get to know them. This idea also helps to have a new level of respect for people before ever meeting them. This is because this retreat showed me everyone has different backgrounds and experiences. I have also learned that being a leader means using these differences to best benefit the group.

I have learned many lessons from the Social Justice Summit, most of which can apply to being a student leader. The lessons of meeting new people are an essential part of leadership because they fall under the umbrella of being a good communicator. This skill is critical to leaders because you will only know some people you work with before starting your project. Meeting new people is crucial for everybody, not just leaders. I have also learned that you should never stereotype people, but embracing their differences makes a leader effective.

Reflection #2

I attended the social justice summit to learn more about diversity and how it affects everyone in my community. At the social justice summit, I met some fantastic people and learned about where they came from and what challenges they faced along the way. At the retreat, my most significant success was learning all the different standpoints and what big topics are discussed daily throughout the community that people look bad on or criticize. It was nice learning about what people say to these different communities and how these communities would like to be treated. Many people shared their own experiences of horrible things that they have had to go through, and it did break my heart to see and hear how upset people got towards these incidents.
My biggest challenge at the retreat was trying to find the words to say to someone after they told me something that had happened in their life because, at first, I was kind of stunned since you would have never thought this could happen to someone you are talking face to face with. You want to be caring and understanding for them but also want to say something to lift their spirits. I felt this multiple times when we went around and paired up with people in the room and told them why we hate when people do this to this community and what we wish people would do to this community because a lot of people have experienced more hatred for being in a particular community than I have to be in a specific community. My biggest takeaway from this experience was learning how people feel about the nastiness that goes down from other hateful people who can't accept their community or have never been through what they have been through to see how their words or actions affect them. I learned what I can do to make people different from me feel happy and accepted and how to tell others that being different is not a bad thing and is entirely normal.
Everyone is different, even if you may not feel like it or ultimately see it. Still, everyone has their differences, and no one is better than someone else because they haven't experienced what someone else might have been through. I will use what I learned from the social justice summit in my student leadership by looking past the differences and learning more about diversity and where people come from. I want to become friends with people from multiple communities to learn more about their backgrounds and how I can help and support them and show others how great it is to be a part of a specific community. I will use this information to the best of my abilities moving forward in my college career and even after college. I will tell others to go on this trip because it is an amazing experience and an opportunity to learn more about others and be a changed person after leaving the retreat.