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Retreats are one of the most useful activities that student organizations participate in, and they are extremely valuable for a number of reasons. Students can get to know one another on a deep level, engage in team building exercises, set goals for the upcoming year, develop leadership skills, and have a good time together! The Student Activities Office is committed to helping you through this process. The information below may prove to be very valuable to you as you go through the process of putting together a successful and fun retreat for your organization.

To Do List:

  • What is the purpose of your retreat? Ask your executive board what they hope to accomplish during the retreat. This could include, but it is not limited to: team building, skills training, communications, goal-setting, problem-solving, and planning, learning, orientation, socializing, transition, revitalization, and conflict resolution.
  • Who is the retreat for? Decide if the retreat is going to be for new officers, the executive board, or all organization members.
  • Where will the retreat be located? Think about whether or not the group wants to stay on campus and whether the group prefers convenience or isolation. When looking for an off-campus retreat location, consider nearby summer camps; they often charge cheap rates in the off-season. Be sure to check availability, accessibility, and accommodations, and don't forget about costs and contracts. If you do go off-campus, you can use the facilities' contract.
  • How will you be getting there? If your event is off-campus, members should be provided with adequate and safe transportation.
  • What is the best format for your retreat? Multiple formats are available to help you plan your agenda. You can arrange workshops presented by an "expert" that address topics such as advertising, program planning, public speaking, fund-raising, etc. Student Activities can provide these types of workshops; contact the Office of Student Activities in room 103 of the HUB-Robeson Center. If you are at camp-type facilities, they tend to provide experiential exercises facilitated by their staff, like team building, brainstorming, communications skills, rope courses, etc. Down time activities are important to include as well, such as recreational exercises, skiing, hiking, canoeing, biking, etc.
  • Who will be your facilitators/presenters? Many resources are available to student organizations when it comes to facilitators and presenters. You could use the resources within your organization or you could ask advisors and other faculty or staff members to facilitate/present. You can contact the Office of Student Activities to formalize arrangements if you are interested in assistance from Student Affairs staff members.
  • What is your plan for the retreat? A great deal can be said about students taking ownership of their programs. People support what they help to create. A great way to give students ownership during a retreat is to ask members to participate in committees. Some suggested committees include: Transportation, Food/Drink, Lodging, Recreation, Programming, and Clean-Up.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • What do I need to bring?
    • Have an agenda set for the retreat.
    • Include icebreakers and leadership development activities, both of which the Office of Student Activities can assist you with.
  • What about food?
    • Plan meals and snacks in advance if you are cooking on your own.
    • Pack cooking utensils and pots and pans. Be sure to pack comfortable clothing appropriate for the area. (If you will be in the woods, high heels are probably not the best option.)
    • You will need: sleep ware, shower linens, and personal items if your retreat is overnight.
    • Pack paper, pens, pencils, markers, and newsprint for various team building activities.
  • Do I have to get my retreat approved through the University?
    • You do not necessarily need to get your retreat approved, but you must visit the UPAC Office in 201 HUB-Robeson Center to fill out a Travel Registration Form.
  • Does our advisor need to be there?
    • Your advisor does not necessarily need to be at your retreat, or be there the whole time, but it is a good idea.
    • This way your advisor can also get to know members and build relationships.
  • How can I pay for the retreat?
    • You may use your organizational funds to pay for your retreat, or you can ask your members to contribute to the event.
    • Also, it may be a good idea to have each member bring various snacks, cooking utensils, etc. to help with the cost.

Sample Packing List

Be sure to check with each facility, as some items may be provided. Also, some facilities may charge an environmental impact fee for extra paper and/or plastic waste.

  • Clothes
    • Tops (enough for outside activities, sleepwear, if it's cold/hot, sweatshirt)
    • Bottoms (enough for outside activities, sleepwear, if it's cold/hot)
    • Undergarments (Socks for outside activities)
    • Outerwear (Coats, gloves, scarves)
  • Accessories
    • Shoes (for hiking, in the shower, comfortable)
    • Hats (appropriate for the weather)
    • Sunglasses
    • Watch
  • Toiletries
    • Shampoo/Conditioner
    • Soap
    • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Electronics
    • Be sure to keep all breakables AT HOME! Also, this is a time to come together as a group, not a time to be on your phone all day.
    • Cell phone charger
    • GPS System (if driving)
  • Sleeping Bag/Pillow
    • Blankets
    • Air mattress
    • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Games/Activities
    • Cards
    • Board games
    • Crossword puzzles/Sudoku
    • Balls, bats, Frisbees
    • Icebreakers
    • Team-building activities
  • Kitchen Utensils
    • Napkins, paper towels
    • Paper plates, plastic cups, utensils
    • Pots, pans, cookware (Are these things provided?)
    • Serving trays, serving utensils (slotted spoons, serving spoons, etc.)
    • Saran Wrap for leftovers
  • Snacks
    • Water bottles, beverages
    • Chips, dip, pretzels, Chex Mix, Trail Mix, cookies
  • Meals (plan ahead!)
    • Ideas: Tacos, Pizza, Pasta, Sandwiches
    • Have members bring certain dishes and/or desserts.
    • Make meals together as a bonding activity.
    • Order food ahead of time, and bring it along with you.
    • Some facilities will provide meals; be sure of this when making plans so you know what is needed and what is not.

Popular Retreat Locations

Below are several local campgrounds and centers that Penn State has successfully used in the past. This is not a comprehensive list of retreat locations.

  • Stone Valley
  • Shaver's Creek
    • Type of site: Camp/Conference/Retreat Center
    • Address: 3400 Discovery Road, Petersburg, PA 16669
    • Distance from Univ. Park: 20 minutes
    • Phone: (814) 863-2000
    • Website: ShaversCreek.org
  • The Hartman Center
    • Type of site: Camp/Conference/Retreat Center
    • Address: 5725 Old US Highway 322, Milroy, PA 17063
    • Distance from Univ. Park: 40 minutes
    • Phone: (717) 667-2431
    • Website: hartmancenter.com
  • Krislund Camp & Conference Center
    • Type of site: Camp/Conference Center
    • Address: 189 Krislund Drive, Madisonburg, PA 17063
    • Distance from Univ. Park: 40 minutes
    • Phone: (814) 422-8878
    • Website: krislund.org
  • Golden Pond
    • Type of site: Camp/Hemlock Girl Scout Council
    • Address: Petersburg, PA 16669
    • Distance from Univ. Park: 35 minutes
    • Phone: (814) 667-2598
    • Website: gshpa.org
  • Seven Mountains Boy Scout Camp
    • Type of site: Cabin Lodging
    • Address: 227 Sand Mountain Rd, Spring Mills, PA 16875
    • Distance from Univ. Park: 25 minutes
    • Phone: (814) 364-1017
    • Website: jvcbsa.org
  • Camp Blue Diamond
    • Type of site: Camp
    • Address: 4013 Blue Diamond Dr. Petersburg, PA 16669
    • Distance from Univ. Park: 40 minutes
    • Phone: (814) 667-2355
    • Website: campbluediamond.org