~from Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub

The whole group, English faculty and staff
The whole group, English faculty and staff

On Monday, the English department gathered in a conference room at the Hilton Hotel for a full day, whole department retreat. Four years ago, we had a similar event. A lot of good came out of that first See Change, and the joy of all being in the same room together at the same time was no small thing. We have a lot of new faculty members since then, had spent a full year dispersed across campus while Eddy was remodeled, and were ready to do it again — See Change 2.

In February a small group started meeting to plan the event — Cindy O’Donnell-Allen, Jill Salahub, Doug Cloud, Tobi Jacobi, Leslee Becker, Nancy Henke, SueEllen Campbell, and Tatiana Nekrasova-Beker. We began with a general question, what it might mean to thrive as a department. Early on a clear idea formed — we wanted this to be an event that was both constructive and uplifting. Considering how hard we worked and what a good time we had planning the event, we were pretty sure it was going to work out and be a great day.


Links to readings were emailed out with the instructions to read prior to the event and be ready to discuss (yes, we gave ourselves homework), classes were cancelled so everyone could attend, and everyone was asked to bring a favorite book to swap. As people arrived, they were given a name tag, table assignment, five raffle tickets, and a sticky note to put on the cover of their book where they could write an explanation about why they’d picked this particular text to share.

Raffle items
Raffle items


Book swap
Book swap

As people found their tables, left their books on the swap table, and put raffle tickets next to their preferred prizes, breakfast was served (all day coffee service!) and the conversations started.





An extra special surprise unveiled at the beginning of the day was a Lego model of the Eddy Building made by Assistant Professor Doug Cloud. Some of us on the planning committee knew about a smaller version he’d made and kept in his office, and jokingly challenged him to make a bigger one for the retreat. He did! Everyone was amazed and delighted by his creativity.




He even included a view into Louann's office
He even included a view into Louann’s office


At 9:00, Cindy O’Donnell-Allen officially kicked off the day, welcoming everyone, giving them an overview of the plan for the day, and inviting them to eat, drink, and have a casual discussion of the readings while doing so.





At 9:20, Department Chair Louann Reid shared some thoughts. She started by reading a poem, “The Gift” by Li-Young Lee, framing her discussion by speaking about “the moment, the shards, and the gifts.” She ended by giving gifts and thanks to the retreat planning committee.



Next SueEllen Campbell gave us our charge for the work of the day. Each table was a Think Tank charged with a specific task in two parts. Part one was big thinking, big picture, vision with no limits, “think creatively, broadly, and positively.” The topics we worked with were as diverse as the department itself, ranging from the impact climate change might have on the deparment, to community building, to re-envisioning curriculum and procedures, and beyond.



Doug Cloud introduced phase two of our Think Tank tasks, encouraging us to get specific, to identify the obstacles and opportunities related to our particular issues, and be ready to turn in a written report as well as share a short teaser with the group.


Doug Cloud introducing phase two of the Think Tank work

After our Think Tank work, but before lunch, we had a very special guest speaker, CLA Dean Ann Gill. She spoke about what it takes to make a department thrive. She had some really great insights and stories, made us laugh and think, and ended by saying “I love the way your students talk about you.” A few of us at my table teared up when she finished, knowing that in a very short time she would no longer be our dean, and feeling such gratitude for how good she was at her job, how good she was to us.

Tobi Jacobi introduces Dean Gill
Tobi Jacobi introduces Dean Gill



After Dean Gill was done, lunch was served. It was a nice break, a good chance to socialize a bit more before getting back to work.


Lunch break between sessions


Lunch break between sessions


When lunch was finished, we had a super fun hour filled with an exercise something like speed dating. There were prompts provided and every five minutes we switched partners and got new prompts. There are no pictures of this portion of the event because we were having too much fun to take any.

After we wrapped up our speed dating, we gathered for a group photo.


Then we completed the book swap and had snacks (soft pretzels and ice cream — yum!).



After that, the raffle, hosted by the talented and hilarious Leslee Becker and her assistant Tobi Jacobi.



After a special presentation to Louann of gifts and thanks, and some general all around gratitude, the day came to a close. Once again, the time spent together was a delight, being all together in the same room at the same time. In the halls today, I’ve noticed that particular energy lingering, with everyone stopping to talk, to offer a “hello, how are you?” and taking the time to listen to the answer. If nothing else, our See Change 2 was a reminder that as much as our work and our students, we value our connection, our community. As Louann offered in an email following the event, “And about that retreat—all I can say is wow. Well, maybe a bit more—energizing, inspiring, pragmatic, visionary, amazing. Thank you again to the leaders and organizers and to all of you. What a gift it is to be part of this department.” What a gift, indeed.