Perspectives on the 2014 Winter Leadership Retreat

*All photos included in this post were taken by and are property of Emily Teague. 

This year, CSSC held its Winter Leadership Retreat at UC Santa Cruz, January 16th-20th. CSSC hosts leadership retreats twice a year, in winter and in summer, to train new leadership, develop plans and strategies, get to know one another, and build the inner core of the organization. New and old members of the Council, Operating Team, Board of Directors, and Staff gather in one physical space, a rare occurrence for CSSC, which proudly spans the 800+ miles from San Diego to Humboldt.

Board Member David Shaw graciously made it possible for the retreat to take place at Kresge College, home of UC Santa Cruz’s Common Ground Center and a beautiful permaculture garden. While the retreat held to a tight schedule of trainings, discussions, meetings, and one-on-ones, participants took advantage of the beautiful setting by wandering through the redwoods, chatting in the garden, taking group trips to the beach, and stargazing in the meadow.

Retreats are essential for CSSC, a non-hierarquical organization that depends on co-collaboration to envision and enact change. Here are some of the sessions that went on at the WLR 2014:

  • Group get-to-know-each-other and icebreaker
  • CSSC 101 Presentation and Taboo Game
  • Collective liberation training
  • Convergence Planning with Santa Barbara Convergence Team
  • One-on-one check-ins with new Operating Team and Council members
  • Campaigns and Programs Discussion
  • Budget and Finance Discussion
  • Council Training
  • Media Standard Operating Procedure Presentation
  • Talent Show
  • Organizational development and strategic planning
  • Fundraising Campaign Presentation
  • CSSC Contra Dance-Off
  • Web of Appreciation in the garden

How did we get all of this done? By fueling ourselves with amazing food, of course! Here’s a shout-out to Matt Deuser, who planned the menu and ingredients for the entire retreat, and spent hours at work in the kitchen. Thanks Matt, and all the amazing CSSC cooks who prepared our meals – from curries and chilis to tofu scrambles and beet salads!

Q&A with retreat participants

Emili Abdel-Ghany, UC Davis, Fossil Free Intern and Former Operating Team Co-Chair (she was one of the main organizers of this retreat!)










In your own words, what was the purpose of the Winter Leadership Retreat? 

The purpose of this Winter Leadership Retreat was primarily to provide a physical space and time for the current, former, and future leaders of our organization to gather for collective and specific training. Through the structured and unstructured times together bonds are formed between leaders from across our vast state, becoming more of a family than a traditional non profit or organization. There is something unique about being able to spend time together sharing skills, knowledge, and awareness in a condensed setting.

What was your favorite serious moment of the retreat? 

When we were each sharing in our big circle all the silly moments, all the little quirks and synchronizations that we have all experienced together, when I hear how much CSSC means to each and every person that was in that room or in our hearts that day. I did know that I was connected, that these people have changed my life, shown me ways of living I could have never dreamed of, made me believe in myself when I felt I had no reason to, gave me a reason to believe in myself, trusted me with something and someone(s) whom many have had a part or all of their lives for so long.

When they speak of life-long friendships and relationships, they mean it. They mean their entire lives together, getting things done and really getting to know each other and what each person is about.

What was your favorite silly moment of the retreat? 

I realized after I was able to look at the sign-up list for our talent show that Kevin Killion signed me up for “Sound Advice”. At the summer retreat in 2013 I did a Bill Cosby impression and gave advice to the crowd. I didn’t know i’d be performing but it turned out to be really fun. We had many duplicate names over the weekend (Kevin and Kevin, David and David, Emily Emili and Emily, Patrick and Partick, Kyle and Kyle, Beth and Bethany, Maddy and Madeleine, I think that’s it!) so I decided to recruit the two Emily’s to come to the stage and provide improvised advice in character. It was a combination of my improv talents and my ability to give advice. Very fun.


Julia Clark, Humboldt State University, Former Council Co-Chair (Aug 2012-Jan 2014)
In your own words, what was the purpose of the Winter Leadership Retreat?

The purpose was for California Student Sustainability leaders to come together, build community, plan actionable items, familiarize ourselves with CSSC and its’ operations, learn, share, make connections, and organize action.

Why did you choose to attend this year’s Winter Leadership Retreat?

I am transitioning out of CSSC leadership, but I wanted to be available to train the new leaders coming into the organization as well as offer any advice I could.

What was your favorite serious moment of the retreat? 

Sitting down at lunch with a new friend and finding that we both shared a deep connection on life perspectives as we enjoyed delicious burritos cooked up by our amazing chefs.

What was your favorite silly moment of the retreat?
The talent show had many silly moments. One of the best was the act titled “Patrick and the random jam band,” where Patrick Hassett from Humboldt State University went up and said “Anyone want to play some music?” And a bunch of folks, all previously unplanned, picked up instruments and played some killer music with him.


Pretty awesome, right?! If being part of this dynamic and collaborative process sounds exciting to you, we’d love to have you join our leadership and attend our next retreat. Sign up for our newsletter, like our Facebook, and stay tuned on our website throughout the semester to learn how you can get more involved with CSSC.


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague


Photo credit: Emily Teague

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