Posse plus retreat explores gender and sexuality

Café Latte
Tammy Tran

Photo Courtesy of Adam Esrig, The Posse Foundation

Last weekend, Lawrence University’s Posse scholars hosted the annual Posse Plus Retreat at Bjorklunden.

The Posse Foundation is a not-for-profit organization that identifies, recruits and trains young leaders from urban public high schools, sending them in Posses of 10 students to top colleges and universities across the country. Lawrence’s partnership with the Posse Foundation started in 2006. Since then, there have been five Posses on the Lawrence campus, and a sixth to be admitted in the fall. The Posse scholars have worked alongside the national foundation to host an annual retreat at Bj*o*rklunden.

The PossePlus Retreat is a unique space where students, faculty and staff come together to participate in a powerful discussion about a topic relevant to Lawrence’s community. Past topics have included race and the millennial generation. All Posse partner schools around the country work to tackle the same topic each year, creating dialogue among 36 colleges and 3,000 college students across America.

Posse Scholars are given the unique opportunity to extend invitations to members of the community whom they wish to engage in conversation. This includes students, faculty and staff that scholars wish to include in an interactive dialogue concerning the retreat topic. 

This year’s Posse Plus retreat topic was “Born this way? Gender and Sexuality in the 21st Century.” The retreat tackled issues such as consent, what the expectations of being a man or being a woman are on the Lawrence campus, and fitting neatly into the binary of masculinity and femininity.

Val Neff ’13 was invited to attend the retreat by Posse 3 scholar Osbani Garcia. “I took away so much from the retreat,” said Neff. “I learned that many people on this campus don’t perceive themselves to be as gendered as I would have guessed, and that includes myself.”

Neff continued, “Even though it wasn’t explicitly the topic, I also learned a lot about race relations on this campus that I never would have thought of… It [was] such a unique experience to be pushed so hard mentally and emotionally, and I learned so many things that have given me renewed hope in the acceptance, intelligence, and commitment of the student body. It’s amazing to see faculty members coming to this and being willing to open themselves up and engage critically with the topics on the same level of their students. “

Although conversations about important issues such as gender and sexuality are common among student groups such as GLOW, the Downer Feminist Council and V-Day, students at the retreat expressed a need for our campus to continue the movement towards raising more awareness about gender and sexuality at Lawrence.

Said Tanner Rasmussen ’15, another student invited to take part in the weekend, “I really appreciated what others had to say this weekend, but I feel as though if students were more prone to talking about it, then maybe we would see the change that we want to see not only on campus, but on a more widely spread basis, too.

Said Neff, “The energy and love that the Posse students have for each other is unbelievable, and I sincerely believe that everybody there was giving their all to really further their knowledge and better themselves as human beings. Hopefully this weekend will result in increased integration of these topics into everyday Lawrence life and conversation. I think that many people left with increased hope about the passion of students here, as well as increased knowledge on specific issues relating to gender and sexuality and why these issues matter.”