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Leadership lessons in the Boundary Waters

survivalcampThis summer a group of Augsburg students spent a weekend in the Boundary Waters. While learning how to right a capsized canoe and how to navigate their way to shore without the benefit of paddles, the students also learned some valuable lessons about leadership.

Penh Lo, director of Pan-Asian student services at Augsburg, started the leadership survival camp last year as a way to give Augsburg student leaders a unique opportunity to discover nature and also to gain insight into their roles as leaders.

From Thursday to Sunday, students canoe, hunt and fish for their food, and participate in some challenging survival simulations. In one drill, they capsize a canoe and learn how to tip it back up. “In the midst of this,” Lo said, “I go out and tell them I can save one person who they pick.” After the simulation, the group talks about why they saved the person they chose. “This leads to discussion about why we choose people to work with us and about relationships and leadership,” he said.

On the last day, participants do a 20-30 mile canoe trip navigating with a map and compass. “They have to find me or else they don’t have lunch because I take the food with me,” Lo said.

All activities wrap up with discussion about what went well and what didn’t, about how the group worked together and what they could have done differently. Lo said he has been taking many males, mostly first-year students and students he meets in his work. “So we also talk about what it means to be a man and about developing as responsible individuals.”

At the end of the journey, the participants reflect on their last academic year and set one goal for the coming year. “We say it out loud,” Lo said, “because once we say it publicly, that’s where the accountability comes in.”

Zong Her was one of the students who attended this year. He wrote, “This trip challenged me physically as well as tested my mental will and ability to work together effectively in a group. With the honest feedback of my supporting peers I learned more about myself as an individual, a teammate, and a leader.”

Houa Lor, the Day student body president for 2011-12, reflected on his experience. “No food, no water, no dry clothes, lots of ticks, fatigue, dehydrated, no shelter, dangerous bears, and miles away from civilization on a secluded area. Survival Camp was not just all about surviving on limited food…. I was transformed by the relationships I made over the weekend, discovered a part of myself, and learned how one’s role can influence the lives of other people.”

See more photos from the 2011 Leadership Survival Camp on the group’s Facebook page.


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