Indiana State University Newsroom

Students cultivate leadership skills during Center for Global Engagement retreat

October 10, 2013

While talking to his landlord, Khalid Ahmad Siddiq received an unexpected request: fall backwards.

The Indiana State University graduate student had been describing how he honed his teamwork skills at a leadership development retreat, and his landlord tested the Sycamore's faith by requesting him to do a trust fall.

"I told myself it'd be okay, because I knew there'd be someone who can catch me," Siddiq said of the landlord who caught him as he fell backwards, relying on trust that he wouldn't hit the ground. "He laughed, and said I was really into it. The retreat activities were designed in a way that really leads you to being into it."

Siddiq was one of 45 Indiana State students from around the world who participated in the Center for Global Engagement leadership retreat. The program combined presentations, discussions and teambuilding activities to introduce students to new concepts that helped them discover their strengths and skills and teaching them how to best utilize resources to facilitate their success. The students spent their first day in workshops at Indiana State, then traveled to the field campus in Brazil for outdoor activities, including a cookout and camping.

"I was expecting more like previous experiences that I had with leadership programs, like lectures," said Siddiq, who is from Afghanistan and pursuing his master's degree in linguistics and teaching English as a second language (TESL). "But when I went camping and I experienced those things, they were widely different from what I had ever experienced in these workshops."

Retreat participants either applied for a spot or were nominated by campus organizations, said Zachariah Mathew, associate director of the Center for Global Engagement who helped organize the event. Members of the Student Government Association, Union Board, and Honors Program at Indiana State were among the participants.

"My philosophy is that these students are not here for solely an academic degree. They are here for an education," Mathew said. "Part of that education should be leadership development as well. To develop leadership is not a one-day task. It is absolutely important that they get engaged and involved, and this is like a lab."

Student Bethany Alkire enjoyed the presentations. She learned about recognizing and developing her strengths, and how they can be utilized in a group projects to contribute to their success.

"It's been very positive, very upbeat," the junior biology major from Greenfield said of the presentations. "I learned more about myself, and I gathered that other people have learned more about themselves as well."

The outdoor activities that took place at Indiana State's field campus in Brazil required students to collaborate to accomplish tasks. During one challenge, a student was struggling to climb an obstacle during a group event. Rather than let her flounder, several group members flocked to help her over the obstacle, Siddiq said.

"Some people might think these were simple activities, but for me it had a very great impact," he said of the retreat. "They were teaching a very good morale, which can help in the future."

Members of the Wabash Valley community contributed to the event. The Rev. Rebecca Zelensky, senior minister at Terre Haute's Central Christian Church, discussed leadership skills and development. During lunch, the retreat participants also learned about proper etiquette and networking during meals.

"Each of the events had its own strengths, which complemented each other," Mathew said. "Rev. Zelensky did a great job of letting them know why it's important to share and be part of the community, what it means and how it helps foster the feeling of belongingness."

Students have started to realize the benefits from the event. Siddiq, who is the only student from Afghanistan at Indiana State this semester, enjoyed the opportunity to meet fellow students from different countries, including the U.S. He is planning on participating in upcoming campus events to teach people about Afghanistan, which is frequently misrepresented in the media, he said.

"This program inspired me to work more and have leadership roles at ISU," Siddiq added. "I want to try to help educate and tell people about particularly my culture, and learn from others about their cultures."

Photo: (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Indiana State University students participate in an activity at the university's field campus in Brazil as part of the Center for Global Engagement leadership development retreat. More than two dozen students from around the world participated in the retreat, which helped students develop their strengths and skills.

Photo: (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Indiana State University students participate in a leadership retreat activity at the university field campus in Brazil.

Photo: (ISU/Tony Campbell)Indiana State University President Dan Bradley talks with attendees at the Center for Global Engagement leadership development retreat. Indiana State students either applied or were nominated by campus organizations to participate in the two-day long event.

Contact: Zachariah Mathew, associate director, Center for Global Engagement, Indiana State University, 812-237-2439 or

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or