University of Vermont

About Next Step

Our Mission & Vision Statement

The mission of Next Step is to create a safe and inclusive, yet challenging experience for students (undergraduate and graduate), staff, and faculty where issues of social injustice and oppression are discussed honestly and openly through the experiences and stories of each other.

We envision a growing family of Next Step alumni who believe it is in their best interest to help create a world of compassion, justice and equity for all people. It is the responsibility of all alumni to work towards a campus and greater community which fosters mutual respect and
a safe environment for all people.

As lifelong learners, activists, and socially just people, Next Step alumni therefore, commit to continuously educate themselves and actively work toward goals which include daily work on making their communities just and safe places for all.

The retreat is meant to achieve three objectives:

  • To provide the opportunity for Students to tell their own stories and hear the stories of others.
  • To provide a beginning understanding of the intersection of privilege and oppression.
  • To encourage coalition building between students across difference.

Furthermore, students should leave with:

  • An understanding of what culture is.
  • An awareness of who they are as cultural beings.
  • New connections with others on campus, committed to this “next step.”
  • Personal goals for beyond the retreat.

The History of the Next Step

In 1993, a group of staff and students at Colorado State University came together in response to the need for a forum for students to discuss issues of social justice. In 1994, the first CSU Multicultural Leadership Retreat was held. It has been held every year since. In 2002, two former participants and facilitators of the CSU MLR both came to UVM, one as a staff member, the other as a grad student, and saw a need for a similar program here. Many on campus were asking for just such a forum and the university mission and common ground clearly stated that inclusive community and understanding of cultural diversity were priorities.

These two individuals brought together a group of staff, faculty, and students from various locations on campus who revised the CSU program and made it applicable to UVM. Even in its first year, participants had to be turned away as the interest in such a program was so high---in its first year in 2003, UVM’s Next Step hosted 53 students!

For the first five years of the Next Step program, a planning committee of retreat alumni, past facilitators, and UVM professional staff spent a year planning the logistics, the curriculum, and fundraising the significant costs of the retreat.

In 2007, the Department of Student Life took on Next Step as a program, providing funding and staff logistical support. In 2009, the Next Step retreat secured its place as part of the Leadership & Civic Engagement programs in Student Life. Next Step has now established itself as a foundational experience for members of the UVM community. With the support of two logistical staff members, a team of 8-10 members of campus on the Next Step advisory committee, and the involvement of past alumni, Next Step is dedicated to involving as many UVM folks as possible in this special experience.