• Social Justice Grounding Retreat 2023 Participants and Facilitators


The Social Justice Grounding Retreat: Building Roots in Compassion, Equity, and Justice occurs annually during the Spring semester. The retreat provides participants (undergraduate, graduate, staff and faculty) with an experience to dive deeper into the knowledge and skills around their own social identities and further define themselves as leaders of compassion, equity and justice in their communities. Participants learn about systems of power, oppression, and white supremacy, and will engage in self-reflective activities that center furthering their understanding of their experiences with power, oppression and privilege in their community.


The Social Justice Grounding Retreat asks participants to consider these essential questions: 

  1. What is the importance of compassion, equity and justice in activism and advocacy work?
  2. What social identities do I hold? 
  3. What do these identities mean to me? 
  4. How do my identities influence my view of my environment, the world?


Learning Outcomes & Goals

After attending the Social Justice Grounding Retreat, participants will leave with the skills and knowledge to:

  • Articulate a deeper understanding of the intersection of their social identities.
  • Define compassion, equity, justice, activism, advocacy, social justice, white supremacy, and other important terms related to this work.
  • Demonstrate different activities for group discussion and self-reflection.
  • Identify at least two ways to engage in self-reflection, especially when faced with moments of cognitive dissonance. 
    Identify at least two tenets of white supremacy culture.
  • Explain values of leading with compassion and equity in social justice, activism, and liberation-based work.
  • Build new connections to others in our campus community committed to social justice work. 
  • Identify their personal, academic and/or professional goals beyond the material from the retreat. 


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 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 retreat (then called 'Next Step') hosted 53 students.

For the first five years of the 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 overseeing the program more formally, providing funding and staff logistical support. In 2009, the retreat secured its place as part of Civic Engagement programs in Student Life and in 2021 was renamed the Social Justice Grounding Retreat: Building Roots in Compassion, Equity, and Justice. 


February 10, 2024


The Common Ground Center in Starksboro, VT


Participant retreat applications are open to all UVM undergraduate and graduate students.