Last August, Abe Springer gently chided the Flinn Scholars he was guiding on a hike to the Verde River headwaters.
“If you’re going to study water policy, you’d better get wet,” the Northern Arizona University hydrogeology professor told them.
At this year’s annual Flinn Scholars retreat, Dr. Springer was happily surprised. Returning to the Verde, he led the Scholars to a tree-shadowed rill, and more than half of the students gamely shed their sneakers and socks and waded into the river.
“Now they get it!” he said, nodding with approval.
Dr. Springer’s morning with the Scholars–the launching point for the second year of a Scholars-only seminar se ries on water policy–was just one of the w orkshops at the mid-August “family reunion” for Scholars, presented for the third straight year at the Lost Canyon retreat center in the ponderosa pine forest near Williams.
Returning Scholars at the retreat welcomed the newest group of Scholars, the 17 members of the Class of 2009, and reunited with fellow jetsetters of the past year; on journeys ranging from three weeks to 12 months, Scholars had engaged in study-travel and service projects in Quenca and Chiapas, London and Ankara, Singapore and Szechuan. Scholars observed that even though they could in some cases bridge the geographic divide on an almost daily basis via the Internet, nothing could replace direct personal contact.
And the retreat offered plenty of such contact: Scholars flying side by side down a quarter-mile zip line into a lake; cheering on one of their fellows leaping from a 30-foot pole to a trapeze; competing to see who could construct the drippiest ice-cream sundae; shouting and struggling fiercely in the tug-of-war between the classes (won–yet again–by the sophomores).
Interspersed among the just-for-fun activities:
- A workshop on using social media to build a professionally effective online identity, presented by a media expert from Mighty Interactive, a firm launched by Jason Baer, a Scholar from the Class of 1987;
- A workshop by another 1987 alum, Susan Luu, executive vice president of Junior Achievement, on money management and long-term financial planning;
- An evening of reports and slideshows from Scholars returned from traveling, including their reflections on how they had been challenged or changed by the places and people they had encountered.
The last night of the retreat was given over to an annual tradition that showcased the Scholars’ extraordinary tradition–the talent show. Masters of ceremonies Aubri Carman and David Ware, both from the Class of 2008, introduced a lineup that included vocal performances, comic skits, a gangsta rap performance by the Class of 2009, and bands performing bluegrass, rock, and classic jazz. As was the case throughout the retreat, Scholars in the talent show demonstrated the versatility and talent and fearlessness that led us to choose them in the first place.
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