Senior Brian Wreckler recently took part in an Open Space retreat sponsored by the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree. In the reflection that follows, Wreckler chronicles his experience of openly sharing ideas for future development of the school he loves, and listening to the thoughts of fellow students, staff, faculty, and others who came together to envision the next 20 years at the School of Diplomacy.
As a student, the thing that I am searching for most in my life is power. The power to contribute to society, my school, and my family. The power to create the possibility of growth for everyone I meet. I have been searching for some semblance of order and peace over my internal and external experiences, and on a college campus, that can be particularly difficult. With so many people, and so many channels in which we can express ourselves, voicing a concern, or even sharing an idea, can be a challenge. It often feels like no one hears you.
As a senior in the School of Diplomacy and International Relations, I was intrigued when I heard the school was sponsoring a day-long event called, Open Space. As students, along with faculty, staff, alumni and other stakeholders, we were being offered a forum to voice -- not just our “complaints” - but our vision for the future of our school. Everyone would be given a chance to be heard; every idea would be valid and taken seriously.
When I first walked into the Main Lounge, I was immediately filled with a rush of energy. Dean Andrea Bartoli spoke passionately of the school’s success over the last 20 years since it was established. He talked about his desire for more. His vision was that our school will continue to grow and thrive as a community. That was a particularly powerful idea to me -- coming together to create a joint vision for the trajectory of where we would go next.
Kristor Lowe, one of two facilitators guiding the day’s activities, explained the value of our working together in this way: “The goal in the coming years is to expand the circle of influence in shaping the culture of the school,” Lowe said. Our goal for the day, he added, was to look at what the world needs and what collective action we could take to help make a difference.
During Open Space, groups gathered at tables to talk about a range of self-generated topics that interested them, from the challenge of climate change, to careers in diplomacy, from the philanthropy needed to grow the school, to accreditation and developing professionalism.
When I first began studying at the School of Diplomacy, my academic requirements for the next four years were laid out for me. Through Open Space, my peers and I became a part of the conversation on the future of the School, and we were encouraged to voice our opinions to the very same faculty and staff who have nurtured us throughout our journey at Seton Hall. This environment felt safe. It felt like a marketplace of ideas, in which all were actively engaged and invested in the conversation.
The kind of atmosphere created by Open Space is conducive to progress; it fosters community and unity among people within the school. In the days ahead, I look forward to seeing a committee of students, faculty and staff invested in fulfilling the vision and goals we set forth together, so we can truly make this school ours.