Document Type


Publication Date



Backpacking and leadership development are two of my passions. I wanted to create an opportunity where the two come together. Thus, the concept of Leaders Unplugged was conceived. This five day, twenty-three mile backpacking adventure will provide students with an opportunity to push themselves as leaders and as people.

Student leaders have to learn how to balance their academics, jobs, student leadership roles and life. In all the craziness of this, most students take very little time to reflect on what they are learning through their experiences. Student Activities and Leadership Programs currently offers three opportunities where students take two days away from campus to focus on their leadership skills: Spring and Fall Leadership Retreats and the RSO Leadership Conference. Students tell us that they enjoy the opportunities to leave campus and distractions behind them for that time. Additionally, several of our programs have components that physically challenge students –whether through a low or high ropes or leadership reaction course. These components are frequently cited as the most memorable and impactful parts of the event for participants.

As an avid backpacker, I know the personal growth that can occur through disconnecting from society and pushing one’s physical limits for several days. Whether a weekend trip or a six-month adventure, backpacking can give the opportunity to a hiker to turn off his/her electronic devices, disengage from distractions and challenge oneself in ways that aren't normally encountered in day-to-day life. Additionally, such excursions can offer unique opportunities for critical-thinking and problem-solving that don’t exist for students in campus life.


This poster was presented at the WMU Leadership Colloquium on October 11, 2012, at Western Michigan University. Kate Bates was part of the 2011-12 Academic Leadership Academy cohort.