Start Center - Strategic Analysis, Research & Training Center
START Center



START held its 9th annual retreat on October 23 – 24, 2021. In order to allow sufficient time for our incoming students to be fully vaccinated, and all of our students to grow accustomed to being in the classroom again, we decided to hold our retreat at Semiahmoo Resort over a weekend in October. Before the schoolyear began, START held a one-day hybrid in-person/Zoom orientation to kick-off the academic year, get to know each other, and do some initial training.

This two-day retreat is an opportunity for the Center to come together and re-establish our values, have dedicated time toward team-building, go over specific resources and skills that lead to success in START work, and to welcome the new START Research Assistants (RAs) joining the center for the 2021 – 2022 academic year.

To set the tone for the retreat, we began with a quick message from START leadership welcoming everyone back to in-person work, and thanking everyone for their patience as we learn as a Center how we can best operate moving forward. To reinforce our values, we then moved into a session focusing on START’s culture. We kicked-off the discussion of START’s culture at our orientation in September, so this session built on that, and reinforced that we are a Center that cares for each other, stands by each other, and then walked through examples of how to move forward when challenges arise.  START Student Representatives, who are second year research assistants elected by their peers to represent the RAs to leadership, led this session with a member of START leadership.

Our next session of the day offered a closer look at the lifecycle of a project at START. We discussed team dynamics, work flow, discussed tips & tricks for successful projects from beginning to end, and internal & external communication best practices. This session was led by three second year RAs who have both held the role of Project Manager on projects, and two START faculty leads, all of whom could speak to specific examples they have experienced in their work with START.

 Our final session of the first day focused on individual work styles, and how we work together as teams effectively. At our orientation before the schoolyear began, we looked at four different workstyles. Each member of START took a survey before orientation, and we discussed each other’s results and what behavior trends in group work individuals typically have based on their results. We built on this discussion at the retreat with a team building activity where the Center was split into four teams. Each team was given a bag of supplies, and tasked with creating a catapult that could launch a marshmallow. We asked teams to be aware of what roles each person naturally took within the group, and if they noticed trends in their work style.

The second day began with a session on project management. This session focused on best practices for managing a project at START, and how RAs can better support each other as peers. We also discussed ways RAs can meet their goals and grow in the ways they want to within their project work.

Our next session focused on power and privilege in the Global Health field. We had small and large group discussions on addressing the privileges and biases we all hold at START. We also began discussing how these biases are reflected in our work, decision making, and recommendations at START, and how we can appropriately operate within our own position of power.

Our final session of the retreat focused and giving & receiving feedback through after action reports. START asks all teams to complete an after action report at the close of each project to reflect on what went well that they want to continue in projects moving forward, what didn’t go well that they want to make sure to not repeat in the future, and what they didn’t do that could have benefitted them. The Center was split into 5 teams, given supplies, and asked to assemble a structure that could keep an egg from breaking when dropped from a high level. Following this activity, we asked teams what went well, what didn’t, and what they would do differently next time.

The trainings provided at the 9th annual retreat were created to allow research assistants, faculty, and staff working at START to share a common understanding of expectations and methods used to deliver high-quality research. The opportunity for the START Center to come together in-person for two days set a positive tone for the 2021 – 2022 academic year.