The return of Awakening 13 and connection


As our community still grapples with what a post-pandemic lifestyle looks like, faculty and students are eager to carry on traditions this semester such as the Crusader Awakening Retreat.

Started by Texas A&M University a couple of decades ago, Awakening serves as an invitation for students to step away from their desks, textbooks and papers and to reconnect with themselves, their peers and the world around them.

The University of Dallas has been putting on Awakening retreats annually since the early 2000s, until the original Awakening 13 was canceled in 2021 due to pandemic restrictions.

While this was a hard blow to students and staff who had been planning to attend, it soon developed into a silver lining with a small, yet passionate staff and plenty of students excited to attend for the first time.

Because Awakening is open to all students in all grade levels, unlike the Genesis retreat for new students, there was a large number of students who missed out on the tradition last year.

Campus Minister Shelby Ponikiewski shared that though they have a smaller staff than previous years, it’s a strong group who she’s excited to work with and they’re on schedule to have an amazing retreat.

“I’m excited to freshen it up a bit, not changing any important traditions of it, but just give it the opportunity to have a blank slate since we didn’t have one last year and so many people haven’t been on it, no one’s going to really know what to expect,” Ponikiewski said.

As a pastoral ministry major at UD, Ponikiewski attended the retreat because she wanted to understand how the inner workings of retreats run, which led her to staff several Awakening retreats in various staff positions.

Admitting that some aspects of the retreat will be adjusted to a certain extent to fit the needs of the current students, Ponikiewski added, “My hope is that people come with an open mind whether they’ve never been on a retreat before or have been on a thousand retreats before. I really want to make it what the UD students need, and that can change a lot [over time.]”

After the last few years of being disconnected from family and friends, and at times our world, students crave connection now more than ever.

Awakening 13 staff member and previous retreatant, Tatiana Rios, said: “I went to Awakening my freshman year, and it completely changed my life. I had my experience, but [now] I get to be a part of [someone else’s] experience of being ‘awakened.’ I’m really excited to create those bonds and see people grow over a few short days.”


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