sunset over ocean with trees in foreground
  • Retreat
  • Southwest Michigan
  • Spiritual Formation

AdvocatesROC encourages the study classical philosophical works for personal reflection and professional development. This retreat will facilitate critical group and individual reflection on personal resilience by immersing participants in the review of African-American slave narratives and contemporary critical race theory. Through research and writing exercises, outdoor activities (including discussion circles in the woods and a group visit to the Vandalia Underground Railroad site), and group reflection on the nature of freedom, persistence, and self-creation in extremely limiting and discriminatory environments, we will explore the factors that may limit our capacity to creatively transform our world to become more inclusive. Many professionals do not set aside adequate time for self-reflection and to engage with others to help to cultivate leadership skills with peers. The readings and activities will provide a special opportunity to examine the concept of resilience and socially transformation advocacy. GilChrist is an ideal setting for reflection on resilience through literature because it helps participants to unplug from externalities, develop contemplative practices, engage with nature, and receive support from a broader network of professional colleagues through a shared experience.

About the Facilitator
Kathy Purnell, JD, PhD, is a lawyer and a political philosopher by training and has over two decades of combined professional experience as a teacher, attorney, and nonprofit administrator. She has a passion for integrating philosophy into training programs, book clubs, retreats, and public performances to build individual and social resilience, explore our obligations to one another in an inclusive democracy, deepen our appreciation of cultural diversity, and develop transformative strategies to promote equal opportunity. She received her PhD in Political Theory from Cornell University (1999) and has taught political philosophy at many institutions including Cornell University, the University of Vermont, DePaul University, and Western Michigan University. She is a certified professional coach, has trained in philosophical counseling techniques, and is an affiliate of the American Practical Philosophers Association. In 2018, she was designated a “Touring Artist” of the Michigan Humanities Council. Her current writing and performance projects include a memoir titled Creating Room for Improbable Philosophy: The Opportunity Chronicle of a Racial Hybrid, and Divorce (Professional), a play which integrates insights from a variety of thinkers such as Plato, Kant, Rousseau, Nietzsche, Deleuze, Martin Luther King, Jr., and bell hooks to explore issues of racial marginalization and sexual harassment in professional settings.  

Registration and Lodging Details
First, call Kathy/AdvocatesROC at 269-459-2548 to register for the retreat. Early bird registration for the retreat program is $175; on April 15, the cost increases to $225. Space is limited. Discounts are available for undergraduate and graduate students, and nonprofit service professionals. Please inquire about options for financial accessibility. For additional program details, please visit

After you have registered and paid for the program with the facilitator, contact GilChrist to reserve your cabin using the online registration form or by calling the main office at (269) 244-1130. Lodging is $50/night per person in addition to the program fee.

Participants will check into their cabins between 1:00 and 3:00pm on Friday, June 14 at a time you communicate via your cabin reservation. Cabin check-out is at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 16.

A communal dinner will take place on Saturday evening, so please let Kathy know if you have any food restrictions. Other than Saturday evening, individuals are responsible for their own meals. Each guest space at GilChrist is equipped with a complete kitchen. See the complete GilChrist FAQ for more information about the facility.



GilChrist Retreat Center

Three Rivers , MI 56265 Day Rd