Program teaches rural and first-generation students lessons in leadership.
By Marti Maguire
When he was chosen for the Chancellor’s Leadership Development Program in 2018, Brailey Lee already saw himself as a leader — the kind of student who would often take charge of a group project at his high school in Rocky Mount, N.C. Over three years of mentoring, service and networking at NC State, he has developed a deeper understanding of what leadership actually means. “There’s a lot more to leadership than just the traditional sense of telling people what to do,” says Lee, a senior studying architecture. “You can step up, assist and guide people in so many ways.”
Lee is one of 20 to 25 students selected each year for the program, which serves students from rural areas or whose parents are not college graduates — groups more likely to struggle in college. The skills they learn can be used in a variety of roles, says Jillian Cross, who heads the program, such as CEO of a business, president of a student organization, or a stay-at-home parent. “Leadership is one of those soft skills that isn’t taught in a more formalized curriculum, but it’s really important for anyone,” says Cross, assistant director for college programs at the Shelton Leadership Center, which houses the program. “We want to develop these skills in ways that help them be successful at NC State and beyond.”
“Leadership is one of those soft skills that isn’t taught in a more formalized curriculum, but it’s really important for anyone.”
– Jillian Cross
Participants start with community-building retreats, attend workshops and connect with peers and professional mentors. In the second year, they mentor incoming students and take on roles within the program. Students explore social issues through service projects in locations such as Philadelphia, Pa., and Nashville, Tenn. Although the program does not include a scholarship, the students receive funding to study abroad or complete an internship.
The students all have an opportunity to meet with Chancellor Randy Woodson and his wife, Susan, at their home on Centennial Campus. “Susan and I have greatly enjoyed connecting with these students over the years,” Woodson says. The Woodsons started the project to give the students opportunities to enhance their leadership skills through experiential learning and self-evaluation, Woodson says. “The ultimate goal is to provide them support during their time as NC State students and prepare them to be leaders on campus after they graduate.”
Lee, 22, says the experiences broadened his mindset and helped shape his instinct to lead into more concrete abilities: “I didn’t have the skills or tool set really developed,” he says, “and this program helped with that.”