Park Alumni and Leadership Coaches Afford Class of 2017 Perspective

Two days prior to the start of their junior year, the Class of 2017 took part in “Concepts and Models,” a half-day session that’s part of the Park Scholarships’ comprehensive Leadership Academy. Steve Barr and Paul Mulvey, professors in the Poole College of Management’s Department of Management, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship and former Park Faculty Scholars, led the session, which focused on self-awareness, personality, and communication styles.

Leadership Academy: Concepts and Models provided an intensive experience for participants to gain insight into their leadership styles and how their styles compare with others’, recognizing that effective leaders are self-aware and understand how to work with diverse individuals and groups. In advance of the session, participants read the first three chapters of Art Padilla’s Leadership, and solicited anonymous, 360-degree feedback on their leadership styles from peers and close acquaintances.

Two Park alumni, Chasta Hamilton Calhoun ‘07 and Terrell Russell ‘00, helped set the tone for the session by sharing some of their experiences and perspectives on leadership.

Calhoun, who holds a bachelor’s degree in arts applications, explained that she decided to take a risk upon graduation: rather than pursue law school as she’d planned, she embraced her passion and opened a dance studio. As owner and artistic director of Stage Door Dance Productions, she has learned the importance of staying true to her values. When her studio made the decision to forego participating in dance competitions, some clients ultimately left. While it meant losing business, Calhoun knew that this cultural shift away from competitions aligned with her studio’s mission.

“One of my biggest takeaways from Leadership Academy: Concepts and Models was advice from Chasta,” said participant Mikayla Raleigh ‘17. “She said, ‘You have to be true to the culture you want and not let a few people be toxic to that culture. Dollars will come if you stay true to your values.’”

Russell echoed Calhoun’s thoughts on the significance of fit – that one’s chosen academic programs, career paths, and other life roles should sync with one’s personal values. Russell, who went on to earn a Ph.D. in information science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after completing undergraduate and master’s degrees from NC State, is a data management research scientist with Renaissance Computing Institute and past president of the Park Alumni Society. He spoke with session participants about maintaining an open mind and a clear understanding of one’s priorities as one ascends to leadership roles.

For the third year, the Concepts and Models session featured Leadership Coaches – influential individuals representing a broad range of professions who spoke with small groups of students over lunch about the challenges they face as leaders in their respective workplaces. In addition to affording participants networking opportunities, these conversations helped shed light on the practical applications of the theories presented throughout Leadership Academy.

“I had wonderful conversations with speakers in regards to day-to-day leadership practices within their professional fields,” said participant Rizwan Dard ‘17. “I especially enjoyed the opportunities I had to speak with company founders such as Ms. Sepideh Saidi. I was able to share time with extraordinary business people and make connections that will help me in my career.”

Later this semester, the Class of 2017 will participate in Leadership Academy sessions on public speaking, as well as decision making and problem solving. Each scholar will also conduct an interview with a high-caliber leader of his or her choosing to discover which leadership strategies and styles these individuals find most effective.

Special thanks to the following Leadership Academy: Concepts and Models Leadership Coaches for the time and wisdom they shared with the Park Class of 2017:

- Raj Gopalan, Vice President, Innovation and Clinical Informatics, Wolters Kluwer

- Suzanne Gordon, Past Board Chair, Communities in Schools of Wake County and retired CIO, SAS Institute

- Fran Lawrence, Chief Financial Officer & Deputy Treasurer, North Carolina Department of State Treasurer

- Karen LeVert, President & CEO, Southeast TechInventures

- John Lucey, President & CEO, McKim & Creed

- Mebane Rash, CEO, EducationNC

- Sepideh Saidi*, President & CEO, SEPI Engineering & Construction, Inc.

- Eugene Washington, Chancellor for Health Affairs, Duke University and President & CEO, Duke University Health System

- Randall Williams, Deputy Secretary of Health Services, North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services