Hampton University

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Presidential Fellows Program Prepares Future Leaders

President Fellows
HU President Dr. William R. Harvey with the 2008-09 Presidential Fellows.

When Keshia Avant first heard of the Hampton University Presidential Fellows program, she knew it would be an excellent opportunity to expand her horizons in the business world. As a senior cellular and molecular biology major from Chesapeake, Va., she felt the program offered her an opportunity to become a better-rounded person, beyond her stringent focus on the sciences. She had no idea she would learn so much.

Avant, along with senior Jonathan Wiggins and junior Edward Reed, is one of the 2008-09 HU Presidential Fellows.

“I chose to become a Presidential Fellow because I knew that I wanted to gain a better understanding of what leadership is, and how it is carried out in the capacity of being President of Hampton University,” said Avant.

The Fellows are responsible for attending weekly meetings with Dr. Charrita Danley, executive assistant to the President, and assist in the planning and participation in all activities sponsored by the Office of the President.

In addition, they are invited to attend numerous other university meetings including Board of Trustees meetings, Academic Council meetings and Ceremonial Occasions planning meetings. This year, they trio participated in the planning for the Tom Joyner Comedy Show at HU last fall and the 8th Annual Leadership Summit

“The program prepares current Fellows for life after college by giving them a unique perspective on what it means to be a leader,” said Danley. “They will enter graduate school and the workforce prepared to lead, and their leadership skills will be evident to those with whom they come in contact.”

“I personally chose to be a Fellow because I knew that it would increase my leadership studies and give me an inside look at how university business is taken care of,” explained Reed.

Reed feels that the opportunity to work with Harvey directly has given him a leg up on having a greater understanding of the business world. Because of his experience, he’s currently running for the student representative position to the HU Board of Trustees.

“The best way to learn is to get a good perspective of how things are done at the highest level,” he said.

“Becoming a Presidential Fellow has truly given me the opportunity to enhance my personal and leadership skills by being able to actually see the manner in which leadership is carried out by Dr. Harvey and his top administrators,” said Avant.

Each spring, sophomore and junior students with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.30 can apply to become a Fellow. Applicants must submit an application and undergo two rounds of interviews. Recommendations are made to HU President Dr. William R. Harvey, who makes the final selection.

This semester, Danley introduced a new angle to the Fellowship program: Book Talks. For the Book Talk sessions, the group collectively reads and discusses three leadership texts targeted at developing a personal definition of leadership and so that the Fellows can learn to identify their own leadership styles. The chosen books for this semester were “The Leadership Challenge” by Michael Fullen, “Leading in a Culture of Change” by Kouzes and Posner, and “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Steven Covey.

“I feel that it is important for them not only to identify themselves as leaders, but to know the traits of great leaders and understand the massive responsibilities that are associated with being a leader,” said Danley.

- Alison L. Phillips