Shelton Leadership Center Teaches any Student how to Lead

Students in leadership classroom paying attention

Anyone can be a leader, regardless of professional field, job title or personal status. With 11 courses and two undergraduate minors, the Shelton Leadership Center teaches NC State students how to find and embrace their own individual leadership styles. 

“Students have different passions and interests. What we try to do is equip students with the skills and the abilities necessary to pursue those passions in meaningful ways, which is leadership,” said Michael Domeracki, assistant director for outreach programs at the Shelton Leadership Center.

Many students take courses at the Shelton Leadership Center thinking that leadership is binary — that the world is divided into leaders and non-leaders. But the courses are built upon the idea that everyone is a leader, and they build students’ skills, curiosity and exploration. To Domeracki, leadership is the ability to recognize how and why to make a positive change for others.

“These are classes that are designed to help students understand who they are and what they want to do, and then help them be successful in those pursuits,” Domeracki said.

While some courses cater to specific fields — like the graduate level-course Leadership in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Sciences — many of them can be applied to any of the dozens of majors at NC State. Such courses include Building Community Around Values-based Leadership, Critical and Creative Decision-Making Models, Leading With an Ethical Perspective, and Leadership and Negotiation. The courses are a blend of theory and practice, giving students the opportunity to analyze leadership philosophies while also exploring how they can make positive change in their communities. 

“These are classes that are designed to help students understand who they are and what they want to do, and then help them be successful in those pursuits.”

“Through case studies, discussions and experiences, students are exposed to new ideas and become self-aware,” said Jason Bocarro, a professor in the College of Natural Resources who teaches several leadership courses. “That’s one of the biggest ways to build leadership.”

The Shelton Leadership Center’s two minors allow undergraduate students to further develop their leadership interests and skills. The Leadership: Cross Disciplinary Perspectives minor focuses on how leadership affects decision-making, ethics, values and cross-functioning teams. The Global Leadership and Team Decision-Making minor takes students to partner universities in three European countries to give them a global understanding of leadership theory, inquiry and application. Students take the minor in one semester.

Kailea Simmons, a senior majoring in business administration, completed both minors. When she participated in Shelton Leadership Center programs in high school, she fell in love with the center’s mission of ethical and mindful leadership.

The global leadership minor was particularly impactful, she said. She did the minor in spring 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began raging across the globe. Suddenly, any certainty she felt about the semester was gone.

“I’m a very A-line thinker — I like things to be organized,” Simmons said. “Nothing about that trip was a set plan. The pandemic really tested my flexibility.”

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Studying abroad at the beginning of a global pandemic made her a stronger leader, though. Now, as a store operations management intern at Wegmans Food Markets, Simmons is confident in her ability to deal with unexpected challenges.

“I think the Kailea I was before that semester would have shut down, but after that experience, I’m able to change my mindset,” she said. “I have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset now.”

“I have a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset now.”

Through the minors, Simmons has learned about effective communication and reflection-based thinking, which involves looking back on situations and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities. Those skills empower Simmons to take risks, and she’s eager to continue honing them after graduation. Her goal is to work in human resources. As a leader, she wants to help employees through training and development.

“Everyone is a leader in a different way,” Simmons said. “These classes help you learn what kind of leader you are, what kind of leader you can be and how you can translate that into your career and personal life.”

Explore Leadership Education

Regardless of major, any NC State student can take a course with the Shelton Leadership Center