CLDP Feature: Q&A with Kenia Barajas-Salazar

Meet McNair Scholar Student Feature Kenia

Kenia Barajas-Salazar is a second-year Chancellor’s Leadership Development Program (CLDP) student who is studying environmental science and Zoology at the NC State College of Natural Resources.

Throughout her undergraduate experience, Barajas-Salazar has held multiple professional roles including a summer internship with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Massachusetts and an on-campus role as a research assistant at the Quesada Lab of Plant Pathology. After completing her undergraduate degree at NC State, Barajas-Salazar hopes to pursue a graduate degree in wildlife biology.

Barajas-Salazar is also a McNair Scholar at NC State, a program that supports first-generation college students as they prepare for post-baccalaureate experiences. Her involvement on campus also extends to her participation in the Buzzard Leadership Development Program at the College of Natural Resources.

Learn more about Barajas-Salazar in our Q&A below.

What major are you pursuing and what made you decide on this career path? What are you pursuing as your intended graduate degree?

“I am majoring in Environmental Sciences and Zoology. What made me decide on this career path was the interests of human relationships with wildlife. My intended graduate degree is in wildlife biology. There are plenty of memorable experiences that come to mind when I think about what experiences led me to strengthen my interest in the environment and conservation. One of the earliest distinguishable memories I have is from my early childhood neighborhood, Fox Hall. My memory includes spending a generous amount of time by the neighborhood stream with family and friends. We spent numerous years living in this neighborhood yet we never got tired of going to the stream to play/hang out. We would spend hours trying to build things like ‘mini bridges’ using the natural resources around the stream such as sticks, twigs, leaves, and rocks. I remember in particular one day when someone brought over a wood plank to walk over the stream, and someone fell in and everyone laughed until it started hurting. It became a sacred place that we ended up trying our best to take care of. For example, there would be days when we would spend hours picking up any litter in or around the stream as well as making sure we didn’t cause any water flow changes. Looking back I believe we all saw this stream as not only the highlight of the neighborhood but something naturally beautiful that the world gave us to protect and enjoy. These memories are very special ones because it reminds me that not everyone is thankful for nature and instead of choosing to embrace it and protect it they knowingly/unknowingly choose to pollute it.”

Kenia in the field.Kenia in the lab.

What have you learned about leadership through being a part of the Chancellor’s Leadership Development Program?

“I have gained the insights of how a leader is not universal, there are different forms of leadership and even some leaders end up in the light without even meaning to. Leaders often act in unconsciousness, because it is in their nature to inspire through their already built values,” she explains. “Leaders do not work alone, everything accomplished takes more than just one individual. I have learned skills in organizing different events and being in the roles of both a mentee and mentor that has flourished my mindset. These skills will help me in future professional endeavors in having understood why different perspectives and leadership styles are vital to have in a work environment that seeks a change.”

What does the McNair Scholarship mean to you?

“The McNair Scholarship has given me the opportunity to feel more confident in my career goals and have it be more attainable,” says Kenia. “It has changed my academic and professional outcomes in better understanding what graduate school is and helped aid me in doing research guided to my career goals.”

What goals or plans do you have for yourself beyond NC State and into your graduate career?

“My plans are to go to graduate school and pursue research in wildlife conservation that will aid in greater conservation efforts that can be implemented in real-life cases.”

What has been the most impactful learning experience through the Shelton Leadership Center?

“The Clifton Strength notes workshop has helped me know myself better and be aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I have learned that weaknesses are not necessarily your ultimate negative things about yourself, but think that can just be improved. This has guided me to adapt to a growth mindset..”

What does leadership mean to you? What advice on leadership would you give to others?

“Leadership to me means that you do not need to be in power to inspire others, and often others will inspire you because leadership is not an individual position. Advice on leadership I would give to others is to adopt a mindset that includes that whole picture of what it takes to make a ball move. It is important to know that to be a leader does not mean you have to carry the weight on your shoulders on your own but instead look for others that will carry that weight with you and share momentum of inspiration and encouragement.”