Tomorrow's leaders

University program helps identify, train emerging leaders

Tyler Stokey considers himself a natural leader but says the skills he honed in USC’s Close Family Emerging Leaders Program made him an even better one.

During the eight-week program, endowed by longtime university friends Derick and Sallie Close, Stokey polished his public speaking ability and learned conflict resolution tools. He also realized the importance of communicating with others, including a friend at another school who is a transfer student from India.

“He was totally culturally shocked by America, and he was really shy and introverted,” says Stokey, a junior from Charlotte who is triple majoring in global supply chain management, human resource management and marketing.

“The class helped me get to know him and talk about how he sees the world. It really makes you open your eyes to that sort of thing, rather than just think, ‘Oh, he’s different from me. I don’t want to talk to him.’ ”

CFELP participants meet once a week to discuss pertinent topics and take part in training exercises. The program has borne the Close name for three years, following a gift that helped fund the spacious Leadership and Service Center on the second floor of the Russell House.

“It’s marketed to first-year students who are coming to the university who say, ‘I have a desire to make my mark in the university community. I’d like to sharpen my skill set. I’d like to learn more about what it would take to be a leader and a public servant,’ "  says Jerry Brewer, associate vice president for student life and development.

“It’s not about them. It’s about serving others. We get students who have that attitude, and they go on to get involved in student government and fraternities and sororities and the residence halls and other clubs and organizations.”

The Close family is well-versed in the concept of leadership. Derick Close is owner and CEO of Springs Creative Products Group, the 21st-century fabrics, crafts and specialty products incarnation of Rock Hill-based textile giant Springs Industries. The Springs family has enjoyed a long relationship with the university system, and Derick Close’s three children attended Carolina. His youngest son graduated in May.

“Our family has been involved with Carolina for over 60 years,” Close says.

CFELP is a way “to identify talent from the start and gives both the university and South Carolina companies a way to identify and cultivate that next level of leadership they’ll need.

“It’s important to be able to identify young talent early in the process through internships and other programs so they can showcase their talent while in school.”

It’s marketed to first-year students who are coming to the university who say, ‘I have a desire to make my mark in the university community.'

Jerry Brewer

Stokey said CFELP helped him make friends and connections as a freshman. He also gained insight, through personality assessments offered by the program, that has proven useful in other university leadership positions.

“It really helps you when you’re working with other people,” Stokey says.

“You can gauge, ‘OK, this person’s a little more conflict-oriented. He likes to argue and debate, so I’ll talk to him this way and motivate him this way,’ versus ‘This person’s really shy and has a tough shell, so I’ll take a different approach.’

“It has the most actual applicable knowledge that you can use in just about any setting that involves other people.”

Gretchen Nordhausen, a senior management and marketing major from Marietta, Ga., also found hands-on value in the program, which she completed in 2015. She has co-facilitated classes and is helping the leadership center with marketing and program development in what she considers a “quasi-marketing internship.”

On campus, “there’s a lot of different opportunities for people to get involved and to put something on their resumes,” she says.

“CFLEP is not so much another program where it’s just self-reflection. It’s also learning about ways to apply what you’ve learned about yourself and what you’ve learned about leadership.”

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