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College of Pharmacy

  • Donna Walker

Pursuit of the Possible

Posted on: June 19, 2019

The Walker Leadership Scholars Program has been identifying, guiding and nurturing College of Pharmacy students to become industry leaders since 2013, furthering the college’s vision to “empower pharmacy students … to transform healthcare.”

Each year, the Walker Leadership Scholars Program selects two high-caliber students from the College of Pharmacy to participate in this enlightening leadership development program that provides experiential learning and mentorship, all geared toward developing critical thinkers who drive innovation and positive change. Pharmacy students are made aware of WLSP during their first year and encouraged to apply through the application and interview process. If selected, these students participate in the program throughout their P2, P3 and P4 academic years.

Cassidy Hall“We’re so lucky through this college, the faculty we have, that are there to grow us and help us find our way. It’s consistently challenging but constantly supporting. This program really is what you make it. It’s all about growth.”

Cassidy Hall, '21

College of Pharmacy alumna Donna J. Walker, ’79, created the Walker Pharmacy Leadership Scholars Endowment Fund with a generous endowed gift in the fall of 2013 as part of President Harris Pastides’ and Carolina Promise’s capital campaign. Upon hearing that one of the campaign’s pillars was leadership, Walker knew that was the area in which she wanted to give back, she says.

Walker maintains an active role in WLSP, regularly visiting the College of Pharmacy to speak with students and engage with college staff. She provides mentoring to scholars and connects them with national leaders for career development opportunities. Introducing WLSP to a group of pharmacy students, Walker detailed the importance of identifying leadership opportunities, which often occur outside of the classroom environment, and pursuing avenues to enhance and grow leadership potential. These opportunities produce expansive individual growth and development.

“You’re all going to have a fabulous education, and you’re going to be very well-prepared to counsel patients, to work collaboratively with your colleagues, to help make sure that healthcare is delivered in a meaningful and practical way,” Walker said during the presentation to students. “But what I found when I was at the university is, my experience outside the classroom was just as valuable to the person I am today, to the career I had, and to the opportunities that I explored.”

Alexis Caronis“This program allows each student to explore opportunities unique to their interests. The scholars, advisory committee and Mrs. Donna all understand that each person, and their leadership style, is unique and work to make each scholar’s experience unique as well.”

Alexis Caronis, '21

Based on her College of Pharmacy experience, as well as traits she has observed in other student leaders, Walker wants to ensure WLSP offers real life skills that directly apply to their early career paths, offering networking and team building. Also, through the program, students have opportunities to serve on an advisory board, work with professors, and work with chief executive officers outside of the college. They can engage with national leaders in Washington such as the American Pharmacists Association through policy, advocacy and legislative development. These extracurricular opportunities augment the skills that students need professionally and allow them to practice and refine these skills early in their careers with the goal of boosting confidence and motivation to be a self-directed contributor.

“The diversity of experiences opens the scholars’ minds to alternative processes and different points of view, all to make better decisions and (learn) how to solve problems,” Walker says.

“When faced with challenging issues, the diverse exposure to alternative opinions and processes allows scholars to develop more creative and dynamic solutions. This gives our scholars a high level of confidence in their ability to work with teams, as well as in their problem-solving and leadership skills. We encourage Walker leader scholars to communicate with their preceptors while on rotation to volunteer to lead activities to build additional leadership skills.”

Robbie Ouzts“We have the unique opportunity to attend multiple different annual meetings and seminars to develop new skills in certain career paths or to be exposed to something in pharmacy we had never thought about. This allows us to find our own niche in the occupation all while being given a great support staff in committee members here at the college to answer any questions we may have.”

Robbie Ouzts, '20

This article first appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of the Gamecock Pharmacist. Read more from this and previous editions of the alumni magazine in our online archive: Gamecock Pharmacist


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