Whether it’s the executive who’s responsible for making sure your custom-engraved iPod gets to you in just three days or the critical care pediatrician working to save a child’s life, there is little question that Caldwell Fellows alumni are making an impact — in their workplaces, in their communities and around the world.

The Center for Creative Leadership has been an integral part of the Caldwell Fellows program and its impact since the beginning, a relationship that spans 40 years.

Caldwell Fellows from N.C. State University enjoy a bonding game at a retreat that's part of their leadership development training.Shortly after the Smith Richardson Foundation provided funding to launch the Center in Greensboro, NC, Foundation leaders turned their attention to college students and wondered if they couldn’t start to educate the leaders of the future before they started their careers.

The result was seed funding for five college and university student leadership development programs, including a prestigious program at N.C. State University now called the Caldwell Fellows.

Some 25 Fellows — students who have the ability to handle college academics but who also show promise for being something more than just excellent students — are selected each year. CCL’s Bill Sternbergh and N.C. State University’s Janice Odom, who work closely with the Fellows, describe them as “diamonds in the rough.”

“There’s a spark about wanting to have an impact on the world,” says Sternbergh, an honorary senior fellow at CCL, and the faculty member who has trained Caldwell Fellows since the program began; he remains involved in the selection process at N.C. State.

Fellows receive an academic scholarship; an annual experiential learning stipend, which they must write a proposal for each year; leadership opportunities and a three-day CCL training program similar to what they might otherwise not experience until much later in their careers.

During their junior or senior years, each Fellow comes to the Center’s Greensboro campus for intensive leadership development training. The training includes multiple assessments to increase their self-awareness and provide them with a comprehensive view of themselves. They also participate in several experiential challenges including an outdoor leadership activity, which allows them to practice new skills. Lastly, the students have one-on-one coaching with a feedback coach to help them identify areas they would like to develop and set an action plan.

There are now more than 1,000 active Caldwell Fellows alumni.They form a powerful community, says Odom, N.C. State’s director of the Caldwell Fellows program. “I just listen to their stories and what they say about it and the difference it has [made] in their trajectory of life.”

Jeff Williams, senior vice president for operations at Apple Inc. who graduated from N.C. State in the mid-1980s, cites the Caldwell Fellows program and CCL training as pivotal in his career, Odom notes. He’s sent other executives to leadership training and supports the Caldwell Fellows-CCL partnership financially.

Kyle Rehder says the CCL experience helped reshape his career ambitions. He majored in chemical engineering, but feedback from the Center helped him realize that he would be more satisfied with a career in academic medicine. The insights and skills he gained are key to his work.

“Whether it be teaching, leading the resuscitation of a critically ill child, breaking bad news to a family, managing a group of highly skilled [but stressed] physicians, or developing hospital patient-safety initiatives,” he says, “these skills are used every day.”

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