“I was interested in developing leadership skills that would help me not only with what I’m doing now, but also in the future.”
– Dr. Mulumebet “Millie” Worku, N.C. State A&T University

As a professor and researcher at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC, Dr. Mulumebet “Millie” Worku collaborates with many groups — students, other professors, farmers, public schools and even groups in other countries.

Dr. Millie Worku and research technician Hamid Ismail collect samples at the NC A&T State University farm.Worku, who teaches and does research focused on the genetic basis for disease resistance in animals in North Carolina A&T’s School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, wanted to strengthen her leadership abilities.

“I was interested in developing leadership skills that would help me not only with what I’m doing now, but also in the future,” she says.

But as a professor at a public university, she didn’t have a big professional development budget. Enter the Center for Creative Leadership, which for years has offered up to 200 scholarships a year for professionals working in nonprofits and higher education. Scholarship recipients are able to take CCL’s open-enrollment courses under a sliding scale, which provides bigger discounts for leaders and emerging leaders at smaller organizations.

Worku had heard about CCL’s leadership development work at A&T, its work at a Greensboro YMCA and its work in Ethiopia, where she is from. She found herself drawn to CCL’s Women’s Leadership Program, which provides general leadership development in an environment tailored to the needs of women.

“It was a program that focused on leadership in general and gave you tools that would help you develop as a leader,” she says. “But it was also in the context of a nurturing environment.”

Worku has done other leadership training at A&T and through the University of North Carolina System, but CCL’s approach was different.

“The unique aspect of the CCL [experience] was that it really focused on the individual,” she said. “It’s a different level and I found it to be very enriching.”

Since going through the program in September 2012, Worku has followed up with her CCL coach and is developing future plans focused on her strengths. She is focusing on opportunities to learn from and grow from her environment.

“I have a fantastic coach,” says Worku. “She was very supportive, very helpful.” The program, she says, created new opportunities to build relationships and collaborate with others in areas she’s interested in, such as supporting youth in agriculture.

She wants to get more young adults excited about applying STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — to agriculture and food production challenges.

“I would like to interest youth in coming up with innovations that will help us feed the world, and in that way also get the students interested in going into agriculture,” she explains. “But also keep up their excitement in science, technology, engineering and math.”

It’s a big goal, but Worku already teaches biotech workshops to high school teachers and conducts a seminar for high school students engaged in summer research projects at A&T. The CCL experience, she says, has been helpful in giving her new tools and new viewpoints in that work.

“The perspective I try to share with my students is there are opportunities to lead at different levels,” she says. “Everybody has that innate leadership ability that they need to invest in.”

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