After graduating from Montreat’s School of Professional and Adult Studies with a master’s degree in management and leadership, Juanita Wilson ‘10 immediately took her leadership training into the field. Serving as a valued member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Juanita joined the staff of Western Carolina University’s Division of Educational Outreach as the director of the Western North Carolina Leadership Initiative.
The Initiative acts as an umbrella for a variety of programs that emphasize leadership development. Many of the programs are ones that Juanita has helped create and oversee. Among these, are the Cherokee Right Path and Coulter Regional Leadership program.
“Selfless leadership is our main goal,” Wilson shares. “The WNCLI has an extraordinary potential to teach our young adults and professionals selfless leadership.”
Juanita credits the Master of Science in Management and Leadership program for providing valuable training for her current position. “My time in Montreat’s School of Professional and Adult Studies program challenged me on different levels. It forced me to create a personal plan for myself, which included improving in the areas I felt I was lacking in. It also helped me navigate the pitfalls of working in a group, taught me lessons in patience, encouraged strong communication, open-mindedness, careful planning and the practice of facilitating discussion that leads to decisions that are inclusive of all voices.”
Started in 2010, the Right Path program is a 12-month program that incorporates the traditional tribal and cultural lifestyle of the Cherokee Indians with a progressive leadership curriculum, while the Coulter Regional Leadership program seeks to help people in the seven-county western North Carolina region to collaborate across county lines, and pursue opportunities to address specific issues in their respective regions.
Both programs emphasize others-oriented service, and focus on developing connections, building relationships, and gaining practical experience in a hands-on environment. Juanita realizes that strong leadership skills are integral to the improvement of society, and is doing her part to pass on her personal philosophy of leadership even as she helps others discover their own.
“We are very much like basket-makers, taking the strips of river cane and weaving them together…..we are weaving relationships, strong as the river cane, yet they bend as needed to complete the task of that basket. We, in turn, must often remember the values of the selfless servant…to become strong and remain strong in our forged alliance.”