In the fall of 2019, Herman J. Felton, Jr., J.D., Ph.D., president of Wiley College, initiated a plan to transform the culture of the institution. With Felton’s understanding of the significant impact leadership has on the morale and prosperity of his faculty and staff, he formulated a 9-week long training process, with the intention to develop indispensable leadership principles. Thus, the Heman Sweatt Leadership Institute was born.

Raé Lundy, Ph.D., the Associate Vice President of Student Health Counseling and Wellness and also one of the institutes lead committee members says, “In order to grow and sustain an organization, leadership principles and skills must be intentionally obtained, honed and applied through formal and informal measures”.

Lundy explains that the response to a campus-wide survey was the catalyst for the training. “[The] survey indicated that all of our faculty and staff recognized (like Felton) that there is an opportunity for growth. So, in the Fall of 2019, Felton pulled together Academic Affairs, Enrollment Services, Student Affairs, leaders on the campus who were tasked with developing, designing, thinking through, and conceptualizing what it looks like to be a leader using theory and experiential opportunities, and what emerged was a series of intensive workshops or sessions for a smaller cohort of people and then several campus-wide sessions.”

Felton established four pillars as the foundation of the institute; servant leadership, expressing empathy, accountability, and repetition. Lundy explains that she alongside other members of the task-force assessed those pillars, and asked themselves “​how does one get there​”? She adds that she and her colleagues were introspective and built a framework around how their leadership impacts those around them at the organizational level.

Lundy explained that each of the staff members would be given assessments to speak to how their competencies impact their role at the college and how they can be used to strengthen the work they’re doing and challenged to build from that.

The institute is comprised of two components:
Component 1: Faculty and staff will be selected during each semester to participate in the 9-week intensive leadership development course. All employees will be selected for the cohort model and provided an opportunity for growth and development.
Component 2: 3 campus-wide leadership training sessions will be offered each semester to facilitate campus-wide development.

Lundy concludes, “[We are] taking an intentional focus on what our college’s mission is: A liberal arts institution with a focus on social good and leadership. We cannot promote leadership to our students if we are not also learning and growing and continuing to develop”.