Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier Deputy News Editor
Over the summer, Berry hired a new director for the Berry Center for Integrity and Leadership (BCIL). Taking on the role as the Elvin and Fleta Patterson Sims Director, Nathaniel Pearson comes to Berry with an extensive academic and professional background in leadership. Prior to his transition, Pearson served as the executive director of the Nerney Leadership Institute at Cabrini University, as well as taught classes on leadership and professional development at various universities. Pearson plans to use his experience to engage with Berry students and enhance the BCIL experience.
“I’m trying to meet with as many people as possible and get a sense of the culture at Berry, which is such a cool, unique place,” Pearson said.
According to Pearson, Berry’s leadership program is unique from other collegiate initiatives in two major ways.
“There are a couple of things that really make Berry’s program unique,” Pearson said. “One is that there seems to be a universal interest in what this program can add, which really speaks to the culture at Berry. The other piece is the focus on integrity. Leadership is something a lot of people are attracted to, but the examples we see in the news are not always inspiring. The focus on ethical leadership and morality really sets us apart.”
In the coming months and years, Pearson and Associate Provost David Slade both want to expand opportunities to become more involved in BCIL. Whether that be adding more entry level engagement points, hosting workshops on topics dealing with integrity in leadership, or expanding grant opportunities to faculty looking to integrate topics into the classroom, they want BCIL to be easily accessible to all students.
“Every student is leading whether they want to be or not,” Pearson said. “I think that there are some students who hear the word leadership and they go ‘oh no no, that’s not me.’ But we’re all influencing all of the time. My hope is that we will create as many entry points as we can for students into leadership. ”
Tonight, BCIL will open the seventh year of its Gordon and Joyce Carper Integrity in Leadership Mentoring Program. With more than 90 participants from the junior and senior class, the mentoring program helps students engage in leadership opportunities outside of traditional roles.
BCIL was started give students the ability to build leadership while preserving an interest in the common good. As Slade explained, the Center aims to give an applied experience to all students, not necessarily just those participating in the mentoring program.
“It’s meant to be a program at Berry that helps give students experiences to build their knowledge and their ability and their applied experience for leadership that can take many forms,” Slade said. “So the Center itself, its purpose is to help give students opportunities to grow in this area, to have applied experiences in many different settings, in the classroom, through our lecture series, through workshops.”
While BCIL offers students various opportunities to engage with and expand understanding of leadership, Slade said the mentoring program might be the largest and most well-known avenue. Every year, applicants are drawn from the junior and senior classes. After being chosen, students are placed into groups of five or six, and each receive a designated community mentor. In these groups, students and mentors engage in a year-long conversation about what it practically means to practice integrity in leadership.
“I think that this program will be successful if more Berry students are prepared to make hard decisions after their time at Berry with confidence,” Slade said. “Nobody’s interested here in giving students a leadership merit badge, nothing against merit badges. It’s not just about checking off a box, we really want this to make a difference for students.”
Throughout the year, groups will meet with their community partners several times to discuss issues in leadership. While the content of the meetings are left up to the community mentor, BCIL gives mentors the foundation for a deep discussion on the fundamental nature of virtue and leadership.
“Mentors get down to a very real level with students really quickly, and that’s really what it’s all about,” Slade said. “It’s not just about career advice or reading something and discussing it without being connected to a larger purpose.”
Junior Alyssa Beasley will be participating in the mentoring program this year. For her, the program serves as a unique opportunity to learn from leaders in her own field of nursing.
“I’m excited because we can kind of understand the behind the scenes of what goes on in our field, and get to know how to manage the times that will be overwhelming, the best parts, and how to make the most of everything so not only is it a rewarding career for us, but also impactful for the people we have the opportunity to care for,” Beasley said.
Furthermore, as a Leadership Fellow, Beasley sees the mentoring program and BCIL in general as a good resource for all Berry students to expand their leadership knowledge.
“BCIL is great if you have the opportunity. Really take advantage of the leadership opportunities here at Berry. That’s something I’m really passionate about, and something that can be applied to every part of Berry and every part of life, really.”
Ultimately, BCIL hopes to continue allowing students to engage with leadership, as well as uphold Berry’s values. According to Slade, BCIL, whether through the mentoring program or other avenues, is working to help students understand the impact they have in their community, and the impact they have as leaders.
“With leadership, it’s just having influence over other people,” Slade said. “That looks like a lot of different things. You don’t have to be an extrovert to do that. I think it’s really annoying when leadership can only be talking in a certain way, and having confidence in a certain way, and getting things done. We want to do this in a way that’s actually true to Berry’s mission. Not just how can people serve me, but how can I serve, and how can I do so with integrity?”