History of the Center for Leadership

Isabella Cannon founded the Leadership Fellows Program in 1989 and the first cohort of Fellows graduated in 1993. In an effort to make leadership education accessible to all Elon students, the Isabella Cannon Leadership Program (ICLP) was created in 1992. While the Fellows program is a smaller cohort of students selected while in high school, ICLP was a large, open program available to all first-year Elon students. ICLP included four phases: Phase 1 focused on the self, Phase 2 helped students to collaborate with others, Phase 3 focused on creating change, and Phase 4 culminated in the implementation of a legacy project.

Born of the same vision that generated the concept of the Elon Experiences and generously supported by the late Isabella Cannon, Fellows and ICLP provided a positive co-curricular learning environment for more than 1,000 students over the past 30 years.  The Leadership Fellows Program and ICLP were the main focus of the Center for Leadership for many years. As the Center for Leadership grew, so did Elon’s commitment to preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good. The Center for Leadership’s program and offerings continued to grow.

In 1993, Adventures in Leadership (AIL) was created to help first-year students successfully transition to Elon through an adventures-based outdoor experience. The Center for Leadership continues to support AIL, which is overseen by Campus Recreation and Wellness.

In 2006, the Leadership Studies minor was launched. In 2013, Leadership Fellows deepened their leadership journey by requiring the Leadership Studies minor as part of their Fellows experiences.

In 2012, the Center for Leadership and the Center for Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity Education (previously the Multicultural Center) took two independent conferences and collaboratively created a new learning opportunity for students. The previous conferences, the Leadership Development Institute and the Diversity Leadership Conference, existed separately but highlighted many of the same themes. As a result of true collaboration, the Intersect: Diversity and Leadership Conference was created, a literal intersection of diversity and leadership. Today the Intersect Conference continues to grow with nearly 250 participants coming from over a dozen colleges and universities both in North Carolina and beyond.

In 2013, the Center for Leadership, in partnership with Residence Life, created the Leaders in a Global World Living Learning Community, an opportunity for first- and second-year students to live together and engage in conversations in their residential space about leadership. For the first 5 years, LGW resided within the Global Neighborhood; now LGW residents live in the East Neighborhood.

In 2014, ICLP was replaced with the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) Program. While students could only join ICLP as first-semester students, the LEAD Program was open and accessible to all students at any point in their Elon journey. Students could complete the LEAD Program at their own pace and when they were developmentally ready to engage in Leadership. The LEAD Program include three tiers: Tier I focused on leading the self, Tier II focused on leading with others, and Tier III focused on creating change and implementing a common good project. All students in the LEAD Program engaged in service, mentorship, and reflection.

In 2018, the LEAD Program was made even more accessible to students by the Center for Leadership by creating Leadershops, or interactive leadership workshops. Leadershops are open to all and any Elon students to help them build their leadership skills.

The work of the Center for Leadership continues. The Center for Leadership is committed to helping students graduate with a greater leadership self-efficacy, the desire and ability to work collaboratively within diverse communities of people, as well as have the confidence and competence to put innovative ideas into action for positive change.

Additional programs that continue to grow and change including the Leadership ELR, the Leadership Prize, and Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Honor Society.

Recognizing that leadership happens in many contexts, the Center for Leadership collaborates with colleagues and departments all over campus to ensure students leadership development is infused where they find meaning and purpose in their passions.

And, to think – it all started with an Elon alum deemed in N.C. as a “little old lady in tennis shoes.”