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Committed to leading positive change

HOLD program to graduate inaugural class of students this semester

 Launched in fall 2021, the UNC School of Education’s Human and Organizational Leadership Development (HOLD) program will celebrate the graduation of its first class of students at the School’s graduation ceremony held May 13 in the Dean E. Smith Center. 

Students enrolled in HOLD are offered a program of study combining and building upon courses in education, policy, analytics, organizational theory, and leadership education. The program’s course of study includes cross-listed electives in Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business, and Departments of Communication, Public Policy, and Sociology.

To be eligible for graduation, the 21 soon-to-be HOLD graduates completed capstone projects, applying their knowledge and skills around leadership and organizational change to practice through on-the-job training at area organizations that include a corporate training business, a staffing and recruiting company, and an education nonprofit, among others. 

“In HOLD, there are so many opportunities to build career readiness competencies,” said Jemilia Davis, Ph.D., HOLD program director. “Based on conversations we’ve had with our students — especially in our capstone classes — teamwork, leadership, and communication rise to the top as skills they have been able to improve through the HOLD program and the experiences it provides.”

HOLD prepares students to understand, lead, and create meaningful change effectively in a variety of settings aligning with and outside of education. The program offers students the opportunity to collaborate with professionals and fellow students from diverse backgrounds as they discover new knowledge and develop solutions to key challenges within education and other industries. 

The first class of HOLD graduates utilized their dedication to create a positive impact in the world inside the classroom to build a collaborative learning experience like no other. Through their experiential learning projects and research, they navigated workplace settings and the challenges of those settings — providing them experiences that will help them to become organizational and community change agents after they turn their tassels at graduation. 

“My hope is that graduates will take what they have learned through the many group projects, critical reflective leadership discussions, and written and oral communication to make positive changes in their worlds,” Davis said.  

Meet some of the first HOLD graduates and hear about their experiences in the program:  

Rachell McDonald

Hometown: Louisburg, North Carolina  

Rachell McDonald came to Carolina as a psychology major and quickly applied to the HOLD program when she found her passion at the intersection between human behavior and organizational development. To garner a sense of how leadership impacts human and organizational growth, she combined both majors and now strives to utilize what she has learned in HOLD to foster her future career endeavors.   

McDonald’s capstone site was Versado Training, a consulting and corporate training business. At Versado Training, she designed learning strategies, content, and deployment to impact business outcomes, specializing in sales-force development and continuing medical education. McDonald said while her psychology background helps her understand human behavior, her capstone project, along with HOLD’s curriculum, has cultivated her knowledge about the intersection of organizations.  

“The sense of community in the HOLD program is extremely unique,” McDonald said. “Community and friendships are built through the group-exercises, small class sizes, and openness to learn from one another.” 

What does leadership look like to you?  

“Leadership is two-faceted. A leader is only a good leader if growth is a two-way street and totally communicated between the mentor and the mentee. Both the leader and the mentee must ‘own’ the growth and responsibilities, while being receptive to positive and critical feedback.”

“The HOLD program has undoubtedly been a source of inspiration. It attracts students committed to change as individuals, in their communities, and in organizations that make a local or global impact. It is a true privilege to see them evolve from application to graduation. Their energy gives me hope that they will Propel the World to be a better place for every human.”
Jemilia Davis, Ph.D., HOLD program director

Romallus Dew

Hometown: Wilson, North Carolina

While his dreams changed during his academic journey, Romallus Dew said he had the opportunity to accomplish his ultimate goals while at Carolina. From meeting his wife before beginning classes during his first year to obtaining a salaried position as a human resources and payroll director at EATS2SEATS to traveling more in the last four years than ever before, Dew learned more about himself and has come to understand where he wants his future to lead him. HOLD has helped make that possible. 

For his capstone project, Dew interned at EATS2SEATS, a premium staffing and recruiting organization that operates in over 10 states across the eastern U.S. In this role, Dew had the opportunity to lead thousands of staff to break sales records at sporting and entertainment venues everywhere. Dew’s capstone project addressed how entities can limit the effects of administrative burnout by creating processes to automate and routinize back-end procedures that are traditionally operated by personnel.  

Through all of the experiences he has had in regional operations and human resources, Dew said he is prepared to step into any corporate setting and become a change-maker or pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. 

“HOLD has prepared me to do literally anything,” Dew said. “The multidisciplinary approach teaches us how to run an organization in at least five different ways, and the capstone experience and faculty support that we receive builds our confidence.”  

What does leadership look like to you? 

“To me, leadership looks like being an advocate. It’s making sure your team is prepared to tackle anything and set up for success. I will always be the person in any organization to be the trainer, the change agent, and the doer. A leader is someone that you never have to worry about if they’re listening because once you tell them what you need, the next contact you have comes with a solution.”  

Stone Watson

Hometown: Morehead City, North Carolina 

For Stone Watson, the HOLD program enabled him to explore leadership inside of the classroom while serving in leadership positions outside of the classroom. At Carolina, Watson served as an orientation leader and was involved within student government. Watson said HOLD also provided a venue to utilize his second major in political science to examine how politics interacts with organizations internally and externally.  

During his HOLD capstone project, Watson served as the higher education intern for the Hunt Institute, an education nonprofit. At the Hunt Institute, he investigated the recruitment techniques of the organization and how intern skills can be leveraged for full-time employees. Watson shared he gained an array of experience surrounding the inner workings of non-profit organization and how its operations impact external work. 

“HOLD allowed me to connect with a small group of peers, now friends, and learn from their experiences,” Watson said. “Additionally, I gained hands-on experience outside the classroom that has guided me toward my future career aspirations and the impact I want to have!”  

What does leadership look like to you? 

“Leadership, to me, is being of service to others, taking multiple viewpoints into consideration when making a decision, setting a good example, and not being afraid to be daring.” 

Destiny Moore

Hometown: Harrisburg, North Carolina  

Destiny Moore applied to the HOLD program because of her involvement within the UNC Office of Student Life and Leadership. She said she enjoyed the work she was doing in the Carolina Union and shifted her career goals to reflect that. Moore aspires to work within higher education and help students realize their fullest potential.

Moore’s capstone site was the Carolina Leadership Academy in Student-Athlete Development at UNC. During her project for the semester, Moore was tasked to rebuild the Carolina Leadership Summit, a leadership development camp taught by UNC varsity student-athletes for youth who are passionate about sports and hoping to grow as a leader. The summit is set to relaunch in January 2024. During her time at the Carolina Leadership Academy, Moore had the opportunity to take a hands-on leadership development approach, examining her personal leadership style and implementing it in a variety of situations. To Moore, the primary lessons of the HOLD program encourage students to remain authentic in their leadership journey and conscious of how they show up in a team.  

“HOLD gave me an opportunity to go into my community and instill real change about things that I genuinely care about,” Moore said. “Each course concludes with a community project that focuses on assessment, development, or implementation strategies for an organization. Because of this, I have had the chance to work with several university departments on initiatives and events.” 

What does leadership look like to you? 

“To me, leadership is driven by passion, knowledge, and commitment to a team or organization. An effective leader serves their people and consistently learns and evolves.” 

Grace Keel 

Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina 

Grace Keel has always had an interest in a variety of subjects in school and activities outside of school. When deciding on her major, she did what many students do: she took classes that sounded interesting. During her first year at Carolina, her father sent her an article from the UNC School of Education announcing the new HOLD program. Keel was drawn to the ability to take an array of classes and that the courses focused on understanding organizations and leadership.

Keel’s capstone site was Refugee Hope Partners, where she developed a program to increase the ability of RHP to reach refugees around the Triangle area. Keel was tasked with establishing a family engagement program where American families are paired with refugee families. Keel gained knowledge about volunteer management, non-profit administration, and strategic decisions. As Keel prepares for her future endeavors, she aspires to utilize the knowledge she gained from the HOLD program to make a difference in the organization she works for and in the community as a whole.  

“HOLD allowed me to create a group of friends in my classes! UNC is a big school, so it was nice to see lots of the same faces,” Keel said. “I have developed relationships with my classmates that I hope to extend beyond graduation. Additionally, the coursework and internship created an experience that is different from the typical undergraduate degree. I gained experience with organizations and the workforce that I would not have received in another major!” 

What does leadership look like to you? 

“Leadership looks like supporting the people around you. It looks like accountability and gentle honesty. It looks like listening to others and acting (when necessary). It looks like showing up and following up. It looks like knowing people and being able to cater to your team’s needs. It looks like sacrificing for the team or for the good of the common goal.” 

See the full list of this semester’s HOLD graduates 

  • Amany Amra 
  • John Paul Benson 
  • Emily Craig 
  • Isabelle Elana Dean 
  • Romallus La’mar Dew 
  • Jayna Ellis 
  • Rebekah Nicole Glover 
  • Parker Harris 
  • Eva  Alane Humphries 
  • Grace Elizabeth Keel 
  • Hayden Katharine Kelley 
  • Sydney Nichole Kueny 
  • Rachell Catherine McDonald 
  • Justin Timothy McKoy 
  • Destiny Alana Moore 
  • Amrutha Nandam 
  • Alan H. Reece 
  • Lamar Gregory Richards 
  • Sedonia Tringali 
  • Ezinwanne Chimdilim Ubezonu 
  • William Stone Watson