American Indian Leadership Cohort Empowers Future Generations of Leaders

Nestled in a large circle of American Indian influencers inside the Oscar N. Harris Student Union, a culture of collaboration and practical leadership skills is being fostered and developed.  

North Carolina is home to the largest American Indian population east of the Mississippi, and the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs has partnered with Campbell University to develop a year-long cohort to train and develop leaders at the tribal and state level.  

This relationship has blossomed under the leadership of Al Bryant, dean for the School of Education & Human Sciences, and enrolled member of the Lumbee American Indian Tribe. It highlights a tremendous partnership between Campbell University and the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs, led by executive director Gregory Richardson, who was in the middle of the meetings providing feedback, insight and recommendations to inspire action.

More than 25 impactful representatives from the American Indian population met on July 21-22 to share insights and key developments with experts in the fields of politics, education, health, safety and law enforcement. And that’s just the beginning.  

“The richness in the conversations we saw during our first session was a testament to what naturally happens when each member of your group is allowed to bring their own background to the table.” – Al Bryant

The first cohort concentrated on government with guest speaker Jarrod Lowery, a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives from the 47th district and a proud member of the Lumbee Tribe. 

During his first few months in office, Lowery enacted House Bill 166 and Senate Bill 139, allowing indigenous North Carolina high school graduates from state or federally recognized Indian Tribes to wear cultural regalia.

“First of all, we need to know who our representatives are,” Lowery said. “Bring your ideas to the table. That’s the best way to push the right buttons and ensure your voice is heard.” 

Entering his 11th season in Buies Creek, Campbell Football head coach Mike Minter welcomed the group with a passionate talk about leadership and culture. The Lawton, Oklahoma native explained his family ties to the American Indian people, as historic members of his family were forced out of their homeland in the Trail of Tears, settling in Oklahoma. 

“The first thing you must do is know the way,” Minter said, adding, “that belief drives behavior, and your behavior drives culture.” 

The combination of partnering leadership, faith and community found a strong foothold in the opening session. The School of Education & Human Sciences, under the direction of Bryant, crafted hands-on leadership development in a group project setting carried out during the entire cohort, guided by Dr. Edward Fubara and Dean Dr. Kevin O’Mara from the Lundy-Fetterman School of Business. 

Personal Assessment, Mentoring, Group Dynamics, Policies and Funding, Leading Others and Financial Understanding will be covered as keystone topics for Bryant, who was amazed by the reaction and investment from everyone involved.  

“The value of this first cohort lies in the groups’ diversity of tribes, life experiences, career experience and community,” Bryant said. 

The session continues Sept. 22-23 and will include a visit to Barker-Lane Stadium to attend the Campbell Football game against Elon University. The entire cohort runs through May.

Learn more about the Coharie Indian Tribe and the relationship to the local area here.