College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences; Public Service and Agriculture

Clemson faculty/staff members graduate from land-grant university leadership program


Ashley Burns, Matt Hersom, and Raghupathy Karthikeyan from Clemson University were part of 88 individuals completing the LEAD21 leadership-development program.
Raghupathy Karthikeyan, Ashley Burns and Matthew Hersom were among 88 individuals who recently completed the LEAD21 program.
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three Clemson University faculty and staff members recently graduated from LEAD21, a distinguished national leadership development program that runs an entire year.

Ashley Burns, Matthew Hersom and Raghupathy Karthikeyan were among 88 individuals who completed the program’s 19th Class. In addition, Hersom was asked to join the LEAD21 board of directors. He begins a 3-year appointment with the June 2024 session.

Matthew Hersom

Hersom is a professor and director of the Piedmont Research and Education Center (REC). He participated in the program to improve himself and be a better leader for the Clemson College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (CAFLS) and the Piedmont REC.

“The challenges ahead for Clemson University, CAFLS and the Piedmont REC need me to have the best skill set I can get,” Hersom said. “So, I have a responsibility to the University, CAFLS, the Piedmont REC and myself to be the best leader I can be.”

The Piedmont REC comprises 4,700 acres of land, 10 research, educational and outreach learning facilities, eight educational and outreach learning laboratories, and four individual animal feeding facilities. The REC interacts with nearly every CAFLS department, supporting faculty, staff and students engaged in research, teaching and the Cooperative Extension Service.

“As the Clemson Elevate plan progresses and the new College of Veterinary Medicine grows, so will the need to navigate challenges that require leadership,” Hersom said. “Some of the best things I learned at LEAD21 involved understanding myself better, understanding what influences me and how I interact with people. I also learned what personal strengths I bring and what is more challenging.

“Self-reflection and understanding help a person become a better leader. I learned that as a leader, I need to understand the dynamics that make teams function. Adaptive change takes work, and we all process change differently.”

Raghupathy Karthikeyan

Karthikeyan is the Charles Carter Newman Endowed Chair of Natural Resources Engineering in the agricultural sciences department.

“I learned how to be a better leader by participating in this program,” Karthikeyan said. “I learned how to understand diversity in people’s thoughts, behaviors and perceptions. I also learned about conflict management, navigating through the land-grant university system, realizing unlocked potentials and blind spots within myself and more about the decision-making process.”

Karthikeyan said these skills would help him as project director of a large transdisciplinary research team and as a co-project investigator of several research projects.

Ashley Burns

Participating in LEAD21 gave Burns, Clemson Extension 4-H Youth Development program team director, a baseline to help her build on personal strengths.

“We took a deep dive looking at ourselves – our styles, how we are perceived, how we show up in teams and what behaviors, thoughts, and emotions might be driving us,” Burns said. “Knowing this allowed us to build on our strengths and validate some practices we’ve learned throughout our careers, as well as challenged us to break some poor habits we have developed over time.”

Burns said the program also equipped her with practical resources, toolkits and science-based approaches to overcome real-world dilemmas.

“It also expanded my network of incredible professionals across the land-grant system,” she said. “From basic workshop delivery ideas and facilitation skills to high-level transformation change theory, LEAD 21 has given me the tools to be the well-informed, dedicated leader I aspire to be.”

LEAD21 trains leaders at land-grant universities, and their strategic partners in nine leadership competencies and implements leadership development plans to enhance personal leadership practice after graduation. The program includes sessions implementing different strategies for honing core competencies in communication, collaboration, conflict management and innovation.

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