Office of the President; OUR Clemson

More than 100 PLI graduates attend inaugural President’s Leadership Institute Reunion  


My experience in the President’s Leadership Institute continues to have an enormous impact on my development as an individual and leader. It is definitely one of the best trainings that I have received in my 33-year career with Clemson. As a result, I was inspired to develop the Extension Emerging Leadership Initiative (EELI) program in 2018 for professionals in the Cooperative Extension Service at Clemson and SC State University. The program currently has 41 graduates. My biggest takeaways from PLI are leadership is not about me but about those I serve, and making a difference creates impact.

Deon Legette, Assistant Director, Extension Field Operations – County Personnel Management, Cooperative Extension Service and graduate of the 2018 PLI Cohort 

While the eighth cohort of the President’s Leadership Institute (PLI) recently kicked off this year’s 9-month cycle of leadership development for 25 members with a retreat held August 14-15, plans were well under way to bring all the prior graduates together for a luncheon reunion at the Madren Center on August 22. The reunion was a tremendous success and perhaps it will become a PLI tradition. 

PLI is a nine-month leadership development program designed to support and develop professional and personal leadership within a diverse and inclusive community of faculty and staff at Clemson University. The institute enables participants to build individual effectiveness, understand the power of critical thinking and communication, learn directly from President Jim Clements and embrace their own ability to lead within the Clemson community. Each cohort consists of 25 faculty and staff nominated by University leadership. 

A group of colleagues stands cordially laughing and greeting each other at the start of a function in a gather location.

The 2023 PLI Reunion

As past graduates of this nationally acclaimed leadership development program entered the Madren Center, they certainly did not need to refer to signage to know where the reunion was being held. All they needed to do was listen for the laughter that rose after each story or embrace as PLI graduates from the first seven cohorts greeted each other. Many of the graduate students who supported the program when it started had returned too, President Clements, Max Allen, Kat Owens and many others were there, and so the reunion was a homecoming of sorts. 

A professional woman addresses a crowd from a prodium on a a stage in front of a seated audience.

Perhaps no one in the audience thought of the event more as a homecoming than Dr. Kyra Lobbins. Lobbins, who left Clemson to become Adler University’s chief of staff and who recently earned her Ph.D., was asked by President Clements and Max Allen years ago to initiate PLI. During the luncheon, Lobbins spoke about a word President Clements often uses — impact. She shared how PLI is just one example of one leader’s impact and had each cohort stand one class at a time. The effect was quite powerful, given more than 100 PLI graduates were in attendance.   

Looking Back – The First Seven Years

A group of leaders study the art of leadership while sitting at a table discussing options.
Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff Max Allen has provided legendary leadership to help drive the vision of PLI from its start. Above members of the 2017 cohort listen to Allen while discussing a retreat topic.

PLI continues to have a significant impact on my academic career, and the program was particularly impactful to me by providing me with a broad view of the entire University and its constituents. This experience significantly impacted my career by providing me with the knowledge and confidence to explore leadership outside my home department. While PLI’s primary impact has been on my professional growth, the Institute helps cohort members develop both professionally and personally.  Personally, for me, this meant a focus on healthy habits (exercise, eating healthier and a focus on my family). This personal development has allowed me to grow significantly in my leadership abilities.

Carl W. Hollingsworth, Ph.D., Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs,  Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business
A group of 25 in casual clothing is seated for a group photograph in a lobby area.
The inaugural cohort – PLI 2016 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.) 
A group of 25 are seated outdoors for a group photo.
PLI 2017 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.) 

Being a PLI participant was a truly impactful experience. The president is very candid with the group. He gave us insight into his perspective by allowing for 30 to 45 minutes each day where we could ask him anything. I had a lot of what I call ‘ah-ha’ moments that helped provide me with a broader perspective on leadership, as well as on what it takes to keep the full enterprise moving forward. It was a gift to have one day a month to see the bigger picture and learn together with exceptional colleagues and university leadership.

Kathy Hobgood, AVP auxiliary enterprises and graduate of the 2018 PLI Cohort 
A group of 25 people sit beneath an awning outside to have a photograph taken.
PLI 2018 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.) 

A group all dressed in purple stand on the SC state capital stairs to have their photo taken.
PLI 2019 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.) 

A group assembles during the period of COVID to have their photo taken and are wearing masks as a precaution.
PLI 2020 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.) 

A group of leaders stand indoors to have their group photo taken.
PLI 2021 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.) 

A group of leaders stand outside a large conference center to have their group photo taken.
PLI 2022 (Visit previous cohorts for members of each cohort.)