Office of the Provost; Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business adds Leadership Certificate to long list of opportunities for its students


The Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business is pleased to announce the Leadership Signature Program and its associated Leadership Certificate as the newest additions to its extensive list of Signature Programs designed to distinguish Clemson business education as a destination school for students wanting to focus on business-critical competencies.

As the central component of the Leadership Signature Program (LSP), the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE) approved the new leadership certificate in November. In addition to this new leadership development program, the other Signature Programs include business analytics, sales innovation, digital and brand marketing, financial markets, entrepreneurship, value chain and advanced manufacturing, customer experience excellence and the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program.

Col. Keith Balts, (right, gesturing) and Dan Hawkins (online) announcing the Leadership Certificate approval by the Commission on Higher Education, November 2021.

“This is a big step for our ascension to being one of the nation’s tier one business schools,” said Wendy York, dean of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business. “Our Leadership Signature Program is attractive to students who want to pursue the academic and experiential journey of defining and developing themselves as leaders.”

York joined Clemson in 2018 from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, bringing with her a vision to launch Clemson’s reputation as a top-tier business school to new heights. Just two years later, that dream was made possible by a $60 million gift by Billy and Ann Powers that funded a state-of-the-art facility built in their name and christened in 2020.

The Leadership Signature Program joins two other leadership-focused efforts that provide diverse opportunities to meet growing student demand and high-priority industry needs. The well-established Thomas F. Chapman Leadership Scholars Program and the recently added Dean’s Global Leadership Program also deliver specialized leadership education from the business school.

To jump-start the LSP, Dean York recruited retired Air Force Colonel Keith Balts, who rose to the heights of executive-level leadership during his military career, which also includes leadership scholarship within the Air Force and academia.

Col. Keith Balts in front of the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

“Having passed this critical approval milestone we are so excited to welcome students to the program and give them a hands-on leadership experience within an innovative academic learning environment” said Balts, now a professor of practice in leadership for the Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business and LSP Director.

The new program was made possible by the generosity of the Billy and Ann Powers gift and some key industry partners. Specifically, Dan Hawkins ’91, founder and CEO of Summit Leadership Partners and chair of the Dean’s Senior Advisory Board, was especially instrumental in initially developing the program and providing executive-level resources, expertise and much needed financial support to enable the program’s early successes.

“At Summit, we are committed to helping our community and believe that improving student leadership skills will instill confidence, creativity, responsibility, inclusion and inspires young people to set their goals high and help them achieve a bright future,” said Hawkins.

This new Leadership Certificate is a 12-credit undergraduate certification available to business students seeking to develop their leadership capabilities, while also contributing to others’ development. The academic certificate requirements involve six credits of traditional leadership-focused courses, plus six credits of experiential leadership development through a multi-semester, progressive leadership practicum. The one-credit per semester practicum is the cornerstone element of the flexible, three-year program. Students may enroll for one semester, as desired, and are not committed to the entire three-year certificate. Students are encouraged to pre-register in the spring of their first year.

Pilot programming began in the Spring of 2021 for 17 initial students, with an additional 34 joining in the Fall of 2021. The ultimate goal is to meet potential student demand that could number well above 100 new students each year.

Balts said the scalable program is modeled on key aspects of existing leadership programs and courses, including executive leadership programs from industry, the non-military components of Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) officer development, and other sources, to create a safe learning environment for students to experiment, take risks, and grow as leaders. 

Current Leadership Signature Program members.

As the program itself grows, new faculty will be added to provide more, diverse expertise. This spring Gail DePriest, senior lecturer and director of executive leadership and corporate relations for the MBA program, joined Balts and the practicum students to further enhance the content and provide additional feedback for the students.  

Kelsey Sharp, a senior studying economics from Salem, South Carolina, who is serving in the CEO role for this semester’s practicum, said her favorite attributes of the course were how collaborative and innovative it was.

“Having real word experiences in a simulated business environment allows me and my classmates to push and challenge ourselves,” said Sharp. “This low-stakes environment gives us the opportunity to try new things and grow as leaders.”

Interested business students can pre-register for the Fall 2022 Leadership Practicum via this link and follow the program on Instagram @cubusinesslsp. Students are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis and will apply for the certificate after their first semester in the practicum.