When Chelsea Jones discovered the Fearless Leadership Institute, she jumped at the opportunity to expand her professional network and learn from accomplished African American women. After joining the leadership program, she soon realized it was preparing her for so much more than the workforce.
“Many programs provide you with a mentor to help you progress and other programs provide you with a community to grow with,” says Jones, who graduated from UT Austin in 2015 with a degree in social work. “FLI, however, does both. It puts you with women who you can aspire to be like, who are open and honest about what it takes, and who are invested in you personally—as more than just a number.”
While working alongside successful alums, community leaders and fellow students, Jones learned valuable lessons about personal and professional growth.
“As women, we’re taught to leave our personal self at home for the fear of being seen emotional or inferior to our male counterparts,” Jones says. “But because of FLI, I learned a lot about bringing my whole self to work and school and embracing the femininity that makes me powerful.”
One of her most memorable experiences happened at a retreat, where she and her close-knit community of FLI students spent a weekend building leadership skills and reflecting on their future aspirations.
“I remember listening to a session on goal setting,” Jones recalls. “Little did I know, the presenter faced similar reproductive health challenges as me,” she recalls. “When she spoke about using those challenges to fuel and guide her in her professional career, I almost fell to tears.”
Now a master’s student at Carnegie Mellon University, Jones is a Heinz Graduate Fellow at the National League of Cities in the Race, Equity and Leadership Initiative. Currently she is working with civic leaders to examine and resolve racial inequities in their cities. She attributes much of her success to the inspiring women who guided her along her undergraduate journey and prepared her for life after college.
“I’d like to give a special thank you again to Tiffany, Thais, Dr. Bumphus and all of the DDCE family members who made my college career successful,” says Jones, who is finishing her master’s degree in the Public Policy and Management program. She found her path to graduate school with some help from her mentor in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Pre-Graduate School Internship program. “Without you women (and men, Dr. Moore and Dr. Kelly) pouring into my life, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. You were the special family that God gave me to guide me and mold me into who I was to become. Thank you!”
Her best advice to undergraduates: take advantage of every free resource that can help them thrive. This wisdom was gleaned from a lecture by Dr. Leonard Moore, interim vice president of diversity and community engagement and George Littlefield Professor of American History,
“Dr. Moore once said, ‘college is the last place where people are paid to help you,’” Jones adds. “And post-graduation, I see that this is very true. Take advantage of everything that your tuition pays for. Ask every question, no matter how dumb it may feel, and study abroad!”