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Emerging Leaders Institute

The Emerging Leaders Institute is an in-depth professional development program for Graduate School students and postdocs, designed to prepare you to perform as competent, confident, and effective leaders at Duke and beyond. The program is offered annually in the spring semester.

In five intensive workshops and an individual coaching session over the course of eight weeks, participants work with a team of experienced leadership facilitators and coaches to develop their communication, self-awareness, professional adaptability, interdisciplinary teamwork, and leadership skills.

ELI participants who complete the program receive:

  • experience in project management and interdisciplinary teamwork
  • reports from three assessments of their strengths, preferences, and opportunities for growth
  • individual professional development coaching
  • opportunities to practice and develop their communication skills
  • a certificate of completion
  • the foundation for a lifelong commitment to professional development.

What  Do Past Participants Say?

Asiya Gusa, Ph.D.Asiya Gusa, Ph.D. found herself taking on a new role on her ELI team: "This was the first team project I’ve been part of where the journey was more important than the end product. And don’t get me wrong, when you put together a team of high achievers who are working to improve their leadership skills, you are going to get a quality product! But for ELI, the facilitators primed us to approach our work with intentionality and self-reflection at the core. After some initial panic at the condensed eight-week timeline to complete our project, we decided it was most important to leverage our key personality traits while also being vulnerable in sharing our shortcomings and asking for help." Read her reflection.

Eduardo CoronadoEduardo Coronado discovered a kind of teamwork that could support professional growth: "Teamwork at ELI was different than I’ve experienced before in that each team member was invested in uplifting others in their personal growth journey. I believe that sharing candid self-reflections of our strengths, weaknesses, and personal goals led to effective teamwork and personal growth. For starters, I believe it improved team communication and dynamics when we all gained a deeper understanding of each other’s strengths and specific goals for personal development. We actively sought opportunities to enable team members to achieve their individual goals." Read his reflection.

Wilderson MedinaWilderson Medina found value in growing his self-awareness: "The most enriching experience I can recognize from this program, besides the uniqueness of each of my teammates, is the particular focus to work on self-awareness. By knowing how I react when facing daily challenges, I can develop tools that help me to take control of my emotions and thus perform at the best of my abilities for others. I was prompted to discover my leadership qualities by all the great people involved, from the facilitators to my personal coach; I came to have a broader and clearer picture of what kind of leader I am called to be." Read his reflection.

Kevin ErningKevin Erning found the time and space to be intentional about his growth: 'I’ve learned through the wisdom of family, mentors, and clichés that “the journey is more important than the destination.' However, in our fast-paced performance-based culture, it’s a difficult concept to practice. I’m eternally grateful that ELI provided me the resources to use a team project as a means to grow as a leader, a team member and a person." Read his reflection.

Loise Ng'ang'aLoise Ng'ang'a gained a new perspective on team diversity: "With invaluable insights from the ELI facilitators and individual assessment tools, I now realize the incredible power of respecting each person’s point of view and leveraging individual strengths and skill sets to achieve a shared goal. I also understand the importance of continually striving to enhance self-awareness to my disciplinary, behavioral, and cultural predispositions. Knowing myself and understanding how I can use my background and strengths to contribute to and help lead a project towards its goals has been empowering and has continued to help me evaluate my own strengths and goals beyond the bounds of the Emerging Leaders Institute program." Read her full post.

Beatrice CapestanyBeatrice Capestany reflected on her experience working with an interdisciplinary team: "Leadership isn't just about one person having power and authority, it's about recognizing the value and worth of each team member and being able to use everyone's strengths toward a shared goal. I won't say I 'lucked out' with my [Emerging Leadership Institute] team because it wasn't luck that made us work so well together and create these amazing deliverables. It was careful thought, reflection, and understanding that made this team experience one of the best I've had so far." Read her full post.

Aaron TowersAaron Towers wrote about his effort to carve out the time to participate in the program, and the way he approached his advisor to support him: "The email from Graduate Student Affairs promised that the opportunity would 'develop participants’ leadership, professional adaptability, communication, self-awareness, and interdisciplinary teamwork skills, preparing them to become successful employees after graduation.' But how could I sell that to my mentor, who was likely more concerned about my success prior to graduation?" Read his full post.

schermerhorn_jordan.jpgJordan Schermerhorn shared her impression of the information she gained from the Human Patterns assessment administered during the program: "[T]he time to think about how you act during a crisis is most definitely not during the crisis itself, so proactively developing this awareness during down-time can be vital to success. This, for me, is the true value of ELI: being gifted the time to reflect on our motivations, quirks, and tendencies in a relaxed environment with gentle guidance." Read her full post.

Emily Roberts reflected on her experience with the team project, a core component of the program: "[F]rom the beginning I was focused on the group project – not simply as an exercise in working with others but to develop a concrete product that I can reference in future interviews as a significant accomplishment from those six weeks." Read her full post.

What Kinds of Team Projects are Created?

Interdisciplinary teams are asked to design, implement, and present on a project that improves the experience for graduate students and postdocs at Duke. Learn more about some of the team projects created by recent ELI participants through the links below and through blog posts by recent teams:

How Can I Learn More?

To be notified of the application period opening and other important updates about the Emerging Leaders Institute, join our listserv.

Apply to ELI

Topics and Schedule

Program Facilitators

2022 Participants


2019 participants


2017 Participants

2016 Participants

2015 Participants

2014 Participants


Melissa Bostrom, PhD
Assistant Dean for Graduate Student Professional Development
Duke University Graduate School