Bryant students Megan Polun ’23, of West Hartford, CT, and Taylor Vahey ’23, of Falmouth, MA, have been selected to the 2023 cohort of the College Leadership Rhode Island (CLRI) Program. Founded in 2004 by Leadership RI, a nationally recognized community leadership development organization, CLRI inspires, educates, and engages a diverse group of emerging young adult leaders as they transition from college to career.
“I feel very honored to represent Bryant University in College Leadership Rhode Island,” says Vahey, who notes that she was nominated to the program by Lecturer of Finance Maura Dowling and Assistant Professor of English and Cultural Studies Melissa Michal Slocum, Ph.D. “I’m grateful that my time as an undergraduate student here has both prepared me for and exposed me to opportunities like CLRI.”
Preparing for bright futures
A tuition-free, academic-year-long program, CLRI helps students explore careers in the nonprofit, private, public, and philanthropic sectors and aids them in developing soft skills and leadership competencies for the 21st century. Through experiential learning, the program provides students with the knowledge, skills, and networks necessary to develop their professional lives and build a future as engaged citizens.
The College Leadership Rhode Island curriculum includes components of leadership development, relationship and network building, workforce development, and civic and community engagement, and wellbeing. Topics of focus include networking, entrepreneurship, professional development, service, and Rhode Island’s nonprofit landscape.
“Each person I've met so far through CLRI is eager to make the world a better place, and we have provided encouragement or suggestions for each other on how we can contribute to our shared goals,” says Polun, a member of Bryant’s Honors Program. A double major in Leadership and Innovation Management and Literary and Cultural Studies minoring in both Spanish and Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, she says her time with CLRI is aiding her in understanding where her passion for helping others can do the most good.
“The professors I have had at Bryant have been amazing teachers, mentors, supporters, and friends.”
“I'm most excited for CLRI because it opens my eyes to areas in the world where my service is needed, and it connects me to the people who hold similar goals to help improve people's lives,” she states.
Vahey, also a member of the Honors Program, is majoring in Entrepreneurship with minors in Communication and Political Science, and is exploring careers in a variety of fields. She says CLRI is a perfect way to build on the foundational, supportive education Bryant has already provided. “The professors I have had at Bryant have been amazing teachers, mentors, supporters, and friends,” she says.
Chosen for greatness
The CLRI Selection Committee, made up of Leadership RI alumni, select individuals based on their personal leadership accomplishments and future potential. Then the committee seeks to create a well-balanced class, with an emphasis on broad representation of colleges, fields of study, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, geographic areas, and community interests.
Both Vahey and Polun were chosen for accomplishments in the classroom and beyond. Vahey’s campus involvements include Bryant’s chapter of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization, Collegiate DECA, and TEDxBryantU. The recipient of two Louis Page Awards in Entrepreneurship, she recently presented research conducted as a student research assistant for the Harvard Ratcliffe Institute and Bryant University at a Geologic Society of America conference.
A Peer Writing Consultant with the University’s Academic Centers for Excellence, Polun has worked with Bryant’s Colleges Against Cancer campaign and on the Relay for Life Planning Committee. She is also a student editor for the Bryant Literary Review.
Both Vahey and Polun say that the mix of perspectives, backgrounds, and interests that working with the other CLRI participants provides offers an ideal setting for the members of the cohort to learn with and from one another. “I am excited about the network of students I am meeting as a part of CLRI. It is a great opportunity to meet other undergraduates from other universities,” Vahey notes.
“I’m looking forward to all of the opportunities CLRI offers for engagement with the broader Rhode Island community and the extensive network of connections it opens up for me, including veteran professionals of the working world and younger peers my age,” Polun agrees. “The people that I have met through CLRI are incredibly kind, passionate, purposeful, and welcoming.”