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Fellowship Experience
William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations
The Friday Fellowship Story

Wildacres Leadership Initiative launched the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations in 1994. A celebration of relationship and an invitation to dialogue, the fellowship seats North Carolinians in a two-year leadership program inspired by the life and legacy of UNC-system president William C. “Bill” Friday. For the past 25 years, the fellowship has invited cross-sector leaders into a process of relationship building that asks fellows to examine their own - and others’ - lives and leadership practices. As a statewide fellowship invested in the flourishing of all North Carolinians, the Friday Fellowship promotes the transformation made possible when we are present to one another and committed to engaging across difference. The purpose of the Friday Fellowship is to seek and serve a new generation of courageous leaders ready to model civility and collaboration with one another and with communities across the state.


The Friday Fellowship Call

The William C. Friday Fellowship is a nonpartisan leadership development opportunity for North Carolinians prepared to transform their communities by improving human relations. The fellowship centers relationship building across difference and asks fellows to translate courage, curiosity, and creativity into lifelong connections and meaningful collaborations across the state. Friday Fellows are encouraged to lead with courage, speak their truth, engage differences with civility, collaborate to solve problems, and embrace equity and justice. 

Since its founding, the Friday Fellowship has graduated over 200 cross-sector leaders. The fellowship understands leadership as a practice that can transform an increasingly polarized North Carolina. Fellowship classes intentionally include representation from different types of leaders and communities. This means that Friday Fellows lead in different ways: some in professional positions of authority and others in community contexts. Coming together across difference, fellows build community with one another and commit to practices of integrity, intention, and inclusion in their lives and leadership.

The core of the fellowship experience is a radical commitment to growth and learning in the context of relationship building. Fellows from all walks of life are invited to stretch their capacities to see, hear, and learn from other perspectives as a way to imagine and create a more unified North Carolina. The selection process intentionally brings together a class of fellows who might not otherwise meet or engage with one another. The Friday Fellowship believes that connections forged across difference have the capacity to transform lives and communities across the state.

Candidates for the William C. Friday Fellowship are committed to leadership in North Carolina, model humility and continuous learning, and are courageous risk takers seeking to create innovation through their work in the world.

Candidates for selection must 1) document at least three years of North Carolina residency, 2) model leadership in their communities; and 3) commit to full participation in the two-year fellowship experience. The application process for the 2020-2022 class of Fellows began on November 1, 2019 and closed on January 17, 2020. 


The Friday Fellowship Example

William C. “Bill” Friday (1920–2012) was a leader whose impact was measured, in part, by the relationships he built across the state. An exemplar civil servant and adaptive leader, Bill Friday modeled a quality of presence that our fellowship practices and promotes. Today’s leaders face mounting challenges, many of which are rooted in inequities sewn into the fabric of a fraying democratic society. The Friday Fellowship prepares leaders to navigate the differences that divide our communities by embracing adaptability and accountability. Following Bill Friday’s example, the fellowship inspires conversations and collaborations that allow fellows to imagine and create a more inclusive and innovate future.

  • The fellowship experience includes six residential seminar experiences scheduled over a two-year period. Twenty-four individuals from across the state are invited to learn with and from one another.
  • Through a careful selection process, the Friday Fellowship seats classes of North Carolinians with the curiosity, courage, and creativity to explore what it means to connect across difference. 
  • Once selected, Friday Fellows commit to both the flourishing of their communities and to the full fellowship experience. Fellows pledge - with the support of their families and colleagues - to full participation in all seminar convenings.
  • The fellowship curriculum invites fellows into a collaborative learning circle. Together, fellows look at their own - and others’ - lives and leadership practices as a way to learn and unlearn together. Each class practices collaboration and authentic dialogue that centers human relations and listening across difference.
  • Each fellowship class moves through readings and exercises tailored to individual and group needs. Friday Fellows work individually, in small groups, and in the full cohort to workshop dynamic listening and leadership skills.
  • Between seminar weekends, Friday Fellows are invited to engage facilitators and the larger fellowship network. These connections integrate fellows’ learning into their lives and communities and can take the form of social gatherings, paired visits across the state, and electronic check-ins.
  • The fellowship experience encourages the nurturing of lifelong relationships across the state. Throughout the fellowship experience and beyond, Friday Fellows are called to promote and practice civil dialogue and to collaborate across difference for the betterment of North Carolina.
  • The Friday Fellowship network includes over 200 cross-sector leaders who represent a wide variety of backgrounds from nearly all North Carolina counties. Friday Fellows practice leadership in disciplines across all sectors (public, private, and nonprofit), sharing commitments to improved human relations across the state.
  • Friday Fellows are known by their integrity and authenticity. Fellows report that their seminar experiences equip them to navigate hard conversations and to facilitate the decision-making required of engaged, adaptive leaders.

High Country fellows hosted the most recent additions to the fellowship before the 2017–19 cohort began.

The 2017-2019 class met for six seminars in five different counties across the state, including McDowell County, Durham County, Carteret County, Tyrrell County, and Henderson County.

Seminar I: October 19-22, 2017, Wildacres Retreat Center, Little Switzerland, NC
Seminar II: February 15-18, 2018, Avila Retreat Center, Durham, NC
Seminar III: July 12-15, 2018, Trinity Center, Salter Path, NC
Seminar IV: October 25-28, 2018, Eastern 4-H Environmental Center, Columbia, NC
Seminar V: February 21-24. 2019, Avila Retreat Center, Durham, NC
Seminar VI: June 21-24, 2019, Kanuga Retreat Center, Hendersonville, NC


The next William C. Friday Fellowship class will begin in October 2020. The nomination and application process was open from November 1, 2019 through January 17, 2020.

Wildacres Leadership Initiative is connected with Wildacres Retreat, Little Switzerland, NC.