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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, with the first class beginning in the fall of 1995. We are committed to inspiring a new generation of courageous leaders for North Carolina that model Mr. Friday’s civility, transparency, and collaboration across divergent ideas and identities. As an organization, we believe that leadership must be a lifetime practice, not dependent on the skills, virtues, or vision of any single person, but upon shared power and mutual responsibility in our various communities and roles. The William C. Friday Fellowship hosts six leadership development seminars with cross-sector leaders across the state of North Carolina in two-year cohort cycles. The purpose of the William C. Friday Fellowship is to build leadership that reflects Mr. Friday’s human relations values and practices and that generates social innovations throughout the state.


The Friday Fellowship Call

The William C. Friday Fellowship is a nonpartisan, results-focused leadership development opportunity for North Carolinians who wish to positively impact their communities through leadership grounded in improving human relations: leading with courage, speaking one’s truth, engaging differences with civility, collaborating to solve problems, and embracing equity and justice.

The Friday Fellowship is reflective of North Carolina’s diversity across world-view, demographic characteristics, sectors, and expertise. The Friday Fellowship reflects a range of manners of leading. Fellows understand that leadership is a practice, not the result of positional authority. However, many Fellows hold positions of authority in their professional lives and across sectors.

We encourage Friday Fellows to be courageous in their principles and beliefs while practicing being open to new ideas and perspectives. Friday Fellows believe that we must build and maintain relationships across our differences to move forward together. As a result, Friday Fellows often bring people together who would not otherwise ever engage with each other as a way to guarantee North Carolina’s ongoing prosperity. Our future depends on our capacity to connect across difference to harness our collective gifts to benefit all North Carolinians.

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) be a North Carolina resident, and 2) have at least five years of leadership experience in the private, public, nonprofit, and/or as part of communities not connected to any of these sectors.  Applications and nominations for the next class of Fellows are not currently being accepted.  The application process for the next class of Fellows will begin in November 2019.




The Friday Fellowship Example

Mr. Friday was an exemplar of adaptive and complex adaptive leadership through his quality of presence and the relationships he built in service to our state. Modeling civility, transparency, and collaboration in today’s world remains an urgent necessity as we face dramatic demographic, environmental, economic, cultural, and democratic challenges. Individual and collective adaptability are core leadership capacities in the life of leaders and organizations operating in complex community environments. The art of deliberation is a foundational aspect of individual and collective adaptability. We are facing a time of deep paradox, inertia, and general confusion about how to update deliberative models to make work a democracy initially grounded on inequity that now models inclusion, innovation, and prosperity.


•The Fellowship begins with a series of six experiential seminars over two years. Twenty-four individuals from all over the state, who might otherwise have never met, are chosen for each class of fellows.

•Through a careful and competitive selection process, candidates must demonstrate a capacity for humility and honesty, and unquenchable curiosity, and the courage to risk being wrong in the companies of their peers.

•Once selected, Fellows pledge - with the support of their families and professional colleagues - to full participation in the program over the two year period.

•They work with the guidance of the program's faculty, following a curriculum that requires regular reflection and writing. Together, the group practices collaboration and authentic dialogue on the human relations' challenges facing our state and nation.

•They study a range of readings and engage in small group and full group exercises.

•In addition, each Fellow has the unique benefit of monthly group conferences and individual interactions with faculty and other Fellows to integrate the work of the Fellowship into their individual leadership lives.

•The goal is the development of sustaining, lifetime relationships, and the continuous improvement of each fellow's leadership skills. Fellows are expected to promote civil dialogue and collaborate intentionally with other Fellows for the betterment of North Carolina.

•These Friday Fellows are now members of an unparalleled, statewide network of leaders who represent a wide variety of backgrounds from our state's rural and urban communities. In addition to their cultural differences, the Friday Fellows practice leadership in disciplines across all sectors (public, private, and nonprofit). They span the political spectrum from conservative to liberal ideology, and all share a strong commitment to improved human conditions for all.

•Fellows who have completed the two-year introduction to the Fellowship have reported that they are better able to lead with integrity and authenticity, negotiate tough conversations, and facilitate decision making processes.



High Country area Friday Fellows from previous classes hosted new regional Friday Fellows in the class of 2017-2019 as the new cohort began in the fall of 2017.



The 2017-2019 class met for six seminars in five different counties in North Carolina representing different geographic regions 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 is scheduled to begin in Fall 2020. The nomination and application process will begin in November 2019. Watch this site for details at that time.

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