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BRIDGES 2024 is now accepting applications!

Completed application and additional documents must be submitted by May 15, 2024 to be considered.

BRIDGES Academic Leadership 2024

BRIDGES is an inclusive professional development program dedicated to supporting cisgender or transgender women and nonbinary colleagues in higher education who seek to gain or strengthen their academic leadership capabilities, and/or individuals who demonstrate a commitment to supporting women and gender issues and equity in the academy. It is designed to help participants identify, understand, and build their leadership roles in the academy. Through an intensive program, participants will:

  • develop insights into leadership, with a particular focus on the special skills and attributes unique to leadership roles
  • acquire an understanding of the many facets of colleges and universities
  • build strategic negotiation skills, and
  • create a program of personal and professional development to benefit themselves and their institutions.

Who should participate? Individuals of any gender identity, from four-year North Carolina institutions of higher education, both public and independent, who want to position themselves for advancement in the academy and/or who demonstrate a strong interest or commitment to supporting women and gender equity in the academy, including:

  • faculty interested in developing their leadership skills
  • faculty looking to move into academic administration
  • administrators and professional staff with managerial and supervisory responsibilities
  • administrators and professional staff seeking a greater range of responsibilities


The BRIDGES program offers comprehensive academic leadership and personal professional development in a welcoming, inclusive community of academic leaders across North Carolina. Engaging in this program truly helped me to see how the university works, to understand what it takes to pursue an academic leadership position, and to envision the next steps in my own journey. I look forward to recommending this program to my colleagues and building more BRIDGES in North Carolina higher education.

– Program Participant


BRIDGES Theme: Leading in a Time of Transformation

The BRIDGES Advisory Board has selected “Leading in a Time of Transformation” as the theme for BRIDGES. Transformational leadership, sometimes called “visionary leadership,” is a concept with a rich literature of theory and implementation studies. Three specific concepts have been selected by the Board as most important for participants developing their capacities as academic leaders today:

  1. Transformational leaders have values, not just titles. BRIDGES is committed to prepare and encourage participants to seek the highest positions of leadership. To accomplish this goal, we want BRIDGES graduates to be leaders in bringing equity, inclusion, and excellence to our campuses regardless of our positions.
  2. Transformational leaders facilitate the development of leadership in those around them and rally community members to tackle difficult problems together.
  3. Transformational leaders make informed decisions and influence change when required. They assess and recognize whether incremental change or large-scale transformation is needed. They understand themselves well enough to stay firmly grounded in their values while seeking broad perspectives and even conflicting views.


I was glad to have the opportunity to meet so many interesting individuals. No other program gives us the opportunity to see what our colleagues across campus are accomplishing. That insight is, in itself, empowering. Opportunities like this, rare as they are, make a real difference.

–Program Participant


Program Overview

The BRIDGES experience will include engaging keynote speakers, high-energy sessions, and many networking opportunities. Hear from recent graduates about their experience.

In the four weekends of BRIDGES, you will gain a better understanding of the academy, while looking at what is necessary for your own development as a leader, what you need to do to create new relationships with colleagues and allies, and what actions you may want to undertake to create innovative changes at your institution. Our program also emphasizes what we want to accomplish in helping higher education professionals to claim, strengthen, and exercise their leadership capacities:

  1. We will explore how exercising our leadership capacities to their fullest transforms the way we lead our lives and do our work.
  2. We will encourage the use of allies to transform our institutions and fields of expertise.
  3. We will reflect on how exercising our leadership —individually and collectively—can provide models for transforming how we understand leadership in higher education.

Small group discussions, panels, case studies, and formal presentations are used to create an atmosphere that encourages learning and interaction. Advance readings are assigned for some sessions, and participants complete a leadership assessment in the summer before the first session.

BRIDGES will give you a chance to enhance key leadership skills by interacting with academic leaders from public and independent colleges and universities. You will learn about financial and legal issues facing higher education today, as well as some of the special human resources and risk management challenges we face in academia. You will also hear perspectives on the crucial roles of fundraising and politics on our campuses, as well as personal stories from a diverse group of academic leaders. You will evaluate your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and can talk about your leadership challenges. BRIDGES will help you chart a course for your professional future, both in terms of your goals for advancement and contributing to your institution.

Participating in BRIDGES encouraged me to be bold in my pursuit of professional advancement, but to temper that boldness with grace and compassion for others, and of course, to take others along with me as I move up and over. I feel better prepared to take on new challenges, conquer professional fears, and realize the plans I have laid for myself. Equally as important are the relationships I formed with my BRIDGES classmates, who both listened to me and shared their wisdom freely. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and will certainly encourage others to participate.

–Program Participant


The program is organized into four weekend sessions. Parts 1 and 4 are in-person sessions, and Parts 2 and 3, are synchronous, virtual sessions.  All sessions begin on Friday afternoon and end Saturday afternoon. To graduate from the program, participants must attend and actively participate in all class sessions.


Part I allows participants to get acquainted and be involved in the many facets of transformational leadership—in practice and self-knowledge. Team building will be the focus of this session. This session is held in-person at the Rizzo Conference Center.


Part 2 gives participants the opportunity to continue exploring leadership through experiential learning and practice. Human Resources, inclusive academies, and crisis leadership  are the focus of the sessions. Participants work with case studies and reflection activities on multiple topics.  Both sessions are held live, online via Zoom video conferencing platform.


Part 3 focuses on organizational structure and behavior, financial resources, legal issues, strategic negotiations, and networking. Participants work with case studies and hypothetical situations on multiple topics. They will focus on both the specific institutional context of the case studies and the broader implications for higher education. Both sessions are held live, online via Zoom video conferencing platform.


Part 4 allows participants to work as individuals and members of a team in reflection activities, as well as preparing a focused leadership plan for personal and professional transformation. Opportunities for sharing ideas and challenges will be provided while cultivating a network that extends beyond the life of the program. Activities will involve BRIDGES graduates and the BRIDGES graduation ceremony. This session is held in-person, at the Rizzo Conference Center.


I was fortunate to benefit from an awesome program… The experiences from BRIDGES helped increase my self-awareness, build my confidence, push myself beyond my comfort zones, to face challenges in my own journey, be a better listener, and a more effective leader. Despite being virtual, the program brought a sense of togetherness, and I am very thankful for the new friendships and connections made through the program.

– Program Participant



The cost of BRIDGES is $2,500. This fee includes all instruction, educational materials, 360 leadership assessment and meals for both in-person (Parts 1 and 4) weekend sessions at the Rizzo Conference Center.
Participants must reserve and pay for overnight accommodations for Parts 1 and 4 in-person sessions (meals for those sessions are included in the fee).

Departments and administrative units are encouraged to provide financial support to participants.

Payment can be made by MasterCard, VISA, institutional or personal check made payable to the Friday Center (Federal ID# 56-6001393), institutional purchase order, or UNC-Chapel Hill online account adjustment. We accept only VISA or MasterCard. We do not accept debit cards.

Full refunds, minus a $600 administrative fee, will be given to participants who cancel in writing by September 6. No refunds will be available after September 6.



BRIDGES Parts 1 and 4 will be offered in-person at the Rizzo Conference Center at Meadowmont.

The Rizzo Conference Center is a short distance from the UNC-Chapel Hill main campus and is located across from the UNC Friday Conference Center. The Rizzo Center provides sophisticated meeting facilities with a serene setting, upgraded accommodations, and quality service in an environment that inspires learning, stimulates instruction, and encourages interaction.



Classes will use Zoom video conferencing platform.  Technical support will be provided by the Friday Conference Center as a part of UNC Digital and Lifelong Learning.

Tech Requirements

We recommend participants have a laptop or desktop computer (PC or Mac) with the following:

  • Internet access and browser (Google Chrome is recommended, but most will work)
  • Email address
  • Functioning camera, speakers & microphone (earbuds/headphones recommended)
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader
  • Zoom video conferencing software (you can download the application, or simply access sessions through your browser). Zoom links will be provided prior to Parts 2 and 3weekend sessions.
  • Microsoft Word or other word processing software

Please Note: while you may participate in class sessions using a tablet or phone, you will find that some lessons will be more difficult on the smaller screen size. We highly recommend you connect to class sessions using a laptop or desktop.

How To Apply

Apply here: The completed application, resume/curriculum vita summary (two-page limit), essay, and two reference letters must be received by May 15.

Your completed application packet consisting of an application form, resume/curriculum vita summary (limit to two pages reflecting increasing leadership opportunities), essay, and two letters of recommendation must be submitted online. All components of your application packet must be ready to upload during the application process and submitted together as a complete application. Incomplete or late applications will not be accepted.


As leaders, we play different roles based on individual experiences and situations. Those factors also impact our personal leadership development process.

  • What are your goals with respect to leadership in higher education?
  • How will the BRIDGES experience help you accomplish those goals and overcome any challenges you may face?

Your answer should be the equivalent of no more than one letter-size page, Times New Roman font, point size 11.


Two letters of recommendation are required, one of which must be from your institution. Letters are not confidential and must accompany your application. Recommendation letters should address the following areas:

  • How long and in what capacity have you known the applicant?
  • The admissions committee is interested in understanding how you believe the applicant will benefit from BRIDGES. We ask that you address the following:  What leadership areas do you believe the applicant has room for growth? What leadership areas do you believe the applicant has great strength in?

Some institutions submit applicants through an internal screening and selection process. However, final admissions decisions rest with the BRIDGES Board.

The University of North Carolina maintains a policy of equal educational opportunity.

BRIDGES represents the best of insightful, problem-based, and experiential learning! The program offers the opportunity to learn from one another, and the reassurance that the challenges across our campuses are more similar than different. Wonderful learning and networking!

– Program Participant

For More Information

Annette Madden, Program Director
UNC Digital and Lifelong Learning
Friday Conference Center
Phone: (919) 445-4653

Quicklinks: BRIDGES Advisory Board | BRIDGES Graduates | Graduate Testimonials