Guest Column: Reflecting on the Gems of the LEAD Scholars Program

Phyllis Taylor, ’91, reflects on the lives the LEAD Scholars program has impacted.
By Phyllis Taylor, ’91


Read time: 2 minutes
Phyllis Taylor the assistant director of LEAD and student recruitment, welcomes Scholars at the Steve and Carol Grafton LEAD Senior Celebration in April.
Phyllis Taylor, ’91, the assistant director of LEAD and student recruitment, welcomes Scholars at the Steve and Carol Grafton LEAD Senior Celebration in April. Photo by Jeremy Carroll.

When I tell most people that I work at the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan, they immediately want to talk about sports, especially football. While it’s true that the University is known for its athletic prowess, my heart lies instead with the students of the LEAD Scholars program. Like a proud mama, I always steer the conversation to “my” Scholars, pointing out and spotlighting the amazing things they are doing.

“Did you know that one of our LEAD Scholars is starring in the touring show for Les Misérables?” Or, “Did I mention that one of our Scholars is interning with J.P. Morgan’s technology department?” Or, “Guess what? One of our Scholars is studying abroad and was able to land an internship to stay in Germany for a few more months.”

The only thing I’m missing is a wallet full of photos.

Having been at the Alumni Association for 25 years and working closely with LEAD since 2011, I have many stories — the one about the LEAD Scholar who ran for student government, the one about the LEAD Scholar who was a commencement speaker, the one about the LEAD Scholar who studied to be a nurse but now works at a movie studio, and on, and on. I remember the first days of the LEAD Scholars program and can appreciate how far we’ve come. We were so delighted to have 22 students in our first cohort in 2008. I can’t believe that this year marks the 15th anniversary of the program and our largest cohort yet of 80 Scholars!

A 15th anniversary is commonly celebrated by the giving of crystal. Crystals have been reported to emit positive, uplifting, and energizing vibrations, which I believe each of our Scholars — past and present — does for my spirit. Case in point: I recently met up with one of our 2013 LEAD alumni on a business trip and she spoke of how much the program and the community of Scholars supported her and made her feel welcomed at U-M. I receive emails with updates and thank you cards that talk about how grateful our Scholars were to have been part of LEAD, often thanking me for the kind word I said to them in a moment of need. Just knowing this, years later, uplifts my heart.

This fall, we’ll have nearly 280 LEAD Scholars on the three U-M campuses, and each one of them is a positive crystal in the energy they bring to the program and the University. I am so proud of the Scholars and the work the Alumni Association is doing to support and build this community. Get to know our LEAD Scholars. I promise, you too will come to be a proud mama or papa (wallet of photos optional). Let the bragging begin!

Phyllis Taylor, ’91, is the assistant director of LEAD and student recruitment at the Alumni Association.

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