BRIDGES 2021: Leading in a Time of Transformation, A Virtual Conference Experience

BRIDGES 2021 will be held September 10-November 13, 2021.

The 2021 program will be offered completely online, in a synchronous, virtual conference format, with live classes using the Zoom video conferencing platform. We remain committed to providing the best possible program content, format, and experience for the upcoming BRIDGES class while also prioritizing the safety of our participants and presenters.

The virtual experience will include engaging keynote speakers, high-energy sessions, and many networking opportunities. Our inaugural 2020 virtual conference was a tremendous success. Hear from our graduates about their experience.

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BRIDGES is an inclusive professional development program dedicated to supporting women in higher education who seek to gain or strengthen their academic leadership capabilities, or who demonstrate a commitment to supporting women and gender issues and equality 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 women bring to their leadership roles
  • acquire an understanding of the many facets of colleges and universities
  • refine and improve their cross-cultural communication skills, and
  • create a program of personal and professional development to benefit themselves and their institutions.

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

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

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


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.

“BRIDGES represents the best of insightful, problem-based, and experiential learning! The program offers women in academic leadership positions the opportunity to learn from one another, and the reassurance that the challenges across our campuses are more similar than different. A wonderful learning and networking opportunity!”
–Program Participant


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 North Carolina women and allies in higher education 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 women and allies’ leadership capacities to transform our institutions and fields of expertise.
  3. We will reflect on how exercising our leadership as women or allies—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 have the opportunity to 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. Learn more about how BRIDGES impacts participants working in higher education across North Carolina.

“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 sisters, who both listened to me and shared their wisdom freely. I am forever grateful for this opportunity and will certainly encourage other women to participate.”
–Program Participant


The program is organized into four synchronous, virtual conference weekend sessions, beginning on Friday afternoon and ending Saturday afternoon. To graduate from the program, participants must attend and actively participate in all class sessions.

Part 1:  Developing a Transformational Perspective


Part I allows participants to get acquainted and be involved in the many facets of transformational leadership—theory, practice, and self-knowledge. Team-building will be a focus of this session. This session is held live, online via Zoom video conferencing platform.

Part 2: Transforming for Continuity and Change


Part 2 gives participants the opportunity to continue exploring leadership through experiential learning and practice. Implicit bias, networking, and strategic negotiations are the focus of the sessions. Both sessions are held live, online via Zoom video conferencing platform.

Part 3: Enhancing Our Resources in a Transformational Context


Part 3 focuses on organizational structure and behavior, financial resources, and human resources. 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:  Transforming Together


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. This session is held live, online via Zoom video conferencing platform.

Reflection with Alumnae and Graduation


This session will provide opportunities for reflection, sharing ideas and challenges while cultivating a network that extends beyond the life of the program. Activities will include BRIDGES alumnae and the BRIDGES graduation ceremony. This session will be held live, online via Zoom video conferencing platform.


The cost of BRIDGES is $1,900, payable by July 15, 2021. This fee includes all instruction, educational materials, and leadership assessment. 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 for Continuing Education (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 $500 administrative fee, will be given to registrants who cancel in writing by August 27, 2021. No refunds will be made after August 27.


For the safety of participants and faculty, all weekend sessions will be offered live online via Zoom video conferencing software with technical support provided by the Friday Conference Center’s Media Services unit.

Technology requirements

Participants must 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 each weekend session.
  • 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.


Your completed application packet consisting of an application form, résumé/curriculum vita summary (limit to two pages), essay, and two letters of recommendation must be submitted online and received by May 20. 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. Admissions decisions will be communicated by June 15. Payment is due by July 15.


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?
  • How do you think BRIDGES will impact the applicant’s potential for leadership in higher education?

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

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



Annette Madden, Director
Professional Development and Enrichment Programs
The Friday Center