After seeing the need for more leadership development on campus, Jessica “Twitch” Twitchell began hosting virtual leadership conferences every week.
Twitch serves as the Resident Director of Carnegie Hall and Beeson Village. She is also Maryville College’s Coordinator for Access and Inclusion. The North Carolina native received her BA degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she double-majored in Sociology and International and Global Studies with a concentration in Human Rights and triple-minored in Spanish, Mathematics, and Peace and Conflict Studies. In 2019, Twitch received her M.Ed. in Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education from UNC Greensboro.
Throughout her college career, Twitchell was involved in many different roles that enabled her to discover and align her passions for service, growth and development, and leadership. She was a Peer Leadership Educator Coordinator, a Resident Assistant, a TeamQUEST Lead Facilitator, a Special Projects Coordinator in the UNCG Guarantee Program, served as the Pre-College Coordinator for the Maine College of Art, and studied abroad twice.
There were two programs that Twitchell participated in that greatly contributed to her growth as a student: The Global Leadership Program and The Bronze, Silver, and Gold Leadership Program.
“These two programs really helped inform me about who I am,” Twitchell said. “I gained so much confidence and so much awareness of how I could show up in spaces and how I could make a difference to other people.”
The McGill Scholarship recognizes the academic accomplishments and leadership abilities of 20 incoming freshmen each year. The scholarship is renewable every four years if specific requirements are met. As the advisor of the McGill Living Learning Community, Twitchell works closely with the scholarship recipients on a daily basis. Coming into this semester, Twitchell wanted to focus on creating conversation with the McGill scholars about leadership but through a social justice lens.
The Inclusive Leadership Workshop Series is one way that Twitchell is interacting with the McGill scholars and teaching them. The workshops are hosted on Zoom every Thursday for an hour. The workshops either directly relate to concepts of leadership or concepts of diversity and inclusion. The workshop sessions have recently become open to all of campus.
“Opening these workshops up to the entire campus community really allows students who are not McGills and who aren’t getting this specific curriculum in other spaces, into the conversation to develop themselves,” Twitchell said. “The purpose of this project is to directly impact leadership development outside of a class, an organization, or a role on campus and to offer it to folks who might not have those avenues.”
The reception, feedback, and attendance in the leadership workshops has been good and positive. There are no requirements for students to attend these meetings, but a handful of students show up every week. There have been a few faculty members drop in as well and many professors have been encouraging their classes to attend too.
However, there is a cap on attendance put in place so that conversations can remain conversations where everyone is able to learn and grow from each other. If there is a certain topic that people are interested in or if they can’t make that time on Thursday, then Twitchell will work with student organizations, go to classes, or have a program in a residence hall, where students could get that information there too.
“These workshops hopefully can positively impact the spaces that students are already in. I hope that the impact is that students are feeling empowered to leave these sessions and continue to grapple with the content that they are hearing, reflecting on how that has shown up in their lives, but then practicing and implementing some new skills as they move forward,” Twitchell said.
Twitchell understands the importance of being taught how to lead, and she realizes how vital it is for students to learn and apply to their lives. She really enjoys watching students grow and do things that they never deemed possible. She learns just as much from her students as they learn from her.
“My role and my purpose on this planet is to really help people tap into what makes them unique and what makes them who they are,” Twitchell said. “For me leadership development is walking into your purpose and knowing how to lead. We cannot claim to make an impact to do good on the greatest possible scale without seeing how and in what ways that we can effectively lead others, and even ourselves.”