“I can’t wait to meet local business leaders as well as Cameron and Swain alumni, students and friends,” says Laura Gail Lunsford, the incoming director of the Swain Center. “The potential to build on the current programming at Swain, to develop our region’s and our state’s next generation of business leaders, is exciting.” For Lunsford, it was irresistible to be able to return to her home state and especially to Wilmington, which she noted is being touted as “the next big thing” and earning designations like “America’s Best Riverfront,” “Best Place to Launch a Business,” and one of the “100 Best Arts Towns.”
Joining the Swain Center full-time this month, Lunsford was attracted by the exciting developments at UNC Wilmington. The energy on campus, can-do attitude, and forward thinking of the faculty members and leaders made her want to be a part of UNCW and the Cameron School of Business. Lunsford notes that the Cameron School of Business has the right ingredients to play an even bigger role in preparing organizational leaders as they move up in their companies.
Her interests in talent development started when she worked at the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics. Lunsford is no stranger to building successful university-community programs. She was the first alumni relations director for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and went on to found the Park Scholarships at N.C. State University, where she was the program’s first full-time director. She received her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in psychology from N.C. State University and her master’s degree from UNC Greensboro.
Lunsford has spent the last eight years at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she was an associate professor in psychology. She taught classes on the psychology of leadership and the psychology of happiness, and is a frequent consultant and speaker nationally and internationally on optimal relationships and leadership development. The Cameron School recruited an expert in mentoring and leadership development when it identified Lunsford to be the next leader of the Swain Center. Her book, Handbook of Managing Mentoring Programs, was published in May 2016. She has two more books on mentoring and leadership development in the works to add to her more than 30 published peer-reviewed articles and chapters.
“My husband, Art, and I are excited to become a part of the community here,” says Lunsford. “I hope to grow the center so that business leaders in our region who are considering executive development will call us first.”