Forging Leaders

Sheri Shaw helps people realize their potential

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Every once in a while you come across a truly exceptional leader, one who has the vision and ability to create something remarkable, who inspires others, and who uplifts their profession and community. SHERI SHAW is that leader.


Shaw is the assistant dean of student success at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s College of Health and Human Services. She is also the creator of the podcast Black Woman Working, and she serves on the board of directors of several area nonprofits.


Though Shaw’s many leadership positions appear to be diverse, they hold a common theme. She helps people realize their potential.


“I am a servant leader,” she says. “The only way we get ahead is by bringing the next person up and showing them what is possible.”


Shaw’s foray into leadership began at the University of Illinois. While an undergraduate, she served as president of several college organizations; and after graduating with a master’s degree in human resources in 2005, the university hired her to create a program to improve student engagement. 


Shaw moved to Drexel University in 2012, where she served as the director of undergraduate student services and built the award-winning LeBow BRIDGE student enrichment program. In 2015, Shaw became Mannie Jackson’s (former owner of the Harlem Globetrotters) chief of staff and oversaw the development of his humanities and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) center, hotel, and conference center.


However, Shaw’s heart was with academia, and in 2016 she joined UNCW’s leadership team. In her current position, Shaw manages and supports all student events, policies, and processes. Her mission is to ensure students experience success from their initial days at UNCW to graduation.


Shaw’s commitment to servant leadership extends to her community. In 2018, Shaw created the podcast Black Woman Working to help local black females navigate life today. On it, Shaw discusses issues as diverse as fibroids, how to self-advocate, and the deferred dreams of women who have children. Her listeners, who hail from Wilmington to the United Kingdom, are of all races.


Shaw also serves on the board of directors of the North Carolina Community College Foundation; YWCA Lower Cape Fear; WILMA Network; Leadership North Carolina; and the Willie Stargell Foundation, which supports kidney disease research and patient care; and she is a member of the Wilmington chapter of The Links, a volunteer service organization.


She is also one of the founders of Three Ladies in Wilmington (3LW), which aims to create meaningful and intentional interactions for young black professionals. (More on 3LW in the upcoming May issue of WILMA)


Shaw credits her success to knowing her own worth and having mentors who helped her along the way. She advises future leaders to also seek mentors, who can guide their careers and present opportunities.


In addition, she advises future leaders to conduct informational interviews to learn about positions they are interested in and the steps to achieving them. Furthermore, these interviews can lead to mentorships, she adds. Having a vision for her future also keeps Shaw on course. She records her goals and puts them where she sees them every day.


Shaw has lots of checkmarks for the goals she’s accomplished, but she’s still working towards her ultimate vision. Shaw wants to combine her knowledge to help women become the best version of themselves and, yes, to become leaders if they so desire—for themselves and for the future.


“The next generation of girls needs to see women lead so they know it is possible,” she says. “They need to know they are brilliant and can be whatever they want to be.”

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Categories: Women to Watch