Carla White is the Associate Dean of the Organizational Diversity and Inclusion at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Beyond her title and position, Dean White is a driven leader in various programs at ESOP, pioneering the Recruitment Ambassadors program in 2008, Carolina Pre-Pharmacy club in 2009, LEAD programs in 2009, M-FLIP in 2011, Postdoctoral Education Fellowships in 2011, and Undergraduate Students for Diversity in Pharmacy (USDP) in 2013. Her strategic leadership, versatility, passion, and relentless drive for innovation is an inspiration to the Eshelman School of Pharmacy community. Sit with Senate’s Clara Kim met with Dean White to discuss her career and what motivates her to be a successful leader.
“The success of others is what motivates me most. I am incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute towards the professional development of students. Some were former fellows, TAs, and advisees. I also connected with professional and graduate students through various program initiatives. To see former students running health systems, in academia, industry, community practice, and in non- traditional roles is pretty cool.”
Sit with Senate: How did your career path lead you to this position?
Carla White: A career in pharmacy was not in my horizon. Pharmacy was not a career that I had been exposed to.
I was headed to medical school, however after meeting a few friends that were in pharmacy school that were pursing very different career paths got my attention. The ability to adapt my career to various settings has always been a priority for me.
SwS: What was your favorite project that you worked on?
CW: Wow! One that I will never forget was co-producing an award winning pharmacy recruitment video. I received an $80, 000.00 grant to work with people across multiple disciplines. It was the 4th most watched video on the university website at one time and we could see from analytics that people from around the world were watching the video.
SwS: What is the favorite part about your job?
CW: My favorite part about my job is the ability to be creative and to work with alumni, faculty, students, and key stakeholders beyond the school to create something great. My administrative role surrounds diversity and inclusion. When Dean Blouin (now Provost Blouin) reached out to me about this position, he also gave me the autonomy to be creative and to develop something that would transcend time, something that others could build on and make bigger and better and something that would bring value to the world.
SwS: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received? What advice would you give to future leaders?
CW: The best piece of advice that I have received is from my grandmother: She said that leadership can be lonely at times. Innovative ideas, establishing a share vision and engaging others is a process. Stay the course.
SwS: What makes ESOP special?
CW: Hands down, our students. They are driven, passionate, committed to being high-end practitioners, and such a pleasure to interact with.
SwS: What are some of your hobbies outside of being a faculty member? How do you de-stress?
DW: I have a strong gravitation to the arts. My theory is that everybody has at least two parts, and for me, it’s the sciences and the arts. We have always been taught that we are one or the other, but we are never one thing. Throughout high school and college, I was a dance choreographer for several theatrical productions. I absolutely love interior design and music.
SwS: Being consistent to your publication “Who’s Your Hero?”: who is your hero?
DW: My heroes are my grandmothers. One grandmother in particular who instilled in me that leadership is lonely but it is crazy cool to be different – she modeled that. Actually, both of my grandmothers modeled that. One of my grandmothers was so ahead of her time. She was the first African American woman at the age of 18 to testify in front of Congress. She was a strong advocate for the community. She would go to court and help represent people that were not getting adequate legal support, although she did not have a legal background. As little girl, I would stand in awe and wonder, “What makes her tick? Where does all of this energy come from?” She was bold and brave and I was proud and honored to be her granddaughter.
My other grandmother inspired me because she was so elegant. She was so poised, a big picture thinker and her communication skills were impeccable. My grandmothers are very different, but they are the most inspiring people in my life – they allowed me to see people who are so ahead of their time in so many ways. If they were here right now, their contributions would be impactful. They have provided me with a lot of life lessons, and I have learned to be resilient by watching how they handled life.