Ciresi Walburn Scholars group with Mayor Carter

St. Paul Mayor Talks Leadership With Ciresi Walburn Fellows

When St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter was a college student, he witnessed voter suppression in Florida. That incident sparked his commitment to equal access to the electoral process, he told an intimate gathering of student scholars from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Ciresi Walburn Fellows with Mayor Carter
Ciresi Walburn Fellows with Mayor Melvin Carter (right).

Carter was the invited guest of the Ciresi Walburn Leadership Fellows Program, which hosts a monthly series at St. Thomas called The Language of Success, where notable individuals from the Twin Cities share their life experiences with the group. Carter’s March 19 session revolved around the theme of leadership.

“He did an exceptional job conveying his journey and the lessons that have shaped him,” said Dr. Kenneth J. Cooper, director of Ciresi Walburn Leadership Fellows and Excel! Research Scholars. “He spoke about how his path to becoming mayor was unexpected, but his passion for advocating for his community led him to embrace politics to effect change.”

Shaakir Banow, a second-year student majoring in engineering at St. Thomas who attended the event, said, “Mayor Carter is an example of excellence for young Black men, reminding us that our identities shaped by our community can pave the way for the future.”

“The mayor’s session was transformative for our fellows because it gave them a tangible example of success that resonated with their experiences,” Cooper said. “We often discuss the importance of representation, systemic equality, building trust, collaboration, and prioritizing education for upward mobility with respect to identity. Mayor Carter skillfully integrated these themes under the premise of leadership, showing our fellows how to navigate their paths to promote the common good. The group left truly inspired and mobilized.”

Quiyon Jordan, a second-year student majoring in business administration, said, “The session we had with Mayor Carter was very authentic and inspiring. Several of the things he said really resonated with me. I truly know now that anything is possible through perseverance.”

The Ciresi Walburn Leadership Fellowship is a cohort program for students who are committed to leadership, service, social justice, and exploring the Black experience. A preference is given to first-generation college students. The CWLF Program includes scholarship aid as well as mentorship, leadership development, and spiritual/emotional support. The chosen students form a group of peers (or cohort) who gather consistently from their first through fourth years at St. Thomas.