Date of Award

Spring 2018

Degree Type


Director of Thesis

Dean Steve Lynn

Second Reader

Ms. Beth Hutchison


“Turning Points” captures the inflection points that define local community leaders’ identities and passions, whether life-altering experiences or fleeting moments of realization. Through examining the evolving life stories of community leaders in the South Carolina Midlands, this creative project explores how turning point experiences impact people’s leadership and personal development and profiles these stories in a photo book to effectively share these stories with a broad audience. Preliminary research was conducted on identity development, turning points, and emotional intelligence in relation to leadership theory and practice. This research informed interview questions that guided conversations with nineteen community leaders in the South Carolina Midlands centered on inflection points, passions, and leadership lessons.

Regarding turning points that inspired a sense of purpose and passion in interviewees’ lives, participants fell into three major categories: 1) a significant experience greatly modified perspectives or goals, 2) an existing interest or passion was affected by external experiences, and 3) others encouraged or empowered them to take action. Second, when discussing their life’s passion, participants described their passion either 1) as specific objectives related to their work or 2) as general concepts that they pursued through various avenues. Finally, when looking at the characteristics and behaviors interviewees described that make up a good leader, the concepts of self-reflection, emotional intelligence, and challenging oneself became apparent commonalities.

The authors hope that through archiving and creating a photobook of these Midlands leaders, others will also be inspired by these leaders’ actions and words.

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