2019 Camp Emerge

Students Find Their Voice at the Carlson School’s Camp Emerge

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Ashley McCray was three years out of college and working in engineering at General Mills, but she knew there was more to learn.

“There’s just so much of the world that I didn’t know about,” she says.

So her interest was piqued when she heard about Camp Emerge, a three-day leadership program run by the Carlson School. At the urging of a friend, she signed up.

Camp Emerge, now in its fourth year, is part of Project Emerge, a business introduction program for promising early professionals and high-achieving undergraduate students from all majors. It’s aimed primarily at people of color, women, LGBTQ, and first-generation students -- helping them gain personal, professional, and cultural leadership training to prepare for the business aspects present in just about every career.

“Our goal is to reach people from communities that are underrepresented in the business world,” says Linh Gilles, who managed the camp and until recently served as director of admissions and recruiting at the Carlson School. “Building a pipeline of diverse leaders is so important as we move forward.”

To ensure money isn’t an obstacle to attending, Camp Emerge covers all expenses, including food and lodging. (The camp is largely held in the Carlson School building, and attendees--which includes people from across the country--stay at a nearby hotel). Applicants are only responsible for a $100 application fee (which can be waived if it presents as a hardship).

The camp experience is short, but it packs a punch: In just three days, attendees explore topics ranging from personal development, relationship building, business leadership skills, examining the perspectives and lenses people bring to the table, and learning how leadership impacts community.

Among the items on the agenda when McCray attended was a mock case study competition focused on Disney Pixar -- something she says was a completely new experience for her but that has been beneficial to her career.

“It was my first time doing a case study, but I immediately fell in love with it.”

With just 20 people accepted each year, the group tends to become very close during their short time together. That tight-knit feeling was what made the experience so enriching for another attendee, Ke Ying (Kristle) Teng.

“We came from all walks of life, but we shared a curiosity and hunger to learn,” she says. “It opened doors to many networks and relationships within the community. I still keep in touch with these wonderful people and am able to witness the amazing achievements they’ve accomplished.”

Teng, who now works as a senior human resources specialist at a local Fortune 500 company, says she left Camp Emerge better able to network and set career goals. And perhaps most importantly, the discussions and topics they explored allowed her to process the self-doubt she faced.

“My biggest takeaway from Camp Emerge was that you are your own biggest limitation,” Teng says. “I now know I’m capable of what I set my mind to.”


The camp is already accepting applications for summer 2020. The initial deadline is March 1, with rolling deadlines following on April 1, and May 1. Applications submitted after May 1 will be considered on the basis of space availability. For more information or to apply, visit the Camp Emerge website.