The WellsLink Leadership Program

Apply for the WellsLink Leadership Program here!


A recipient of a 2016 Lee Noel-Randi Levitz Retention Excellence Award, winner of a NASPA Excellence Award and honored by University Business magazine as a “Model of Excellence,” the WellsLink Leadership Program is an academic excellence and leadership program geared towards first-year students of color who are not already sponsored by athletics or state- or federally-funded programs. Through mentoring and a series of structured academic, social and cultural enrichment activities, WellsLink Scholars are poised for success and leadership at Syracuse University. The goal of the program is to give students an edge in college, offering them the tools necessary to achieve their academic goals, develop professionalism, and expand their awareness of valuable resources and opportunities. While WellsLink aims to support the needs of students of color in particular, all programs and activities are open to all eligible students without regard to race, gender, national origin, or other characteristic.

Participants in the WellsLink Leadership Program will enjoy two semesters of support, and upon their successful transition into their second year, they will join an exclusive community of WellsLink alumni who will be recognized by faculty, staff and peers as high achievers and community leaders. Participants from the first-year program will also have the opportunity to participate in the second-year WellsLink program, as well as given the opportunity to apply to become a Peer Leader for the program.


  • Must be a first-year student at Syracuse University;
  • May NOT already be supported by the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), Student Support Services Program (SSSP), Syracuse University Athletics, Kessler Scholars Program, or the Posse program (and agree not participate in the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) during your first year of college;
  • Be committed to high academic achievement, professional development and leadership.

Apply Online

The deadline to apply is Monday, Sept. 9 at 11:59 p.m.  View the eligibility requirements and application. Questions? Contact Breana Nieves Vergara at

Additional Information

The WellsLink Leadership Program is named after Barry L. Wells, inaugural coordinator of Syracuse University’s Minority Affairs in 1976 and retired Syracuse University’s Senior Vice President and Dean of Student Affairs. The theoretical foundations, structural rationale and institutional support of the program was developed under the leadership of Dr. James K. Duah-Agyeman and Dr. Paul M. Buckley.

In founding WellsLink, Dr. James K. Duah-Agyeman and Dr. Paul Buckley recognized an opportunity to support the success and retention of first-year students of color who were not sponsored by a federal or state-funded program here at the University. Often times, as first-year students of color on a predominantly White campus, many of whom were the first in their families to attend college, these students felt lost and culturally isolated, and were unsure about how to reach their academic goals. Despite a non-existent budget and dreams bigger than their pockets at the time, Dr. James K. Duah-Agyeman and Dr. Paul Buckley established WellsLinkan academic excellence and leadership program serving these first-year students of color. The program seeks students with a willing heart and drives for excellence. The program is specifically designed for students who are willing to trust our team of professionals and student leaders as we guide them through their first-year experience at Syracuse University.

Orientation Reception

All eligible students are invited to an informational reception during which they have the opportunity to either accept or decline enrollment in the WellsLink Leadership Program. Enrollment does not guarantee membership. After six weeks, students who have met the preliminary expectations of the program (such as meeting with their assigned Peer Leaders, making appointments with their WellsLink Academic Consultant and attending the Sunday Foundation Seminar) will then secure their membership.

Friday Foundations Seminars

Each session addresses key elements for the social and academic transition into college life. Topics include goal setting, stress management, time management, advanced study skills, and professional etiquette tips for communicating with professors, recruiters, employers and other people in positions of influence.

Peer Leaders

All students are assigned to a Peer Leader who will assist them with the transition to the collegiate experience through informal meetings scheduled throughout the duration of the program. Peer Leaders introduce their Peers to campus resources and activities, and answer questions about academic expectations and other aspects of college life. Peer Leaders are dedicated, charismatic and academically successful individuals who are active members of the community. They offer guidance from a student's perspective, drawing on their own experiences and learned lessons to assist their Peers in successfully completing their first-year and confidently entering the second.

Academic Consultations

Students meet with a WellsLink Academic Consultant three times each semester. WellsLink Academic Consultants do not replace the academic advisors assigned by the student’s college. Instead, they get to know each student and their life goals, fears, talents and areas for personal improvement. Together, the student and the consultant develop personalized action plans to improve the student's time management skills, reduce stress, study effectively for each class, stay accountable for achieving goals and begin nurturing mentoring relationships with influential people on campus.

Community Building Activities

The WellsLink staff facilitate various activities throughout the year to build a greater sense of community. Past events included homemade traditional dinners at the Academic Consultants' homes, study break game nights and ice skating outings.

Motivational Dinner

The entire WellsLink cohort attends a formal dinner with a keynote address by Barry L. Wells, for whom the program is named. Peer Leaders present special motivational kits to each of their Peers, encouraging them as they begin preparing for finals week.

Welcome Back Reception

Students are welcomed back to campus with a reception at which they will learn about and discuss the unique opportunities and common challenges on the horizon for their second semester. They will also discuss the academic success of their cohort thus far and what each of them can do to maintain their success or what they can do differently to achieve their goals.

Continued Peer Leader and Academic Consultant Support (Plus Academic Intensive Plan)

Students will continue meeting weekly with their Peer Leaders. In addition, they will meet at least three times with their Academic Consultant. Students who achieved a 2.8 GPA or lower in the fall semester are strongly encouraged to develop an Academic Intensive Plan with their Academic Consultants. These are more specialized and frequent meetings for students who require more guided assistance in meeting their academic goals.

Leadership Capital Series

Exclusively for WellsLink students, these workshops cover a wide range of topics aimed at building the social capital necessary to remain competitive in college and beyond. Students who complete eight workshops receive a Leadership Capital Certificate at the Transitions Ceremony, a certificate unique and only available to the WellsLink program.

Transitions Ceremony

This is a formal ceremony honoring WellsLink Scholars from the previous academic year who have successfully transitioned to their second-year at Syracuse University. Academic Achievement Awards and Leadership Capital Certificates are presented and transitioning students receive stoles to symbolize their achievement. Nationally- and globally-recognized people are invited to speak at this event.

The WellsLink 2nd Year Leadership Program is a newly-developed program for returning second-year students who participated in WellsLink as first-year students. Through the Sophomore Success Series, second-year students will have the opportunity to learn from and network with their peers, faculty, staff and alumni, and gain insight on how to continue their success through college and beyond. Students will do this by attending a series of structured seminars and workshops geared towards academic mentoring, career and major exploration, co-curricular identity development and networking. Second-year students will also have an Academic Consultant that will serve as a mentor and support to them during the academic year.

One of the most pivotal components of The WellsLink Leadership Program is the relationship formed between Peer Leaders and their assigned first-year students, or peers. Our Peer Leaders provide valuable information to all the students enrolled in the program and serve as agents to ensure that our students are socially and culturally acclimated to Syracuse University.

The Peer Leader position requires a dedicated, charismatic leader involved in student activities and knowledgeable about various facets of campus life. This position is a fall and spring semester commitment. Peer Leaders are also required to attend a one-week mandatory training session prior to the first week of classes in the fall semester. To avoid conflicting commitments, Peer Leaders cannot be over-involved in other activities on campus or off campus, such as studying abroad for one semester.

Peer Leaders can serve as Resident Advisors (RAs), as RAs are allowed to commit to 10 hours of extracurricular activities.

Each applicant must possess the following attributes:

  • Must be an alumnus/ae of The WellsLink Leadership Program.
  • Have achieved sophomore status by June 1, i.e. have successfully completed 24 credits.
  • Must hold a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 by June 1.
  • Have established membership in at least one student organization.
  • Have a distinct familiarity with the campus.
  • Must be able to dedicate approximately 7 hours per week.
  • Must exhibit or be willing to exhibit a professional and scholarly demeanor.

Interested in becoming a WellsLink Peer Leader? Apply via Handshake by Friday, March 1 at 11:59PM.

“WellsLink was the voice that knew what I needed even when I thought I had everything under control. It's hard to describe WellsLink to someone who is not a part of it, but those who have gone through the program know exactly its purpose and the great things it can do for you. I thought I had it all figured out coming into college, but I had a rude awakening. Adjusting to living on my own and the college lifestyle was not only about getting good grades, but also about balance and knowing how to manage my time, stand out from my peers and excel. This is what Wellslink taught me and more. WellsLink, to me, was that parent voice and idealogy that I needed. My Peer Leader Michael Jiang always checked up on me, gave me guidance and was a great role model to look up to in order to understand what it was to excel academically and also flourish socially. I appreciated the family idea that WellsLink afforded me in people that not only looked like me, but were going through the same challenges and triumphs that I, too, was going through. WellsLink was not only a support system my freshman year, but it was also a great support system through my sophomore, junior and senior year. The faculty and peers that I met stayed in contact and didn't let me get down on myself. Instead, they pushed me to do better for myself and expect the best, and I am forever greatful. I had the opportunity to give back to the program by becoming a WellsLink Peer Leader myself, and this gave me two great years to continue learning about myself and also mentor nine freshmen that have become friends and a support as we navigate not only through college, but life. WellsLink is a program that so many people get so many different things from, and it's the things that most people don't even know. All that it stands for and has given to me and others, I hope that it continues because I am blessed and continue to be blessed by the people and program itself in WellsLink.”

Marquise Francis '13

“WellsLink is truly an amazing program, not only because it helps prepare students for a professional career and lifestyle, but also because it celebrates and harnesses diversity. Being multicultural is an advantage, and WellsLink really made me see how unique I am and how I am not any less talented or qualified than others. I can honestly say that I am comfortable with being who I am, an Asian-American studying communications. With that thought, it led me to applying for the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) this past summer, in which I was able to intern with a prestigious advertising agency. Not only did I gain valuable experience (in a white-dominated agency of 1,200 employee in Detroit), but I was named the 2013 MAIP Intern of the Year. It is through my experiences with WellsLink and through this program that I have come to see that I am less judged by the color of my skin, but instead for my personality, work ethic and potential (just like everybody else).”

Leo Wang '14

“When I first arrived at Syracuse University's campus, it was a bit jarring to see so many people that didn't look like me. That, coupled with the weather, I was really beginning to doubt declining Howard University's acceptance. Then my graduate assistant (Paul Buckley) told me about this program (WellsLink) that he was starting with OMA for first-year students of color: more people that looked like me and free food—I was there. WellsLink turned out to be more than just a good time, but really provided a career foundation for basic professional and networking skills that I still use today. And of course, I made a lot of friends along the way that are now the leaders and shakers in their own communities and nationally. It's great to be a part of a group of leaders that are positively growing their communities.

Through the Capital Leadership Series, I was able to use my networking skills to land that job at a major consulting firm and launch my PR/marketing career after college. As I've transitioned into another passion of mine, acting, I find those skills still serving me well.”

Rachel Grant '07

“It's hard to believe that seven years have already passed since I joined WellsLink as a freshman at Syracuse University in 2006. Looking back, I remember being ill-prepared for college life. I had no clear career goals because I thought I had already reached the top of the ladder. What I didn't realize then, but what I know now, is that my grades, my connections and my involvement mattered. What WellsLink taught me, a little at the time but more now in hindsight, was how to take myself seriously. The brief meetings, the infrequent gatherings and the assistance that I never took full advantage of were all part of a network put in place to make me a better student and a professional person deserving of respect. WellsLink was designed to help students achieve success. More than interview secrets, resume writing skills and other practical tips, WellsLink was about empowerment, which means having the courage to take risks, to compete and to outshine. After earning a bachelor's degree from Syracuse University in philosophy and economics, I spent two years working in Madrid, Spain, as a teacher and traveling through Europe. Now, I'm a graduate student at the London School of Economics. I'm grateful for all the lessons I've learned and I hope to continue to grow, taking advantage of every opportunity.”

Sonny Mendez '11

“I wasn’t initially invited to join the WellsLink program, but when I learned about it from some of the staff and Peer Leaders involved during a Multicultural Affairs open house, I knew that WellsLink would be an instrumental experience during my time at Syracuse University. I could not have been more right. I was extremely shy when I arrived in Syracuse and through WellsLink, I met my first mentors and friends on campus, along with influential upperclassmen of color that I would have never been brave enough to approach on my own. I felt like part of the OMA family, so much so that I always knew I had a 'home' to return to on campus for any of my needs. My peer leader, Julio U., was so awesome that I decided to impact incoming freshmen of color by becoming a Peer Leader in my sophomore year. WellsLink was both a support system and a springboard that gave me the confidence and opportunities to pursue many other experiences on campus and leave my mark wherever I could. When I enrolled in graduate school, I realized that I wouldn’t have the same kind of program to greet me or take me under its wing, but in true WellsLink fashion, I connected with other graduate students of color on campus to find belonging and guidance, while welcoming newly arrived graduate students and letting them know that they were not alone in the academically and socially challenging situations that they were sure to encounter at an Ivy League institution. WellsLink set that standard of compassion and ubuntu in my life back in 2005, and I have proudly been a cheerleader for and an example of the program’s success ever since.”

Kimberly Harris '09

“Participating in the WellsLink program helped me to be a leader inside the classroom and in the community. With various workshops and seminars that were centrally focused on essentially building a better me, through WellsLink I was able to acquire the necessary skills to become a leader. Additionally, with a big emphasis on striving for academic excellence, WellsLink allowed me to be very organized with my time and excel in my studies. Lastly, WellsLink embraced me with open arms and was there to support me in all of my endeavors.”

Jennifer Cadestin '13

“I joined WellsLink in the fall of 2006. It was very helpful because I did not participate in SummerStart and therefore did not know anyone on campus when I arrived. I met my first college friends through WellsLink and still communicate with my mentor today. I was also introduced to the dance troupe Raices through a WellsLink member; I tried out and made it my first weekend in college. To this day, that is one of the college experiences I miss the most—performing for Raices. I loved the WellsLink Sunday dinners. Academically, the program provided me guidance and helped me navigate through college and accomplish my goals. It helped me find scholarships. I loved my WellsLink experience and credit it to my success today as a news reporter in Shreveport, Louisiana.”

Stephanie Claytor '10

“I graduated from Syracuse University with a major in biology in May 2008. Being born and raised in the Bronx, New York, and going to Syracuse was a big step for me, especially since it was a predominantly white institution. When I first arrived to Syracuse, it was uncomfortable for me since I had grown up around people of color (mostly Black and Latino), and I was unsure about what to expect from the university experience. Being in a new environment was something I had to get used to, in addition to the freedom, responsibility of being independent, social adjustment and the adaption to the workload. Since I lived in the Multicultural Living Learning Community in Haven Hall, I found out about WellsLink from one of the directors and quickly became acquainted with Multicultural Affairs.

After applying to WellsLink, I was accepted. Becoming a WellsLink member allowed me to connect with people from similar backgrounds but taught me to look beyond my comfort zone by connecting with people who didn't necessarily look like me. Becoming a WellsLink member definitely impacted my experience at Syracuse in a very positive way. The different workshops, social outings, leadership seminars and learning life skills along with building close relationships with other WellsLink members and mentors changed my experience at Syracuse. I grew as a student, as a mentee and, most importantly, as an individual. I had such a positive experience that I was encouraged to apply and I eventually became a Peer Leader (mentor), which taught me a lot about myself, other people and students in general. WellsLink is a critical piece of the Syracuse University fabric and serves to retain students of underrepresented backgrounds while promoting diversity at the University. Most importantly, WellsLink is a vehicle for the transformation of the lives of young men and women who will be the leaders, trailblazers and innovators of tomorrow, and will also improve their surrounding communities and the social conditions of modern society. I hope to meet with other WellsLink students, and hopefully I will be able to attend future events. I also can't fail to mention the most important part of my life, Jesus! To God be the glory for all that He has led me through and the opportunity He gave me to be part of WellsLink.

A quick update of what I did after graduation: I had the privilege of earning a master's degree from Stony Brook University in May 2011. Currently I am a first-year medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University (a block away from Syracuse University).”

Alex Rodriguez '08

“WellsLink has been very insightful for me. During my freshman year meeting and getting to know my Peer Leader helped me to feel more connected and embraced at the University. My Peer Leader went on to further her education at an Ivy League institution, which indicated to me that education does not stop with a bachelor's degree, it's only a foot in the right direction. WellsLink has shown me that mature leaders will tell a freshman, "I'm sorry, I made a mistake."

While at Syracuse University, WellsLink's Dr. D. relentlessly inquired, "Which quadrant are you in?" referring to Stephen Covey's matrix of time management. Even though it still has not embedded its way into my regular schedule, I was able to share this with others, and even to this day attempt to carry it out whenever I get overwhelmed. Dr. (Mr.) Paul Buckley who pioneered this program gave an opportunity for many underclassmen to see positive change come to fruition.

WellsLink, among other organizations at Syracuse University, shaped my college experience.

I’m currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh studying rehabilitation engineering, developing technologies for people with disabilities.”

Hervens Jeannis '09

20th Annual Transitions Ceremony