On Leadership: Q&A with Director of Global Admissions Cordel Faulk

January 21, 2021

This month we sat down with Director of Global Admissions Cordel Faulk.

Cordel leads the strategy and execution of a highly competitive selection process, designed to identify next-generation leaders who will serve to deepen understanding between China and the rest of the world. Prior to joining Schwarzman Scholars, Cordel served as assistant dean and chief admissions officer at the University of Virginia School of Law. Cordel earned his BA from Virginia Tech and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia.

Can you tell us a bit about your own leadership journey? Was there a moment when you were called on to lead, and what did you learn? 

 In times when I’ve taken on a leadership role, I’ve always been surrounded by strong teammates. I don’t love taking full credit for a team effort. What I’ve always tried to do instead is identify the strong leaders I’ve worked for and model their qualities: putting together a team with members who have complementary strengths, creating an articulable plan with a clearly stated mission that team members understand how to follow, and making sure there are not deviations from the mission. If what you’re doing doesn’t support the mission, question why you’re doing it. Always trust the team you put together to get the job done.  

How have you grown as a leader in your current position? 

This has been a very unique time for leadership. I started this job just as the world was going into lockdown. Learning how to connect and interact with a team from a distance is a new skillset for me. Mainly it has involved being very purposeful in scheduling time to connect about things that normally would happen more organically. My normal course is to observe the strengths of those I’m working with and go through the mental exercise of questioning how I can adapt those qualities for myself while helping teammates magnify their strengths.  

What’s your favorite part of your job? 

I love interacting with Scholars and prospective Scholars. They let me know I can be hopeful about the future.  

Why is demonstrated leadership so important to the Schwarzman Scholars selection process? 

A fundamental part of the Schwarzman Scholars mission is to identify leaders at the beginning of their careers and help them as they serve at the forefront of creating a more peaceful, more prosperous, more stable globe. Schwarzman Scholars are people between 18-28 who already have shown they understand their own leadership qualities within themselves and how to put them to use in their chosen field.  

What do you believe it takes to successfully be selected as a Schwarzman Scholar? 

As a person goes into the Schwarzman Scholars selection process they should have thought about leadership in general and understand their own personal leadership vision and trajectory. Take a look at the mission of Schwarzman Scholars. Notice the importance of demonstrated leadership – Show us how you have been successful at gathering a group of people around an idea about and leading them to get something done on this issue of impact that you are passionate about — it could be anything from launching a start-up, founding a non-profit initiative, leading a university organization, leading change in an organization as a young professional to countless other examples. Think about that. Emphasize that. Tell your story through that lens. That’s where our selection committee will be focused, so applicants should focus there, too.  

What tips would you share with prospective Scholars as they consider applying? 

Regardless of whether one is selected or not, this application process should be a time of self-evaluation and self-discovery. There is no rubric for this process. You can’t check off specific boxes and automatically come out the other end as a Schwarzman Scholar. What we want to see is authenticity. Please don’t forget that if you want to be successful.  

What do you enjoy doing for fun? 

I love to cook… although I am by no means a chef. Part of what I like is the learning. I’ve always been intimidated by the precision of baking, but I’m learning to embrace that recently, too.  

What’s one fact nobody would know about you from reading your resume? 

I enjoy writing fiction. I’ve done a lot of nonfiction writing professionally, but the freedom of fiction writing is so much more fun and challenging.