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Jane Rogers: Supporting Students’ Leadership Potential

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Jane Rogers has sailed up the Nile River, pitched a tent in Tanzania and slept under the Antarctic sky.

Many would call these trips of a lifetime — or perhaps, dreams.

Rogers, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English, says NC State taught her to dream — and dream big — about possible career paths, travel, anything.

“I then considered I could do anything I wanted to,“ Rogers says.

Now, through her own think and do actions, she’s inspiring others to follow their dreams too.

Rogers has been named Humanities and Social Sciences’ 2019 Distinguished Alumna and was recognized at the annual NC State Alumni Association Evening of Stars Gala. She has more than 40 years of experience developing and leading nonprofit, educational, governmental and for-profit organizations.

“I’ve played many roles during my career, from development to managing a small company,” Rogers says. “My experience is very broad based, and I’ve developed an array of both soft and technical skills that I can translate into learning opportunities for our students.” 

“Jane is the epitome of a tireless volunteer,” says Jeff Braden, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Through her personal involvement with our students and programs, she is an invaluable asset not only in helping the college achieve our goals, but also in helping students achieve theirs as well.”

Finding Her Passion

Rogers’ commitment to service and community began when she was a student at NC State, working for her classmates in student government. She launched her career as an educator, before delving into various leadership roles with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Research Division, the College Entrance Examination Board, and NC Beautiful, among other organizations. 

“You just have to find your passion,” Rogers says. “I worked in several fields before I  settled into one, working for environmental protection and sustainability.”

She also teamed up in an entrepreneurial venture with a golf professional to form a company that provided golf instruction and professional model equipment — an experience that led her to participate in the White House Conference on Small Business.

“The most satisfying aspect of this endeavor was developing an income stream to provide funds for students who wanted to go to college, but who might not have qualified for a sports scholarship,” she says. 

Following an expansive career, Rogers returned to NC State, immersing herself as an active volunteer in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. She currently serves on the Dean’s Board and is an adviser and mentor in the college’s Institute for Nonprofits and for students studying abroad.

“I decided I wanted to be more hands on,” Rogers says. “I sought out what I could do that would make a difference to students.

“It’s given me a new level of freedom and understanding that my skills are still valuable —  valuable to students who are now preparing for their lives and careers.”

Elizabeth Benefield, who leads the Institute for Nonprofits’ Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, says Rogers has been an anchor for the Social Innovation Fellows. The multidisciplinary program, which receives nearly 100 applications per year, partners students with nonprofits and businesses that aim to solve social challenges in communities. Rogers helps select students and offers one-on-one support to teams.

“She’s been involved in everything from brainstorming to executing almost every aspect of the program,” Benefield says.

“Jane has volunteered her time to do just about anything we need,” Benefield says. “She’s so engaged and passionate about the program and making a difference in the lives of these students.”

Giving Back, Looking Forward

Rogers, a member of the Chancellor’s Circle and the R. Stanhope Pullen Society, has also established a planned gift to support students’ access to international study abroad opportunities and to provide leadership opportunities to students engaged with our state’s social innovation nonprofit sector.

“We don’t live in Raleigh anymore. We live in a globalized world that requires new survival skills,” Rogers says. 

Having visited 50 countries and all seven continents herself, Rogers believes it’s important for students to gain a global perspective as they work on social and economic issues. She says that begins with students immersing themselves in other cultures — learning more about their languages, values and beliefs. 

“We need to respect each other’s differences and the similarities that unite us,” Rogers says. “International experience provides that opportunity and provides perspective. A little more of serving others rather than ourselves is very important.” 

Rogers says her involvement with the university continues to “feed her soul.” She was recently elected to the board for NC State’s Forever Club and hopes to grow opportunities for alumni to engage and give back.  

“You can provide additional funds to the university in planned gifts and contributions, and you can also get your hands dirty,” Rogers says. ”NC State has so many smart young people that if they’re given enough time and enough support to conduct research and find a solution, they’ll do it. You have to provide a bed of opportunity for them.”