LeadAR celebrates 30 Years of making connections

LeadAR, the premiere leadership program, is celebrating more than 30 years with the graduation of its 16th class.

Joe Waldrum, former director of the LeadAR program for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture from 1993-2015, said the program was initially modeled after a leadership training program developed by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In 1980, administrators with the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service sought funds from the Kellogg Foundation to establish the state’s own leadership program. With the inaugural Class 1 in 1984, LeadAR was born.

Waldrum, now the interim assistant director of Community and Economic Development at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the effects on the participants over the course of the two-year program are often pro- found — not just in the participants’ approach to work but in their personal outlook as well.

The program typically has two major impacts on its participants:a significant increase in their professional network and a significant increase in their self-confidence

The program typically has two major impacts on its participants, Waldrum said: The first is a significant increase in individuals’ professional networks and their networking abilities.

“It becomes a huge network of increased connections [the participants] didn’t have before,” he said. “In order to get things done in this state, it’s all about having a network. Knowing where the resources are, knowing who can get things done and having that connection with them.”

The second major impact is typically a significant increase in their self-confidence, he said.

“The class participants sort of feed off each other,” Waldrum said. “As they do that, they build each other’s self confidence. The program director does some of that, I guess — but it’s mostly their classmates that say, ‘you can do this.’”

LeadAR has a profound impact on some participants’ professional lives. During her time with Class 10 (2001-2003), Beverly Chapple helped establish a scholarship fund in a small local community. Within a few years, the fund had awarded $500 scholarships to 17 applicants and had about $20,000 in reserve, Chapple said.

Shortly after she graduated from the LeadAR program, Chapple was offered a position with the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, where she is now the Southeast Arkansas Regional director.

“When I went to interview for a slot in a LeadAR class, I was scared to death,” Chapple said. “I’d never been through anything like it, with seven or eight people talking to me at one time. But once I was part of the program, it helped me to take a negative situation and turn it into a positive thing for me, and it’s been an excellent opportunity for the rest of my life.”

Class 17, which held its first seminar Feb. 5-7 in Little Rock, is the first class overseen by LeadAR’s new director, Bobby Hall Hall said that one of the essential challenges facing the program today is recruiting and outreach.

“We can no longer depend on word-of-mouth to fill our classes,” Hall said, adding that Class 17 is the smallest LeadAR class in the program’s history.

The course demands major time commitments from both the participants and their employers. In addition to 11 seminars over the course of two years, students also participate in a nine-day study tour within the United States and a 10-day study tour abroad.

Waldrum said another challenge the program faced was dealing with younger participants’ expectations with regard to the speed of the program.

“A lot of younger adults seem to want everything quickly,” he said. “I’m not sure you can learn leadership quickly. There are some people who go through shorter leadership programs, and they think that’s all they need to know. LeadAR is much more intensive and in-depth than that.”

As of this writing, Robert Haines, a graduate of LeadAR Class 14 and current president of the Arkansas Association of LeadAR Alumni, said members of the association were working with the scheduling office of the Clinton Founda- tion in an effort to bring the former President to Little Rock to speak at the upcoming anniversary celebration for the LeadAR program. The association hopes to hold this event in conjunction with the Class 16 graduation dinner in April to celebrate more than 30 years of the LeadAR program

THREE DECADES OF LEADERSHIP — For more than 30 years, LeadAR has involved participants in each class in studying obstacles facing Arkansans, as well as meeting the people who are working to help others overcome those obstacles. Each class meets for about a dozen seminar weekends over the course of two years, in addition to a nine-day national study trip and a 10-day international study trip.


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