Announcements

LeadAR Opens Applications For Next Leadership Class Fast Facts

By Tracy Courage

U of A System Division of Agriculture

  • 22-month program includes bi-monthly seminars, week in Washington, D.C., international study, and community leadership project
  • Applications accepted June 8-July 20
  • Applications are available online at https://bit.ly/303pcMO

LITTLE ROCK — LeadAR, the state’s premier leadership program, is searching for its next class of leaders.

Operated by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, LeadAR offers participants an in-depth and global view of issues facing their communities, state and country. The 22-month program includes bi-monthly seminars, a week in Washington, D.C., to gain insight on the policy-making process and how it impacts Arkansas, and an international study tour to compare communities and economies and find cultural sharing opportunities.

“Our overall goal is to equip leaders with the knowledge, skills and network they need to make a difference in their communities or organization,” said Julie Robinson, associate professor of leadership, who coordinates the program. “They will learn about issues affecting rural and urban areas of Arkansans and how the state is interwoven.”

Applications for Class 19 open June 8 and will be accepted through July 20. The application form can be found at https://bit.ly/303pcMO.

Participants selected will attend three-day seminars every other month in different communities and regions in Arkansas. Sessions will focus on infrastructure, public health and local food systems, education and criminal justice, natural resources, community development and workforce, public policy, row crop agriculture and livestock/poultry.

Some of the seminars may be delivered online, depending on circumstances regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, with community visits and tours scheduled for a later time, Robinson said.

The program culminates with an international study tour to learn how international issues compare and impact Arkansas. Past classes have visited Greece, Bolivia, Canada, Australia, Vietnam, Scotland, Panama and Costa Rica, Brazil, and China. The most recent class toured Belgium and Netherlands in 2019.

LeadAR, founded in 1984, was originally modeled after the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s leadership training program. Now, more than three decades later, LeadAR has more than 500 alumni serving as leaders in businesses and communities throughout Arkansas, especially in rural and agricultural areas.

Between 25-30 people are accepted into the program every other year. Class members will be announced in early September, and the program begins in late September. Applicants must be at least 25 years of age and can live in any part of the state, work in any sector and be in any stage of their career.

Past participants include educators, farmers, advocates, bankers, state legislators, lawyers, mayors, quorum court, city council, school board members and more.

“We want people who want to make a difference and position themselves to have an impact in their communities and state,” said Stacey McCullough, director of extension’s Community, Professional and Economic Development unit, which oversees LeadAR. “For many of our alumni, this has been life-changing. That’s who we want.”

Ideally, participants will come from rural and urban areas, with 25 percent of the class representing agriculture or agriculture-related sectors.

“We need people from diverse sectors and industries,” Robinson said. “A lot of learning comes from each other. Regardless of your level of experience, or how strong a leader you are, you still have to be open to wanting to be better. It’s about wanting community and state change.”

The program prepares participants to launch their own community leadership projects that can improve the quality of life for their respective communities. Tamara Walkingstick, a member of LeadAR Class 9, saw a basic need in Perry County. The city park in Perryville lacked a restroom, so she applied for funding and got one built.

A few years later, Sarah French, a member of LeadAR Class 17, started the Arkansas Goat Festival. She chose the Perryville city park for the festival location, partly because it had public restrooms, thanks to Walkingstick. That first goat festival in 2016 attracted 1,200 visitors. The following year an estimated 8,000 people attended the festival.

“She would not have chosen that park had it not had the public restrooms,” McCullough said. “It’s the perfect example of how that one project, which provided a basic need, eventually led to an opportunity for tourism.”

LeadAR is generously supported by LeadAR alumni, corporate donors, foundations and the UA System Division of Agriculture. The cost to participants is $3,000.

To learn more about LeadAR and to apply, visit www.uaex.edu/leadar.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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