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Leadership program wraps up first year and seeks applicants for 2019-20

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Kathryn Smith, sergeant of patrol for UNG Police on the Oconee Campus, speaks during the final session of the Staff Leadership Development Program on April 12.

Fifteen staff members in various leadership roles at the University of North Georgia (UNG) learned more about their own leadership skills and best practices as the first cohort of the Staff Leadership Development Program (SLDP).

That group wrapped up its once-a-month meetings April 12, and applications are open for the second cohort, which will start in September 2019.

"The value of the program is elevated by bringing in voices and perspectives beyond the normal UNG conversation," said Elizabeth King, training and development specialist at UNG. "We hear about things that work. It's a fresh perspective that helps our people to look at their situation from another angle."

Internal and external speakers led the sessions, including multiple sessions led by retired Air Force Col. Lee Ellis. He is a former prisoner of war in Vietnam who is president and founder of Leading with Honor, a leadership and team development consulting and coaching company.

Multiple participants said the 360-degree leadership assessment administered by the group Ellis leads was a highlight.

"He's well-known throughout the United States as being an expert on leadership," said Jason Pruitt, executive director of UNG's Cumming Campus and member of the first SLDP cohort. "Getting that quality of leadership development was really incredible."

Rose Procter, director of the BB&T Center for Ethical Leadership in UNG's Mike Cottrell College of Business, lined up the outside speakers that included multiple business executives.

Wally Beck, UNG associate chief information officer for information technology engineering, said the program has helped him better understand how to balance relationships and results in the workplace.

"This has changed the way I approach leading others," Beck said.

Kathryn Smith, sergeant of patrol for UNG Police on the Oconee Campus, appreciated the investment by the university in the cohort participants. She also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with others in the UNG community.

"It was nice to be able to network with people in other departments on other campuses," Smith said.

Kara Kennebrew, UNG director of testing, said a session about self-awareness made her more reflective about how she manages her team. The hands-on information provided by SLDP also enabled her to grow as a leader.

"Anytime someone looks to grow and develop and better themselves, a program such as the SLDP would serve them well," Kennebrew said.

Keith Antonia, associate vice president for military programs, led the planning group established in 2016 to create the program, which is run by the Department of Human Resources.

"Establishing the SLDP resulted from UNG's strategic plan objective to 'enhance programs and services that assist … staff in achieving proficiency in leadership.' The SLDP was designed to help already-experienced leaders re-examine their skills and implement strategies to improve their professionalism," Antonia said. "We hope that the successful experience of this inaugural cohort will attract other mid-level managers to apply for the 2019-2020 cohort."

King expressed gratitude to UNG's administration and cabinet and the University System of Georgia for their support of SLDP.

"We hope to train up the next generation of leaders at UNG," King said. "It speaks to the ongoing commitment we have to our employees."

While a Friday each month from September through April may sound like a lot, Pruitt said it was well worth it for UNG staff members to step out of busy routines to learn from each other and outside voices.

"Even with more than 25 years at the university, you can always learn more and you can always improve," Pruitt said.

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