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Leadership Academy Welcomes First Cohort

Aug. 12, 2013
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

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members of SHSU High Potential Leadership Academy standing on the steps in front of Austin Hall
The inaugural cohort of SHSU's High Potential Leadership Academy comprises employees from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Huntsville Memorial Hospital and Sam Houston State. Those selected by their administrations to participate this year include, (first row, from the left) from TDCJ, Leonard Echessa, Eric Guerrero, Christopher Carter, Bobby Lumpkin, Charlotte Anderson, Jennifer Gonzales, (second row, from the left) from HMH, with HMH CEO Shannon Brown, Andrea Harris, Sheila Ard, Calli Dretke, Amanda Wheeler, Raul Velez, Jason Loftin; and, (top row, from the left), from SHSU, Jacqui Wukich, Lee Miller, Maria Busby, Angie Taylor, Charlie Vienne and Ryan Zapalac.


Eighteen Sam Houston State University, Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Huntsville Memorial Hospital employees will spend the next nine months developing their leadership potential as the first cohort of SHSU’s High Potential Employee Leadership Academy.

The cohort was welcomed into the academy by their respective leaders and academy facilitator David Yebra during the group’s orientation on Aug. 9. The first full meeting for the monthly development sessions will be Sept. 19.

This year’s participants include, from SHSU, Maria Busby, Lee Miller, Angie Taylor, Charlie Vienne, Jacqui Wukich and Ryan Zapalac; from HMH Calli Dretke, Andrea Harris, Sheila Hogue-Ard, Jason Loftin, Amanda Wheeler and Raul Velez; and from TDCJ, Charlotte Anderson, Christopher Carter, Leonard Echessa, Jennifer Gonzales, Eric Guerrero and Bobby Lumpkin.

Participants were hand-selected by their employers for their potential as future leaders within their fields.

SHSU President Dana Gibson initiated the program after a discussion with administrators from the other two organizations.

“Research has increasingly indicated the importance of developing staff in order to retain ambitious and motivated employees within an organization,” Gibson said. “This initiative is based on that concept, that successful organizations engage and develop emerging leaders from within.”

The initiative was created to be a nine-month experience that addresses key leadership topics in specific focus groups, including leadership development; developing oneself; organizational culture and leadership; implementing change in organizations; decision-making; sustaining and organization; and the first 90 days of leadership. Participants will also be paired with a senior leader coach to mentor them throughout the program.

The curriculum was designed by university and community leaders, as well as leaders from across the country, based on a series of interviews, group brainstorming sessions, best practices from various leader development programs, and personal experiences.

“An experience like the SHSU Leadership Academy focuses on developing the leadership potential that exists in all of us,” Yebra said. “The power of relationships, communication, understanding culture, implementing change, decision-making, and sustaining an organization each have unique leadership challenges that we can all learn from. Leader development is a journey that begins with the desire to do the best job that you can.”

The academy was opened to the community as a means of strengthening “the fabric of the university, community and surrounding area with an increased commitment to the professional development,” Yebra said.

Each organization shares common goals that benefit from the development of leaders and extend beyond each organization’s individual mission, he said.

“There are so many great leaders in the community that care so much about the success of our future leaders that we felt the need to pull them in to help develop the program,” Yebra said.

“The key topics that we’ll address have broad applicability,” he said. “The benefit of this program is that we’ll practice various techniques that are personalized to each individual’s leadership style. The demographics of the participants will also facilitate the sharing of ideas and will generate various leadership solutions to the challenges we present—a new way of looking at the day-to-day challenges we encounter.”

Yebra, who has a master’s degree in counseling and leader development from Long Island University, said he feels his 23-year military career gives him a unique perspective on leadership and looks forward to “helping others reach new heights in their own leadership development.

“The U.S. Army does an incredible job of developing leaders. I enjoyed my 23-year experience, to include four years here at Sam and three years developing leaders at West Point,” he said.

“Being able to help develop others fuels my passion for participating in this program,” he said. “Although there are some universal leadership principles we are familiar with, leader development is a never-ending experience; continuing to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones is where that development occurs.”

The academy will run through May 16, and a second cohort will be selected over the summer.

For more information on SHSU’s High Potential Employee Leadership Academy, visit shsu.edu/dept/leadership.



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