Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Delta Regional Authority.
Strong leaders are integral to the success of Rural America, binding together neighbors, sustaining the deeply rooted culture, and searching for ways to keep the community moving forward. To ensure a future generation of Delta leaders, the Delta Regional Authority, a member of the White House Rural Council, began the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy.
Founded in 2005, the first Executive Academy class convened 22 people from the eight states of the Delta region to learn about the most pressing economic and social issues facing Rural America and collaborate to find common solutions to address these problems. Through leadership development sessions, communication trainings, case studies of successful models of change, and exposure to fellow community members and other parts of the region, the Executive Academy has created a corps of community leaders who have a vision for the Delta as a regional unit. The Academy is a network that shares successes, opportunities, and failures across state lines, and a group of leaders who have the tools to bring economic advancement and social change to their rural communities.
Over six sessions taking place in five cities around the region and in Washington, DC, participants discuss challenges in access to affordable health care and education, recruitment of business investment, retention of human capital, maintenance of necessary public infrastructure, and cultivation of entrepreneurial environments. Most importantly, though, these sessions provide participants with the opportunity to collaborate on crafting solutions for our region.
Just last month, the Executive Academy - facilitated by the University of Alabama College of Continuing Studies - convened in Washington, DC, where they met with the DRA’s federal partners and colleagues on the White House Rural Council including the Economic Development Administration, Department of Labor, Department of Agriculture, Department of Justice, and Small Business Administration. On the final day of the session, I joined Doug McKalip of the White House Domestic Policy Council and USDA Rural Utilities Service Administrator John Padalino in addressing this year’s class. We emphasized the importance of regional and cross-sector collaboration in strengthening our rural communities and identified the successful partnerships that have come from the White House Rural Council.
The Delta Leadership Institute teaches its membership many of the same principle key to the White House Rural Council, encouraging collaboration across Federal agencies to spur development in Rural America. I am proud that DRA is a member of the White House Rural Council and cannot begin to outline the numerous opportunities and resources that have come to the Delta region thanks to our inclusion on the Rural Council. I applaud the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Vilsack for their continued recognition of the importance of Rural America and the Delta region to our Nation’s economic strength.
This week, the Executive Academy sessions ended for this year’s 48 participants. However, their journey has just begun. These graduates join 236 alumni of the Delta Leadership Institute as members of the Delta Leadership Network. Through this alumni network, community leaders continue to share and develop models for successful programming and effective policy in their rural areas. Alumni have the opportunity to participate in state-specific projects and conversations as well as region wide initiatives and advocacy activities.
I congratulate the 2012-2013 graduates of the Delta Leadership Institute Executive Academy and look forward to their future work in creating jobs, building communities, and improving the lives of people in the Delta region.
For a full list of the 2012-2013 class of the DLI Executive Academy, click here.
Chris Masingill is the Federal Co-Chairman of the Delta Regional Authority