Left to right: Jana Hosmer, Chris White, Barbara J. Cooney, Benjamin Rickert, Teisha Baynard and Joe Shook.

Blue Ridge Community College Graduates Five from Regional Leadership Program

Featured Photo: Blue Ridge Community College’s graduates of the Western Community College Leadership Academy stand with program facilitator Barbara J. Cooney, director of professional development at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech). Left to right: Jana Hosmer, Chris White, Barbara J. Cooney, Benjamin Rickert, Teisha Baynard and Joe Shook (Photo provided by A-B Tech.)

Marketing & Communications Dept.

As part of an effort to develop the next generation of higher education leaders, five Blue Ridge Community College employees graduated from a nine-month leadership development program this spring.

A graduation ceremony on April 26 celebrated Blue Ridge graduates Teisha Baynard, human resources data administrator; Jana Hosmer, faculty chair of business programs and accounting instructor; Benjamin Rickert, marketing and communications director; Joe Shook, dean of advanced technologies; and Chris White, chief of police.

“This type of leadership development is part of our DNA at Blue Ridge,” said Dr. Laura B. Leatherwood, president of Blue Ridge Community College. “Just as we grow and develop our students, we have an obligation to also grow and develop our team members. Congratulations to this next generation of leaders on our campus.”

Established in 2021, the Western Community College Leadership Academy (WCCLA) is a collaborative initiative of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (A-B Tech), Blue Ridge Community College, Haywood Community College and Southwestern Community College.

Each year, college presidents and senior leadership teams select up to five employees from each college to participate in the academy. To date, over 55 employees have participated in the program, and colleges are currently selecting participants for next year’s fourth cohort. 

The goal of the academy is to form values-driven, high-potential, high-performing leaders who think and collaborate strategically within their colleges and regionally. The academy serves to foster greater agility in participants to be able to pursue innovative ideas while creating attainable solutions that address the constantly changing nature of higher education in today’s environment. 

This past year, participants focused on a different topic each month over nine months. Topics included strategic thinking, emotional intelligence, personal and work core values, identifying leadership and personality styles, professional goals, and much more. Sessions included specialized training, idea sharing, and the opportunity to connect with others in similar roles across the region at each college.

The graduation ceremony took place at A-B Tech, and participants shared their key takeaways from the academy and how they will be applied to future work.

The event and program was facilitated by A-B Tech’s Barbara J. Cooney, director of professional development.

“It is a privilege to facilitate the WCCLA,” said Cooney. “The participants bring their unique perspectives, along with much energy and enthusiasm. This academy requires a commitment by all involved, from the sponsors to the participants, and this year was no exception. I think this program shows that a collaborative approach like this academy builds great connections that makes all of our colleges stronger.”

What Graduates Had to Say

“The WCCLA provided a collaborative environment where I could converse with others to help develop and grow my skills as a leader. Through insightful workshops and collaborative projects, I gained invaluable knowledge and forged lasting connections, fostering personal and professional growth.

Teisha Baynard,
Human Resources Data Administrator

“Through the WCCLA, I deepened my self-awareness and enhanced my leadership skills, applying what I learned directly to my role as Chair at the College. I am grateful for this investment in my professional growth.”

Jana Hosmer,
Faculty Chair of Business Programs and Accounting Instructor

“Every academy session gathered motivated leaders who cared deeply about serving people through education. I am personally grateful for those opportunities to learn collaboratively, reflect inwardly, and strengthen the foundation of our community college system together.”

Benjamin Rickert,
Marketing and Communications Director

“Participating in the WCCLA gave me an opportunity to enhance my leadership skills and better share them with others. The opportunity also gave me the ability to intentionally know myself, and in that regard, it has given me a greater ability to serve others.”

Joe Shook,
Dean of Advanced Technologies

“The leadership academy provided an outlet for me to learn more about myself, as well as to explore new approaches to leadership. The biggest takeaway for me was the importance of effective communication through all platforms, whether verbal, non-verbal, or written. Communication is the building block to efficiency for all aspects of our college community.”

Chris White,
Chief of Police