Virginia Tech’s Commonwealth Campus Centers in Roanoke and Newport News have joined forces to bring innovative leadership and management training to high-potential municipal employees in the Hampton Roads region.

Twenty-four participants from James City County and York County made up the first cohort of the area’s Emerging Leaders Academy, an in-depth professional development program designed for employees who want to grow professionally.

Located on the seventh floor of the Roanoke Higher Education Center, the Roanoke Center works to connect Virginia Tech expertise and resources to communities. It was able to expand its reach by partnering with the Newport News Center to bring the leadership program to the eastern part of the commonwealth for the first time.

“This program is a wonderful example of how collaboration can help us build partnerships with municipalities across Virginia, widening the impact of our workforce development programs for local government leaders,” said Scott Weimer, executive director of Roanoke Regional Initiatives.

Public-sector employees from both counties had to apply to be in the Emerging Leaders Academy. They were selected based on performance ratings and their desire and ability to advance in their organization.

Participants attended monthly half-day sessions led by experts on leadership basics and self-reflection, communication for development, the role of organizational culture, cultural and generational diversity, strategic management, and creative and critical thinking.

David Conners, regional outreach and program manager at the Roanoke Center, said the program successfully moved to virtual classes. “Even online, our instructors really encouraged rich discussions and provided valuable tools for all the participants to take to their workplaces. The lessons learned go well beyond the classroom.”

One of the most important parts of the program, participants said, was a mentoring program that connected them with leaders in their organizations. The program concluded with a capstone project that required participants to work together to find feasible solutions to actual problems.

“The Emerging Leaders Academy was developed out of a vision to build on key areas of leadership that were addressed in each session,” said Amy Etheridge, director of human resources for York County. “One goal of our program design was to include mentor support and another was to encourage collaboration with our neighbors in James City County. We are thrilled about the feedback we have received from our academy graduates, and we will continue to build on the county’s relationship with Virginia Tech in the area of continuing education.”

Stephanie Burton, training and development coordinator for James City County, said, “We are excited about the partnership between our county, York County, and Virginia Tech on this program. The Emerging Leaders Academy is an important component for developing high-quality candidates for critical positions.”

Mallory Tuttle, associate director of the Newport News Center, said, “This partnership showcases the strides both communities have made in working together to take a regional approach to addressing their workforce development needs.”

The Newport News Center relocated in early 2020 to Building One in the 50-acre Tech Center Research Park. The location puts Virginia Tech adjacent to not only the prestigious Jefferson Lab and NASA’s Langley Research Center, but also the startups and innovative technology companies expected to be drawn to the park, which is modeled after the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg.

“These sorts of programs are great examples of the way we are connecting the resources of Virginia Tech to Hampton Roads and beyond,” Tuttle said.

In addition to Newport News and Roanoke, Outreach and International Affairs operates Commonwealth Campus Centers in Richmond and Abingdon, plus the Reynolds Homestead in Critz. The centers act as local gateways to university resources and facilitate timely response to and leadership for regional needs and opportunities.

Written by Diane Deffenbaugh