A program from the Virginia Tech Roanoke Center helps midcareer professionals in the Roanoke and New River valleys boost their careers and develop the skills to navigate 21st century challenges and opportunities — all while earning continuing education units from the university.
The Leadership Academy, which is enrolling now for classes that start in February, is a five-month program that for more than a decade has helped participants from a variety of industries grow as leaders. Participants tackle real-world problems seen in the workplace and also work with professional coaches to identify and reach their own professional and personal goals.
“Our goal is to provide ways that participants can move the needle in their own work,” said Eli Jamison, an associate professor of practice in the Pamplin College of Business’ Department of Management. Jamison helped develop the program and still leads several of its seven sessions.
Sent by companies as individual leaders, pairs, or in larger groups, participants learn different approaches to steering change, including adaptive leadership, inclusive culture-making, better decision-making, emotional intelligence, design thinking, and ethical leadership. They then report on their progress during a capstone presentation in June.
The program works on the individual goals of each participant through one-on-one sessions with a certified professional coach. “The coach helps each participant determine which skills they most want to spend the time and energy to develop and provides the opportunity to work on very personal goals as a growing professional,” Jamison said.
Scott Weimer, executive director of Roanoke Regional Initiatives, said the program is a unique opportunity for participants to take time away from work to reflect and sharpen the skills necessary to lead in today’s workplace. Sessions are held in classrooms at the Roanoke Center, part of Outreach and International Affairs, on the seventh floor of the Roanoke Higher Education Center.
“The Leadership Academy is a perfect example of how the Roanoke Center is helping shape and grow our region by sharing the knowledge and resources of the university to make an impact in the community,” Weimer said. “It develops leaders that can help their organizations grow to be more competitive, responsive, and effective.”
By accepting a limited number of participants from a wide range of industries, the academy offers an opportunity to not only make deep connections, but also discover new viewpoints.
“Hearing other perspectives is a key part of the secret sauce that makes this program resonate with professionals,” Jamison said. “They appreciate the different voices in what can become a very homogenous business environment.”
Over the past decade, the academy has been a stepping stone for many participants. Jamison said some are now leading their organizations and some companies even send teams to the academy with succession plans in mind.
“Companies buy in to the program because they understand the potential for new insights if they send a team of employees. Over the five months, they learn to work together and have the space to think about things together,” Jamison said. “Other times an organization will send employees from across the company who don’t normally work together, and they are able to reflect and pinpoint issues they all are having, allowing a previously unrealized problem to bubble to the surface.”
After many years leading sessions for the academy, Jamison said that for her it’s not just about bringing her knowledge to the participants, but also the knowledge she gains from them.
“It’s a reciprocal community. I learn from my students. Their conversations are rich. Their conversations are real, and they help me stay grounded and understand what people in the workplace are really worried about,” she said.
Registration is open until Feb. 10, but space is limited. Classes will begin Feb. 17. Continuing education units from Virginia Tech will be awarded upon successful completion of the program.