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A Renewed Sense of Purpose from an Unexpected Place

In many standard leadership programs, you can expect dull seminars and lengthy classroom time devoted to the topic of ‘how to understand others.’ So what happens when an inspired curriculum puts the focus on you? A seemingly ordinary endeavor forces you to challenge everything you believe about yourself and your career.

Does my job make a difference in the world? What do I want to do with my career? Where am I going and what can I do to take my organization there? These questions and so many more are posed to the participants of the AgriLife Advanced Leadership Program (AALP).

At a recent meeting in Corpus Christi, the keynote speaker asked participants to share how they came to be in their particular field. As answers spilled forth one by one, contributors stepped through their pasts, tracing the sometimes-jagged paths. Some took an interest in a particular subject in high school. Some changed majors multiple times in college. Some relocated for family or other job opportunities. All ended up in Texas A&M AgriLife for different but equally fascinating reasons – but one theme resonated throughout – they all wanted to make a difference.

“The past few months I have been involved in an incredible, transformative experience,” said Dr. Corliss Outley from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “I have had the opportunity to engage in interactive, hands-on curriculum that has provided me with new insights on leadership, innovation, communication, and networking to gain a better understanding of myself and other people. The real value of the program comes from the knowledge that I have acquired lifelong connections with my AgriLife colleagues that will continue to be a part of my professional life as I maximize my leadership potential and implement meaningful change in today’s society.”

As part of the course, participants get to see others’ work first-hand in several site visits at AgriLife locations across the state, spend a day in the life of another professional, and complete a leadership project from start to finish, amongst other things. All of which are aimed at giving the cohort the opportunity to learn about other fields within AgriLife, while also growing personally.

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“The program provides opportunities and competencies that allow one to learn as much about themselves as others,” said Jordan Brod of the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL). “This learned skill is critical in the workplace but can also be applied at home.”

The vision for this program was led by Dr. Mark Hussey, vice chancellor and dean for agriculture and life sciences.

“At its core, leadership is bringing others together to accomplish a common goal,” said Dr. Hussey. “Across Texas A&M AgriLife, our common goal is to promote education, research, service and extension in local communities and beyond ­– that’s the land-grant mission this institution was founded on. Good leaders are essential to keeping that impact vibrant. If we all try to take a back seat, we will inevitably find ourselves on a road to nowhere.”

“I feel extremely blessed to have been chosen to participate in AALP,” said Joel Hambright of the Texas A&M Forest Service. “Throughout the 18-month program I have developed a much deeper appreciation for the land grant mission and the enormous impact AgriLife is making worldwide.  This experience has given me a renewed sense of pride in Texas A&M University and has afforded me the opportunity to develop life-long relationships with my AALP cohorts – some of the most passionate people I have ever met.”

To learn more about AALP and how to participate, visit http://agrilife.org/leaders. Applications for cohort III are due Nov. 8, 2013.

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