Leadership Institute class of 2016 meets in Raleigh

By Laura Bies

Last month, the Leadership Institute’s Class of 2016 met in person during the Annual Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Leadership Institute (LI) is the Society’s leadership training program for early career professionals. Each year, 10 to 15 members are selected to participate. From spring until the conference, members of the cohort engage in a variety of distance learning and hands-on projects, which include reading and interpreting leadership materials, presenting to peer groups, working collaboratively, leading discussions, and developing summary documents on professional leadership.

The experience culminates at the TWS Annual Conference where LI graduates participate in intensive mentoring activities and leadership workshops. This year’s class had a busy week in Raleigh, including a panel discussion on leadership in the wildlife profession moderated by Krysten Zummo, AWB®, a LI alumna from the Class of 2013. Bill Block (USFS), Erin Patrick, CWB® (USDA-APHIS), Fidel Hernandez (Texas A&M University), and Misty Sumner (Texas Parks and Wildlife) were on the panel and discussed their leadership experiences throughout their careers.

Participants and alumni gathered Saturday night at the LI Alumni and Friends Reception, providing an opportunity to network, meet new colleagues, and catch up with old friends. A highlight of the evening was when the LI Class of 2016 all joined The 1,000 – a group of TWS members leading by example by supporting the Society’s initiatives with a donation of at least $100 a year. LI participants were recognized during a reception honoring members of The 1,000 for their contributions and dedication to TWS.

“For all the opportunities the LI has afforded us, especially during the conference, we were looking at ways to give back to the Society.  The 1,000 seemed like a great opportunity to do so,” says Krisha Faw, AWB®, one of this year’s LI participants. “We are hoping for other LI classes to be inspired to do the same.”

The early-career professionals in this year’s class come from a variety of backgrounds, employers, and locations, but all share an interest in building the skills needed to succeed as leaders in the wildlife profession.

“This year’s class was enthusiastic and motivated to participate in all levels of TWS. The Wildlife Society benefits from these [LI] alumni by their participation at the chapter, section, national, and working group levels,” says Mindy Rice, an LI alumna and now chair of the Leadership Institute Committee, which helps to oversee the program. “Their ideas and participation with the Council at the national meeting provides a young professional’s view of The Wildlife Society and brings another generation of leaders into the Society.”

“Meeting my fellow [LI] participants was one of the best parts of the conference. It was so great to interact with such a gifted and outspoken group of peers with as much passion for wildlife as I have,” said Julia Smith, AWB®, one of this year’s participants and the Mexican Wolf Project Field Supervisor for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Speaking with members of the TWS Council was also incredibly inspiring; they were so encouraging about our ability to step into leadership roles both inside and outside of TWS. They made an effort to approach us and engage.”

LI is geared toward early-career professionals: those individuals who are two to three years out of school and currently working full- or part-time in a professional position in wildlife management or conservation. TWS accepts applications at the beginning of each year, with the deadline usually in the first week of March. Check the Leadership Institute webpage in January for more details and follow the Leadership Institute on Facebook to stay connected.

The members of the 2016 TWS Leadership Institute were:

  • Adam Ahlers, AWB®, Kansas State University
  • Krisha Faw, AWB®, F&W Forestry, Georgia
  • Shelby Hiestand, AWB®, Michigan Department of Natural Resources
  • Jennifer Kanine, AWB®, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan
  • Brian Kiss, Wildlife and Fisheries Branch, Manitoba Sustainable Development
  • Andrew Little, AWB®, University of Georgia
  • Rebecca Mowry, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks
  • Anthony Roberts, AWB®, U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Maryland
  • Anthony Sipes, AWB®, Indiana Department of Natural Resources
  • Julia Smith, AWB®, Arizona Game and Fish Department
Laura BiesLaura Bies is the Leadership Institute Coordinator for The Wildlife Society. She has a B.S. in Environmental Science and a law degree from George Washington University. Laura has been with The Wildlife Society since 2005.

Read more of Laura's articles.