Leadership Kentucky 2018 in Berea

Posted on: June 21, 2018

By: London Saunders Roth, Humana - Local Integration Leader (Member, Class of 2018)

On the drive to the first Leadership Kentucky Class of 2018 program on June 13, I was filled with anticipation, eager to meet my classmates, expand my knowledge about our state and continue to sharpen and develop new leadership skills.  On the return trip, I reflected upon what an impactful experience it was – beyond my expectations - and can already tell these drives to various communities across the Bluegrass State will be important opportunities for mental preparation and contemplation.   

The June program took place in the community of Berea, with most of our activity centered at a historic Berea hotel, Boone TavernThe Tavern was built in 1909 at a prominent location on the Berea College Square at the suggestion of Nellie Frost, the wife of the College president, William G. Frost and has been hosting visitors of Berea ever since. 

After a warm welcome from the Leadership Kentucky staff and Elmer Whitaker, Chairman of the Leadership Kentucky Board of Directors, we had a chance to get to know the 55 unique, accomplished, warm and engaged individuals that make up this year’s class.  Beyond impressive resumes, we learned through introductions that the group possesses a large variety of interests, talents, a demonstrated commitment and closeness to family, friends and their community, as well as the shared desire of many to visit New Zealand (future reunion trip, perhaps?).  While I knew the group would be dynamic, these introductions further fueled my excitement for the opportunity to spend time together.

Next, we split into a couple groups and spent time touring the lovely campus of Berea College, led by an excellent student tour guide, Lily Anna (meet her here).   Founded in 1855 as the first interracial and coeducational college in the South, Berea charges no tuition and admits only academically promising students, primarily from Appalachia, who have limited economic resources.  Berea College offers rigorous undergraduate academic programs leading to Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in 28 fields.  All students work at least 10 hours per week in campus and service jobs in more than 130 departments.  I was taken by the college’s rich history of inclusion and architecture, including an immaculate chapel built in a hand-laid brick and otherwise unassuming building; you wouldn’t know it was there until you walked in and discovered its beauty and serenity.

After the tour, we returned to the Boone Tavern for dinner and were able to dine with Daniel Boone, as portrayed by Kevin Hardesty of the Kentucky Chautauqua and the Kentucky Humanities Council.  In full character and dress, Kevin addressed the group as Daniel Boone, in a rich monologue about his life experiences, family and journey in Kentucky and across America.  Born in 1734, Boone established himself as an accomplished hunter and explorer and first visited Kentucky in 1767, finding the territory both beautiful and dangerous as it was contended by native populations and British colonists.

Before closing the evening, we engaged in a team challenge Berea scavenger hunt.  Those who paid attention to the tour had an edge, as did those in my group who knew I was ready to kick off my heels and celebrate National Bourbon Day’s approach once it was complete.  The scavenger hunt helped cement the learnings from the day and draw a closer connection to the community. 

With a delightful breakfast and coffee warming our bodies and minds, we started our second day with an overview of the challenges and opportunities of the Kentucky Economy, presented by Dr. Christopher Bollinger, Sturgill Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Kentucky, Gatton College of Business and Economics.  Contrary to popular belief, the coal, equine and bourbon industries are not the most significant parts of our economy, but rather health care and manufacturing – to name a couple.  A couple of significant themes from the presentation include the importance of fostering diverse industries and focusing on education.

The remaining majority of the day was spent in an experience called Simulated Society (SimSoc).  To protect the interests of those who will partake in a future session, I will not share details.  But, a couple of themes that emerged and have stuck with me in the days since include how critical education, communication, and structure is [in a group or society], the importance of challenging one’s self to get out a comfort zone, not to assume knowledge of what others need and that basic needs must be met before focus can shift elsewhere. 

That evening was spent at Eastern Kentucky University’s (EKU) beautiful Center for the Arts where we dined on stage (likely they knew performing in a show is a goal of mine and that was the closest I’d get).  Thank you to our dinner host, Dr. David McFaddin, VP, Government Relations for EKU and our dinner speaker, Dr. James Klotter, Georgetown College History Professor (recently recognized) and Kentucky State Historian.  

On our final program day, we received a special message from Leadership Kentucky Class of 2016 (“Sweet Sixteen”) member, Chuck Session, Vice President of Government and Community Affairs for Duke Energy. Chuck shared his experience with the Leadership Kentucky program and left us with thoughtful advice to seek first to understand, and later – to be understood.

The program concluded with an engaging and introspective session on the Predictive Index (PI) Behavioral Assessment™ - designed to be an effective simple, and easy to use science-based assessment that provides an accurate depiction, or pattern, of your one’s drives, and therefore insight into an individual’s needs and behaviors.  There were chuckles around the room as Scott Kiefer, of the Oliver Group, provided grounding in the tool and its value, and as we validated our respective results (while I have of the highest “tendency toward action” in our class, I’m not alone).  We look forward to spending time in groups with diverse PI results to broaden our perspectives.

With such a strong – to use a Kentucky appropriate expression “out of the gate” – first session, I can’t wait for the next 6 months surrounded by what will, of course, become the best Leadership Kentucky class ever.

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