New changes are coming to LeadAR, the state’s premier leadership program.

The program, founded in 1984 and operated by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, was originally modeled after the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s leadership training program. Over more than three decades, LeadAR has trained hundreds of participants to serve as leaders in businesses and communities throughout Arkansas, especially in rural and agricultural areas.

Noah Washburn, LeadAR program director, said a series of changes have been implemented for Class 18, which kicks off in mid-February and will conclude in late 2019.

“The purpose of LeadAR is to enhance these emerging community leaders using the latest research tools to expand their self-awareness, increase motivation, and enrich their communication skills as a leader,” Washburn said. “Over the past decades, thinking about leadership in general has expanded to look at individual leaders’ roles within dynamic groups.”

New program objectives include preparing emerging leaders to assume greater responsibilities within their own organizations, industries and communities; providing participants with diverse perspectives to analyze complex cultural and economic issues, and much more.

The course will be taught through a series of eight three-day seminars, in addition to a week-long study trip within the United States later this year, and a two-week-long international study trip in 2019.

The first seminar is scheduled for Feb. 7-10 in Little Rock. This seminar will focus on leader development and will be held at the Holiday Inn Airport Conference Center. In addition to the Division of Agriculture, LeadAR also is supported by the Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit Midsouth, Farm Credit of Western Arkansas, AgHeritage Farm Credit Services, the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, many LeadAR alumni, individuals and organizations.

LeadAR Class 18 includes 28 participants from 16 counties throughout the state. Those class members are:

Anthony Armstrong of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Project Consultant/Loan Mobilization Manager - Arkansas Economic Development Commission; Sudha Bande of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Program Operation Manager – Arkansas Department of Workforce Services; Jacob Box of McGehee, Desha County, Vice President Lending – First Natural State Bank;

Gayla Bradley of Clinton, Van Buren County, Dental Assistant - Hensley Dental; Lori Burrows of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Attorney, Vice President and General Counsel - Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation; Ethan Dunbar of Lewisville, Lafayette County, Retired Military; Jonathan Duran of Benton, Saline County, Deputy Director – Arkansas GIS Office;

Arlisa Harris of Forrest City, St. Frances County, Library Director - Forrest City Public Library; Marc Harrison of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Business Development/CEO - Kenwood Strategic; Jason Hayes of Brinkley, Monroe County, Vice President/Branch Manager – AgHeritage Farm Credit Services; Jennifer Johnson of Blytheville, Mississippi County, District Treasurer/Director of Finance - Blytheville School District; Stephanie Malone of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Policy & Advocacy Director – Community Health Centers of Arkansas;

Rickey McCauley of Proctor, Crittenden County, Manager-CIO – East Arkansas Family Health Center; Tyler McDonald of Lewisville, Lafayette County, Co-owner - T and R Farms; Ryan McGeeney of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Ag Writer/Content Specialist – University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture;

Brad McGinley of Sheridan, Grant County, Staff Chair/ County Extension Agent – UA Cooperative Extension Service; Kyle T. Miller of Helena, Phillips County, Museum Director – Delta Cultural Center;

Curtis Moore of Lincoln, Washington County, Owner, Moore Farms, Christian Olson of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Marketing Director – AR Agriculture Department; Ana Phakhin of Springdale, Washington County, Community Impact Director – United Way of Northwest Arkansas; Gina Radke of North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Business Owner/CEO – Galley Support Innovations;

Rick Reed of Batesville, Independence County, Construction Business Owner & Farmer; Elizabeth Solano of Little Rock, Saline County, Electricity Transmission External Affairs/Regional Director - MISO; Donette Spann of Cabot, Lonoke County, Promotions Director –AR Beef Council, Maddison Stewart of Little Rock, Pulaski County, Social Media/Public Relations Specialist – Arkansas Farm Bureau Federation;

Yolanda Wallace of West Helena, Phillips County, Administrator/Therapist/ CEO/COO/ Counseling & Education Center – The Family Center; Chris Wasson of El Dorado, Union County, Customer Service Representative - Entergy Arkansas; Mary Wood of Russellville, Pope County, Executive Assistant – USDA Forest Service.

To learn about LeadAR, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit

— Ryan McGeeney is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.