WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. — Two staff members at University of the Cumberlands were recently nominated to participate in BRIGHT Kentucky, a leadership initiative in Appalachia.
Brandy Martin, associate director of Admissions – Recruitment, and Ryan Osborne, development officer, were among thousands of young leaders who applied. Only 50 were chosen to attend the program’s sessions free of charge. Both felt shocked and excited to have been selected. Osborne called it “an honor.”
BRIGHT Kentucky is designed to “build the capacity of next-generation leaders” in Appalachia by helping participants “fully understand the local economic context” and strengthen their skills in communication, collaboration, consensus building, visioning, and community engagement.
The first session, which took place in late July, focused on “Understanding and Maximizing your Leadership Style.” According to Osborne, the session was “phenomenal.”
“Dr. Payne’s lecture was one of the most insightful and brilliant lectures I have ever observed,” Osborne added. “Her insight into the socioeconomic structure of the United States really showed its huge complexity and offered practical advice on how to incorporate this understanding into improving the communities we all serve.”
Brandy Martin also greatly enjoyed the first BRIGHT session.
“Any nervousness I had about the program quickly subsided once I arrived and met the other applicants,” said Martin. “It felt like I made 49 new friends who share common goals and want what is best for our region. There was an automatic sense of community between all of us.”
Four more sessions will be held, with the next occurring Sept. 4-6 in Pikeville, Paintsville, and Prestonburg. Session topics include “Understanding and Making a Case for the Region,” “Collaborating for Higher Impact,” “Advocating for the Region,” and “Activating the Vision and Graduation.” Both Martin and Osborne are looking forward to what the rest of BRIGHT has in store.
“Community and teamwork are my biggest takeaways from the first session, so I’m eager to keep building onto ideas that were generated there,” Martin said. “Most important, this experience has lit a fire within me, and I’m motivated now more than ever to leave a positive impact on my community and state.”
Osborne added, “Karen Butcher, Janice Way, Madeline Flynn, and Elmer Whitaker did a fantastic job creating this program. After meeting all the other BRIGHT participants and hearing about all the great things they are doing in eastern Kentucky, you can’t help but feel inspired and hopeful for the future of our region.”
BRIGHT Kentucky is made possible by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development agency whose mission is to “innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.”