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LEAD New York, a pioneering leadership program for professionals involved in the food, agriculture and natural resources sectors, earned an Innovation and Creativity award from the National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals (NACDEP).

The award recognizes outstanding efforts to integrate innovation and creativity in effective community development program design and implementation. A program in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ Department of Global Development, LEAD NY trains professionals in leadership skill development, issues analysis, critical thinking and civic engagement.

“We are honored to be recognized for our work in developing community leaders throughout the Northeast, and proud of the leadership service our alumni provide not only in their workplaces, but in a variety of civic organizations,” said Larry Van De Valk, executive director of LEAD NY.

The program will be recognized during the NACDEP conference to be held virtually June 1-2.

Leadership development programs typically involve a significant time commitment over a two-year period, which can be a barrier to participation for many top candidates who could benefit from the training, according to Van De Valk.

To address these challenges, LEAD NY reorganized in 2013 into a “1+1” format which segments the curriculum into a first year dedicated to leadership fundamentals with the potential for a second year that develops participant’s global perspective and advanced critical thinking skills.

The first year “Leadership Fundamentals” course focuses on skill-building, self-awareness and discussion related to New York state community and food system. Participants who successfully finish in the first year receive a certificate and are well equipped to enter a variety of community leadership roles, according to Van De Valk.

Participants can then continue into the “LEAD Fellows” portion of the program in the second year. This segment of the course includes class trips out of state, including trips to Washington, DC, and Ottawa, Canada and an international study tour with the aim to develop participants’ worldviews and critical thinking.

Van De Valk previously presented the program model to a national conference of the International Association of Programs for Agricultural Leadership, and received positive responses from peer groups interested in replicating the design.  

LEAD NY, an affiliate of the Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI), has more than 500 alumni who serve in a variety of leadership roles at the local, state, regional and national levels. Those interested in applying can visit the program website or email leadnewyork [at] cornell.edu.

Matt Hayes is associate director for communications for Global Development in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This article also appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.

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