This past August, the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council Board of Directors (which oversees the Nebraska LEAD Program) unanimously decided to pause LEAD for one season. The board felt it was in the best interests of all people involved with the program.
Discussions centered on two major issues: The safety of participants, staff and others involved in programming, along with the quality of the program. Given continued uncertainties about the spread of COVID-19 and the course of the pandemic, the board was unable to see how programming could occur in a way that would safeguard the health of everyone involved without compromising participants' experiences. The risk of compromising the experience through remote programming or a delayed start would have been too high to justify moving forward with programming for these two LEAD classes.
Nebraska has a premiere program built over 39 years. This decision will help safeguard the integrity of that program and ensure participants' experiences will be what they, and the state of Nebraska, need.
A year to ‘rejuvenate and innovate’
Instead of convening Class 39 in Chadron this past September to begin their second year and selecting, announcing and meeting with the members of Class 40 on East Campus, we are using this year rejuvenate and innovate. We will be using this “fallow” year to conduct a deep dive into all aspects of the program — selection and recruitment, curriculum and program delivery, communications, and resource development. We will be working to ensure we are providing the highest-quality programing possible. Our goal is to come back even stronger when this pandemic is behind us.
The pause in programming will affect Nebraska LEAD Classes 39 and 40. Programming for Class 39 will resume in the fall 2021. Class 40, which would have begun in the fall 2020, will begin their two-year Nebraska LEAD Program experience in the fall 2021.
During this fallow year, our “field” will not be producing our accustomed crop of leaders, but you will find the LEAD staff and the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council board members engaged in an all-out effort to replenish the soil from which our leadership classes emerge. Meanwhile, our over 1,100 LEAD alumni will not be pausing. Instead, they will continue to provide leadership at the local, state, and national levels for our agricultural industry and beyond.
For new life to spring from fallowed ground, we must know what you and your organizations need from LEAD. With your input, we will then be able to create new and meaningful ways of achieving our mission to cultivate leaders who communicate, collaborate, inspire and serve. Enhancements will create more opportunities for skill development and introducing new concepts to the curriculum. With your support, we are turning an unprecedented challenge into an unprecedented opportunity.
The nonprofit Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council, in cooperation with the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, sponsors the Nebraska LEAD Program. The Nebraska LEAD Program works closely with 11 other institutions of higher education throughout Nebraska for program delivery and support.
Connect with the Nebraska LEAD Program office by email at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at 104 ACB, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 68583-0940; or by calling 402-472-6810. Please visit www.lead.unl.edu for additional information.
Hejny is a LEAD XX Alum and director of the Nebraska LEAD Program. He can be contacted at email@example.com