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2023 Watauga Leadership Institute Cohorts Begin Coursework

44 total participants Watauga Leadership Challenge and Watauga Leadership Development classes

The Watauga Leadership Challenge cohort meets during the Watauga Leadership Institute Kickoff Retreat

BOONE, NC –The 2023 class of the Watauga Leadership Institute kicked off their coursework with an all-day retreat at Valle Crucis Conference Center January 25th. The event marks the beginning of a 12-week community development program that includes 44 total participants between two cohorts.

Watauga Leadership Institute is a work program administered by the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce and encompasses all leadership development programming offered by the organization. Over 500 participants have engaged in Watauga Leadership Institute programming since 1998. 

The program is made possible thanks to co-sponsors Beech Mountain ResortBlue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, and Peak Insurance. Additional program support comes from Carolina West Wireless, LifeStore Bank, Mast General Store, and the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University.

Watauga Leadership Challenge focuses on leadership development and community emersion and is often attended by those new to the High Country community. Watauga Leadership Development is focused on leadership skills development and is attended by professionals who have already achieved mid-upper-level leadership status within their business or organization. Cohorts run annually from January through April.

“With the opportunities and challenges we face daily in the High Country, the value of strong community leadership has never been more important,” said David Jackson, President/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “Watauga Leadership Institute gives us a great vehicle to help participants build on their own strengths in leadership, while also understanding how those skills will benefit their personal and professional interests. Many of the participants in our programs become more engaged in local community activities, like serving on non-profit boards or coordinating volunteer support for agencies or organizations. We also find that many use the skills gained for professional advancement, and will use this program to further develop their thoughts on self-awareness, organizational culture, diversity, and conflict management among other topics.”

The Watauga Leadership Institute curriculum is coordinated by Dr. Jim Street, Owner of Ridgeline Leadership, and retired leadership educator at Appalachian State University. Following a 36-year career in higher education, Dr. Street offers leadership development training and personal coaching to businesses and organizations throughout the Carolinas. He is an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation and completed Gallup’s Strengths Coaching Program in 2020.

“We have a wonderful collection of participants in this year’s cohorts,” said Dr. Street. “Each group sets their own operational norms and goals, and I enjoy watching them work together as a group. Our participants tend to stay connected with one another, long after the graduate the program, which is powerful in its own special way. The relationships that are forged are deeply rooted in trust, respect, and thoughtfulness. There have been dozens of instances where ideas discussed in our sessions will turn into a business opportunity or an outlet for community outreach. It’s another way we are able to show that communities are strongest when people are actively working to support one another.”


Watauga Leadership Challenge facilitator Rich Campbell (center) leads a discussion during the Watauga Leadership Institute Kickoff Retreat.
Dr. Jim Street leads a discussion during the Watauga Leadership Institute Kickoff Retreat, held January 25, 2023 at Valle Crucis Conference Center.
 David Jackson (standing) introduces a panel of speakers including (L to R) Patrick Woodie, President/CEO NC Rural Center;  Zach Barricklow, VP Rural Innovation, Wilkes Community College; Ariana Williamson, Director, Wilkes Recovery Revolution.

All photos courtesy of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce