On Nov. 18, Tricia Ball, interim associate director of the Brad D. Smith Business Incubator and associate director of the Lewis College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation (iCenter), was one of 40 fellows who graduated in the inaugural class of the Appalachian Leadership Institute, a leadership and economic development program sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission. Members of the Class of 2020, along with their friends and family, attended the virtual ceremony. ARC’s Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas, as well as Appalachian governors from Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee, provided congratulatory remarks for the fellows.
In the year leading up to graduation, Ball participated in three in-person sessions and eight months of virtual programming, all of which included skill-building seminars with regional experts, peer-to-peer learning and case study analysis. All aspects of the curriculum were designed to equip fellows with the knowledge and network needed to create positive change in their communities. Ball was one of three fellows representing West Virginia in the inaugural class.
“So often, our understanding of Appalachia is shaped by our small corner of it,” Ball said. “The Appalachian Leadership Institute broadened my understanding of the region, while also equipping me with knowledge and tools I can use to make difference at home. I am so grateful for the relationships I’ve built, the communities I was introduced to, and the lessons I’ve learned through this experience.”
As a graduate of the Appalachian Leadership Institute, Ball is now part of the Appalachian Leadership Institute Alumni Network. With each graduating class, the network will continue to grow, connect leaders and facilitate continued learning and idea exchange across the 13 Appalachian states.
“My main takeaway, and perhaps charge, is this – economic development is not just the responsibility of ‘economic developers,’” Ball said. “Our cohort included attorneys, teachers, elected officials, bankers and people on the front lines of the opioid epidemic. The solution to Appalachia’s challenges already lies within Appalachia. It will be a collective effort of people who see a void and fill it; people who work towards the future they want to create instead of dwelling on problems; people who do what they can with what they have where they are. And then, we have to tell OUR side of the story. As our class speaker said in his graduation speech, ‘Keep speaking until the sounds of the voices coming out of the mountains are louder than the voices speaking into them.’”
About the Appalachian Leadership Institute
The Appalachian Leadership Institute is a comprehensive leadership and economic development training opportunity for people who live and/or work in Appalachia and are passionate about helping their communities thrive. Appalachian Leadership Institute fellows participate in an extensive training curriculum developed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy; Tuskegee University; and Collective Impact.
About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission (www.arc.gov) is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian region. ARC’s 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.