2024 Watauga Leadership Institute Cohorts are Underway

Posted By: David Jackson Chamber News,

The 2024 class of the Watauga Leadership Institute kicked off their coursework with an all-day retreat at Valle Crucis Conference Center January 18th. The event marks the beginning of a 12-week community development program that includes 30 total participants between two cohorts.

Watauga Leadership Institute (WLI) 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 title sponsor Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. Additional program support comes from Carolina West Wireless, LifeStore Bank, and the Appalachian Theatre.

Thanks to the generosity of Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Summit Partners, two non-profit professionals were gifted full-registration for this year's program. 

Watauga Leadership Challenge focuses on leadership development and community immersion 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 to upper-level leadership status within their business or organization. Cohorts run annually from January through April.

“With the opportunities and challenges facing the High Country, creating space for leaders to hone their skills will ensure talented people are well equipped to guide our community through important moments,” said David Jackson, President/CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. “Watauga Leadership Institute gives us a dynamic 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. Professional advancement is often made possible thanks to the skills uncovered in these courses, and participants 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.

“What I’m really enjoying about Watauga Leadership Development is that it’s a very thoughtful group," said Dr. Street. "They are willing to go deep and they come prepared with a sense of genuineness and authenticity. It makes it easier to get into challenging conversations because they are willing to go there. I like the energy and enthusiasm of the Watauga Leadership Challenge cohort. They are excited about being part of the group, and they have fun and laugh a lot. They are eager to learn about the High Country community and they are just as invested in developing their own leadership skills and style.”

2024 Watauga Leadership Challenge Roster
Name Business Title
Emily Autry  Appalachian State - University Communications Critical-crisis communications specialist
Kellie Bass OASIS, Inc Prevention Outreach Manager
Richie Covington Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute Student Success Coach
Jason Deathridge Appalachian Theatre Patron Services Manager
Susie Douglas 4-H Agent NC Cooperative Extension - Watauga Center
Diana Fay Hampton Inn & Suites of Boone Director of Sales
Mackenzie Frank Carolina West Wireless Marketing Coordinator
Hallie Grubb Skyline/Skybest Public Relations Administrator
Callie Koeval OASIS, Inc Finance Manager
Haleigh Lawson Peak Insurance Group Executive Assistant
Bailey Little Watauga County Schools Director of Communications & Public Relations
Addison Martin Mast General Store Advertising Coordinator
Laura Pell Appalachian State - Career Development Center Associate Director for Employer Relations & Marketing
Phil Pope NC Department of Commerce, Workforce Solutions NC Works Career Center Manager - Watauga County
Sara Roark Hampton Inn & Suites of Boone Executive Housekeeper
Jessa Sebastian Mast General Store Location Training Coordinator & Executive Assistant
Myles Stacey High Country Area Agency on Aging Family Caregiver Project Coordinator
Eddie Stephens Blue Ridge Energy Crew Leader
Kayla Trivette Town of Boone Senior Accounting Technician
Thalia Villarosa Mast General Store Community Relations Coordinator

2024 Watauga Leadership Development Roster
Name Business Title
Shirley Alexander Booneshine Brewing Company General Manager
Shelley Bentley LifeStore Bank & Insurance Vice President, Senior Credit Analyst
Emi Bicking Mast General Store Graphic Design Manager
Rebekah Clawson Mast General Store Director of HR & Employee Development
Scott Crothers Appalachian State Athletics Sr. Associate Athletics Director for Health, well-being, and performance
Ariel Malec OASIS, Inc Director of Client Services
Arron McCall ECRS Human Resources Manager
Billie Shilling Courtyard by Marriott - Boone Executive Housekeeper
Amber Shinn Boone High Country Rentals Broker in Charge
Elliott Willis Samaritan's Purse Logistical Aide to the COO