Ohio University

Voinovich Academy for Excellence in Public Service celebrates successful first year of Appalachian expansion

Published: January 21, 2021 Author: Staff reports

Ohio University’s Voinovich School Academy for Excellence in Public Service, a Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs program, has successfully reached the first anniversary of its highly successful Appalachian expansion. The Academy expanded to include leadership training and development to Appalachian Ohio in November 2019.

The Academy in Appalachia focuses on building leadership capacity to enhance the delivery of public service in recovery and prevention, children and families, and government leadership throughout Southeastern Ohio. The Academy achieves this by providing support, leadership coaching, programs and workshops to public servants involved with regional organizations. 

Most Appalachian public service organizations can access the Academy’s programming, including elected and appointed officials, local governments and agencies, local development districts and many non-profit organizations. 

Mark Cappone, senior executive in residence at the Academy, takes pride in the Academy’s efforts to create individualized programs, coaching and services for its participants. These individualized programs not only benefit the public servants but also create meaningful change in their communities. 

“We strongly believe that through these individual initiatives and projects, we can actually produce positive public service outcomes and build public service capacity in the entire region,” Cappone said. 

Leading in Appalachia, one of the Academy’s signature programs, completed its final session as the Academy reached its one-year anniversary. Developed in late 2019, the inaugural Leading in Appalachia explored different communication techniques, such as collaboration and advocacy, through a six-month program.

Despite the emergence of COVID-19, the Voinovich School modified the program and delivered high quality workshops. The 2020 Leading in Appalachia cohort wrapped up their experience virtually in late October. 

“While COVID-19 prevented our cohort from meeting in person, the timing for this program seemed perfect,” Diane Lautenschleger, a Leading in Appalachia 2020 graduate, said. “I felt energized and focused – exactly what was needed to give my best.”

Jesse Roush, another member of the 2020 cohort, was also pleased with the experience.

“Leading in Appalachia is just getting started, but it’s already positively impacting our region, and, undoubtedly, many communities throughout Appalachia will benefit from the work being done within cohorts,” Roush said.

In addition to Leading in Appalachia, other programs offered through the Academy include Lean Six Sigma, Moments in Leadership, and public management development and coaching. 

The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification Training Program teaches a method of project management. Adopted from the manufacturing sector, Green Belt training teaches public servants to oversee organizational processes, do more with less, improve quality and reduce time of implementation of public initiatives. 

The course is facilitated by Brad Hollingsworth, a Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt instructor, and offers three full days of online instruction. In order to achieve Green Belt certification after successfully completing the course, participants are required to complete a process improvement project for their organization, learn tools to make their project a success and lead a team to complete the project.

“What makes it more challenging in the public sector is you can’t see the processes happening,” Hollingsworth said. “This program teaches people tools to create visuals, utilize data and see what’s hidden to understand the problems in their organizations and find ways to improve them.”

The Academy also offers the Leadership Moments and Thinking Strategically blogs on its website (voinovichacademy.ohio.edu). Developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the blog provides opportunities for participants to continue to build their skills despite lockdowns and social distancing. Public service leaders write and publish blog posts about ways to improve and implement public service initiatives and are available to anyone. 

In addition to these programs, the Academy also provides public management development and coaching based on the Gallup CliftonStrengths Assessment, a coaching program that builds off participants’ natural-born talents and strengths.

Although only operating for a year, the Academy in Appalachia has brought valuable change to communities throughout Southeastern Ohio. As the program continues, Cappone expects to see growth and prosperity in the region as public servants take their new skills back to their communities. 

“It’s a small number of participants, but they serve vast communities. When you develop the capacity and skills of one person, they go back, serve their community better and pass along the skills,” Cappone said.