Innovative Leaders Empower Our Community – 03/20/24

Summary of Team Journey:

Team Innovation is beyond proud, and we all feel incredibly accomplished after our successful program day on March 20th, 2024. Our theme, “Innovative Leaders Empower Our Community,” couldn’t have been more spot on. The day was a testament to our hard work, creativity, and collaboration.

Our lead advisor, Aaron, had asked us to come to our first meeting (dinner at 419 West) with our definitions of “innovation.” That dinner left us more confused than the retreat, but it also brought out diverse yet similar definitions: doing things better. Our team worked incredibly well together right from the start. We had so many ideas that it took a while to nail down our direction. There was never any real tension (except for when Shannon thought we had maybe fundraised more than we did) (jk! jk!) 😉

We researched various innovative topics, from the helmet lab at Virginia Tech to NASCAR technology at Martinsville. Ultimately, we decided to focus on how leadership ties into an innovative mindset while highlighting the Roanoke Valley’s incredible innovative community.

One of the highlights of our day was the “toolbox of innovation” we gave to participants. This idea emerged naturally in one of our meetings when Greg exclaimed, “AI is just one of the many tools in THE TOOLBOX OF INNOVATION!” Things went silent for a second, and then our group freaked out with excitement. We knew we had a winner. Incorporating AI into our program day was initially met with some hesitation. However, after Shannon gave an awesome presentation on AI, it became a no-brainer.

The actual toolbox was a laminated, paper cut-out with a QR code that led to the day’s agenda, sponsors, and speaker bios. Attached to it were laminated paper cut-outs of tools, each symbolizing a key aspect of innovation:

Wrench = Embrace Challenges
Screwdriver = Try New Things
Saw = Collaborate with Others
Nuts & Bolts = Be Open to Change
Hammer = Lean Into Fear

Our program day started with science projects from Governor’s School students, followed by a sticky note activity asking the crowd what comes to mind when they hear “innovation.” The answers ranged from the air fryer to Elon’s new cybertruck. Then Roanoke College President Frank Shushok gave an incredibly inspiring talk on “viewing from the balcony” as part of leadership. This led into an engaging panel discussion on how to cultivate an innovative mindset, panelists including Kim Blair from Carilion Clinic, Jess Edwards from VERGE, John Gardner from The Branch Group, and Maureen (Mo) McGonagle from LEAP. After a delicious lunch, Andrew Hooper showed participants a deep dive into AI and how tools like ChatGPT can make our work lives easier.

Finishing out the day at the Red Sox for a small happy hour was the cherry on top. The energy in that room was buzzing with inspiration and people were already sharing their thoughts on how much they enjoyed the day.

A big part of why we think our day was as successful as it was is because we put in the time. After the retreat, we made a point to meet about every other week. Then our team met twice a week starting in mid-January: Mondays at 8:15 am via Zoom, and Thursdays in person at the Grandin Co-Lab at 8:00 am. Those early mornings were worth it. Everyone played their part:

Lauren: Smart and sharp as a TACK. Kept us on the straight and narrow in planning, financials, logistics, timing, and every small detail.

Shannon: Made things happen and helped our team become comfortable with AI. Her knowledge was crucial in planning our day.

Morgan: Our go-to person with a can-do attitude, willing to jump in anywhere. We couldn’t have pulled off the day without her.

Stephanie: The quiet voice of reason who kept track of our finances. The smartest woman on our team.

Blair: Our gift bag and laminating queen. She also provided the Red Sox VIP experience. Always quick with solutions, she made trips from Christiansburg twice a week!

Marlee: Our community guru/somehow knows everyone and if she didn’t, she was the first to reach out and connect with them.

Jeff: Our hype guy and viber. He secured the construction hats and always knew what to say. His positive attitude was infectious.

Greg: THE GUY. Our venue host, fundraiser, and caterer. Greg took on many roles and always did it with a smile.

Shout out to our awesome advisors. We especially couldn’t have done it without “Dad”, aka Aaron. He showed up for us, kept it real, and helped out in every way possible. Our other three advisors, Lacey, Megan, and Anna, were also fantastic and we appreciate their time in helping us plan our day.

We plan to keep in touch and continue to hang out post-LRV. We’re proud of planning a successful program day, but we’re most proud of the friendships we’ve made.

Thank you, Leadership Roanoke Valley, for an unforgettable experience!

Program Objectives:

1. Cultivate an Innovative Mindset: Learn what it means to be an innovative leader and how to foster an innovative mindset within teams and organizations.

2. Spotlight Local Innovation Initiatives: Be inspired by stories of innovations happening in our community across sectors.

3. Explore Innovation Opportunities: Interact with emerging technologies and discuss how innovation might enhance efficiency and create more creative pursuits.

4. Bridge Innovation and Community: Use the toolbox of innovation to find efficient solutions to local needs and opportunities.

Calls to Action:

1. Engage with Innovation: Identify one innovative solution you could implement in real-world scenarios in the next 3 months.

2. AI as a Tool: Leverage AI as a tool that can enhance efficiency and effectiveness rather than replace human ingenuity in everyday life.

3. Foster AI Conversations: Advocate for including AI topics in workplace discussions, promoting a culture open to exploring and understanding new technologies.

4. Use the Innovation Toolbox: Review and implement the tools obtained during today’s program day while finding new innovative tools to add to your toolbox.

Team Members:

Lauren Browning
Shannon Dominguez
Greg Hanlon
Blair Hoke
Marlee Richardson
Stephanie Smoot
Morgan White
Jeff Williamson

Team Advisors:

Anna Fierro
Lacey Levy
Aaron Shearer (Lead Advisor)
Megan Wade

URL to Team Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1dPlMxCQmpBvr3Loa_-uChrcSwvLGQn57?usp=sharing

2024 LRV Transportation Team – From Railways to Runways

Summary of Team Journey:

On April 17th 2024, our transportation team of leaders brought together over 50 individuals to unpack how transportation, from the railways to the runways, is an economic driver in the Roanoke Valley. Our transportation journey began towards the end of our LRV retreat at the Peaks Retreat and Adventure Center when we met our fellow team members and advisors. We were provided with program guide and given the expectations for our LRV journey together. One of those main expectations were to successfully put on a program day centered around the topic of Transportation. At first glance, that seemed like a fairly simple task given the topic; however, we discovered that transportation was bigger than we expected.

Our program day wasn’t until April, so we viewed that we had plenty of time to really brainstorm and dig into what transportation was for the Roanoke Valley. Our first meeting together outside of the retreat, we filled up a board on what transportation meant to us, and all of the various methods of transportation. We identified various leaders in transportation in the Roanoke Valley, and began to reach out to them to discuss their roles in this system. After several months of meetings with Transportation leaders for VDOT, the Airport, Greenways, Valley Metro, local government officials, and many more, we felt that Transportation was more complex than we initially thought, and was woven by the many threads of governmental policy.

After sifting through countless hours of data and information gathered, we finally came to the goal of what we wanted to accomplish with our program. Transportation was and is an economic driver for the Roanoke Valley. By having a healthy and vibrant transportation system in place, the Roanoke Valley can experience tremendous growth and development. We structured as day as follows below in order to weave the web of transportations past, present, and future.


8:30 | Explore Transportation Museum, Network, Eat Breakfast
9:00 | A History Lesson with Bev Fitzpatrick
9:30 | Break
9:45 | Valley Metro Discussion – William Long
10:05 | Transition to Wells Fargo Tower
10:20 | Break
10:30 | Local Representatives Panel Discussion – Megan Cronise, Nicholas Baker, Stephanie Mathena, Frank Maguire, William Simpson, Dwayne D’Ardenne, Jeremy Holmes (Moderator)
11:25 | Transportation Themed Trivia Game
11:40 | Eat Lunch & Network
12:20 | VDOT Presentation – Anthony Ford
1:15 | Break
1:25 | Transition to Star Flight Academy
2:00 | Tour Session 1 – Mike Stewart Airport Presentation
2:15 | Tour Session 2 – Star Flight Hangar Tour
2:30 | Break
2:40 | Future of Transportation Panel Discussion – Ken King, Ray Smoot, Mike Stewart, Zach Trogdon, Mimi Coles (Moderator)
3:25 | Debrief
3:50 | Return to Transportation Museum
4:30 | Social at Big Lick Brewery

After our day was over, we walked away with a sense of accomplishment. Participants were able to see the importance that Transportation plays into the future of the Roanoke Valley, and were presented with advocacy opportunities to stand up and play an integral role in it. We are all thankful for our LRV journey, and look forward to continuing to make a change in the Roanoke Valley.

Program Objectives:

Objective 1: Illuminate the historical influence of transportation on shaping the Roanoke Valley into what it is today.

Objective 2: Empower participants with an understanding of the complex policies that are driving current transportation projects in the Roanoke Valley and how they can use their influence to affect change.

Objective 3: Inspire participants to envision the future of the Roanoke Valley and recognize the integral role transportation plays in it.

Calls to Action:

Advocate for change!
Attend a TTC, TPO, or locality meeting on upcoming transportation projects.

Show Gratitude!
Send a thank you note to your locality or VDOT and thank them for their work on a transportation project that has impacted you.

Fly ROA!
Support the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport by flying local.

Support The Transportation Museum!
Visit the Transportation Museum and advocate for them in future legislation.

Team Members:

Ana Barios – Co-Chair
Matthew Thomas – Co-Chair
Molly Roberts – Chief of Staff
Greg Lionberger – Secretary
Karli Foster – Historian
Chris Hollish – Treasurer

Team Advisors:

Annie Harvey
Chelsea West
Rolando Homes
Leah Shank

URL to Team Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1blzzHbPyyfHtYZfAJcxor7gEzO9JTHFj?usp=drive_link

2024 – Government – Influence and Information

Summary of Team Journey:

There was a sense of excitement, maybe some anxiousness, the morning of our first breakfast meeting in August 2023. This was the day that we would be introduced to the LRV program. Natesha Ross remembers wondering, “What was the purpose of LRV? How does this organization help the community?” The speakers that morning were instilling in us the opportunities that would unfold for us over the next year and the ways to broaden those perspectives moving into this program. The pieces of advice were things like “keep an open mind”, “you’re going to do great”, or the more ominous “just wait”.
A whole month we carry these thoughts and notions into the overnight retreat. This fully immersive experience brought with it a chance to break down the corporate element that often brought with it a certain structure that can limit growth and strips away the chats, virtual meetings, and the rigid setting of an office. Here we were encouraged to go beyond and make the most of our skills. We were encouraged to find those limits and exceed them. Here we realized that we are all a team and we all will be faced with some uncomfortable situations only to emerge with a new sense of what those boundaries are, if any remain. Julie Blevins says, “Stepping into this experience pushed me to go BEYOND my comfort zone, knowledge of Local Government, and what I thought were the limitations of my own confidence level.” It is also here, on this retreat, that we meet our new team. The technical mind of our team’s engineer, Hal, the marketing and visual expert, Will, the educator and instructor extraordinaire, Natesha, the persuasive social butterfly, Richia, the purpose-driven intellectual, Julie, and the holistic approach financial manager, Kathryn, all coming together to go beyond our known skill sets to do our best. Being the first team presented certain challenges but also a welcome reprieve. We would be setting the bar, we all felt that.
So how would we come together? How do we take the knowledge and mindset we gained from retreat into the next few months? We had to learn to trust one another. We had to see and hear each other. Blevins states, “We utilized everyone’s ideas, strengths, and experiences in order to develop a meaningful program day, given the enormous subject that Government could be.” Knowing this, we went into each team meeting striving to achieve the best. We all wanted the participants showing up on our LRV day to be blown away by our program. We hit the ground running. Many times our advisors would tell us to slow down. But how could we when we knew we were first to go for the participant led days?! We met with local leadership because we knew a piece that is usually missing from the government narrative is the local influence. Hal Bailey says, “the most amazing part of this program were the interactions we had with our public officials.” The impacts from those conversations completely shaped the way we wanted to replicate that experience for other participants. What better way to get people involved with local leadership than to have them hear these thoughts and converse with them too. The ability to ask questions and hear the stories from the group of local leaders provided that personal touch to what local government is. Will Rhodes reflects, “At a time where national politics seem more divided than ever, it is refreshing to see how all of these people work together for the betterment of our region.”
But how do we get local government leaders to show up? We asked. We let them know of our plans and our hopes for this group. To our benefit, each of our local leaders saw the value too. The next step, we had to showcase individual involvement. How would we accomplish this? Luckily, Roanoke has many informed and involved citizens that want the best for their community and we wanted to showcase what that person does and how the participants could replicate or take their own focus to make impactful changes to their community. Mr. Fishwick and Dr. Hale gave the participants the information of what actions could be taken to influence and change the community. This is where our theme was born. ‘Information and Influence’, that is what we wanted the focus to be. How to be informed and influential leaders in our community. This wasn’t just any group we were talking to or representing. “Getting involved is more important than ever and it’s the only way to make a difference”, says Bailey. LRV is a group of influential leaders. With this in mind, we hoped that showcasing the trust we not only had with our group to represent that thought but to instill that belief in the LRV group at large. We are in a group for leaders in our area and the skills that we will unlock through this program will only make us more effective in our roles and our futures. Richia Gregston says this, “it opened my eyes to opportunities far beyond business benefits and into what our rich and vibrant communities have to offer.”
Going into the LRV program the Government team set a standard for ourselves. Ross states, “As current and future leaders, programs such as this are necessary for those with influence to lead in a thoughtful growth mindset.” Realizing that trust and an open mind were going to be the necessary tools to see us through to a successful program day delivery. What we didn’t realize was how this would shape our connections to one another. Gregston reflects, “LRV recaptured a spark inside me to reach for more – more involvement, more giving, more time spent on things that matter in the world outside myself.” Our team sought to engage, educate, and leave a clear path for involvement in their surrounding community, in government, in community action projects and BEYOND.

-Kathryn Matherly, LRV Government Team Historian

Program Objectives:

1) Recognize the power of influence and how local government impacts us daily
2) Engage with local government by becoming more involved in your local government
3) Utilize tools to increase your own influence in local government, by going BEYOND what you do now

Calls to Action:

1) Get Informed. Subscribe to local, regional and state newsletters to get information.
Sign up NOW!
2) Get Involved. Go to your local town or city council meetings. Go BEYOND and join as a committee/council board member.
3) Get Out and Vote! Register to vote and keep your information up to date. Show up and vote!

Team Members:

Will Rhodes
Natesha Ross
Hal Bailey
Julie Blevins
Richia Gregston
Kathryn Matherly

Team Advisors:

Hannah Babcock
Allison Jorgensen
Chip White
Madeline Hanlon

URL to Team Photos: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1FICC73lwh-CuaIt6OyQ3SD3klDQ8r5tM?usp=drive_link