Delta leadership programs encouraging paradigm shift for engagement

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,897 views 

UAPB's Dr. Suzzette Goldmon sees leadership investments paying dividends.

Dr. Suzzette Goldmon has participated in many leadership programs. When she was selected to take part in a program at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government (HKS) she jumped at the chance, she told Talk Business & Politics.

But this program would be different for the assistant professor and program coordinator of the Hospitality and Tourism Management School of Business MBA-Hospitality at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

For one, the program would be led by retired Air Force Brigadier Gen. Dana Born, co-director at the Center for Public Leadership at HKS. And secondly, and most importantly, her husband, Dr. Moses Goldmon, the vice chancellor for student engagement at the University of Arkansas in Monticello, would also attend the five-day course held on the Harvard campus.

The Goldmons qualified for the program because they are graduates of the Delta Regional Authority’s Delta Leadership Institute (DLI). Leading a new generation was the focus.

“It was intense,” Goldmon said.

DRA has a partnership with HKS to offer an education opportunity exclusively to alumni of the DLI. The program, designed and led by Harvard faculty, focuses on modern leadership principles to advance one’s ability to solve real-world challenges.

Earlier this summer, 39 DLI alumni from across the eight-state Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt regions graduated with a HKS Executive Education Certificate in Authentic Leadership. The 2022 Authentic Leadership executive education program marks the fifth year of partnership between HKS and DRA.

“This year’s class of HKS Authentic Leadership graduates represents a diverse cohort of community leaders from throughout the DRA region,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Dr. Corey Wiggins. “Delta Regional Authority’s partnership with the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government provides invaluable leadership training, and I am proud that we can invest in the people that are advancing opportunity and furthering DRA’s mission to improve the lives of people living in the DRA region.”

There has been a paradigm shift with the latest generation, Goldmon said. Under the previous model, there would be a leader or authority figure and underlings would follow directions. In her case, that would be her directing students in the classroom, she said. Now, it’s more of a collaborative effort fueled by an addiction to technology, she said. Leaders in any enterprise also must be genuine, she added.

“This generation demands in-touch leaders,” she said. “Engaging is more important to them than positions or titles.”

One way to develop better authenticity is to be self-aware, she said. Part of the program focused on getting to know yourself better, she said.

Goldmon knew at an early age what she wanted to do with her life. As a child, she would start her own small businesses selling sodas, candy and Easy Bake goods to her siblings and others. She enjoyed public speaking and was a member of the 4-H Club. When she graduated high school, she worked in the food industry sector. She honed her skills and made her way into management. Goldmon worked long hours but gained valuable experience she wanted to transfer to the classroom.

“I love being around people. … I love big personalities,” she said.

She earned a doctoral degree in hospitality and tourism management from Oklahoma State University. She received a master’s degree in food science and nutrition and a bachelor’s degree in general dietetics and food systems administration from the University of Tennessee at Martin.

In 2020, she was named the first assistant professor of hospitality and tourism management for the UAPB. The newly created hospitality and tourism management program prepares students for managerial and high-level supervisory positions in restaurant operations, the tourism industry, event planning, hotel administration and other operational and administrative roles.

Goldmon teaches courses related to gaming, lodging, sales, human resources, tourism, resort management and other hospitality-related courses. She mentors students and supervises internships, according to the school.

One of the biggest paradigm shifts she’s seen in the tourism and hospitality industries during the last couple of decades has been television and technology, she said. Consuming food in restaurants has become more of an experience thanks to the number of culinary themed television shows, and access to instant information has changed the tourism experience in many ways, she added.

Arkansas is in prime position to take advantage of tourism trends that are likely to play out this decade. Outdoor tourism — hunting, fishing, biking, hiking, bird watching, etc. — is set for major growth, she believes.

Another tourism sector, heritage or genealogy research, should grow. The state already has a number of ancestry-related and heritage sites that will draw tourists in from other states. Students who go into this industry can expect an abundance of job opportunities and the chance to make a good living, she said. The trade-off is sometimes difficult, and it’s not for all, she added.

“Make sure it’s your gift. Make sure it’s your calling. … If not you’ll be miserable and so will everyone around you,” she said. “The work will be exhausting. You will have to work holidays and weekends, which means you’ll be working when others are enjoying themselves, … but there is a lot of gratification in serving others and helping to give them enjoyable experiences.”