Reflecting on Leadership

Looking for a unique professional development experience? One that emphasizes deep personal learning in the context of Alaska’s rich history and cultural diversity?

Kris Palmatier, Finance Manager at Rasmuson Foundation, and Marilyn Alvarenga, Communications Coordinator, Northern Compass Group, LLC, are the new co-chairs of the Leadership Anchorage Alumni Council. Both members of the LA 20 cohort, they reflected recently on their LA experience. What brought you to Leadership Anchorage? Marilyn: What brought me to Leadership Anchorage was the fact that I was about to graduate college and transition to the work place and felt that I needed a space where I could reflect on who I was as a person. At first, I did not realize exactly how I was going to achieve this, but a good friend gave me Leadership Anchorage as a suggestion. I looked into the program and was taken aback that I had never come across this incredible program sooner. Leadership Anchorage was one of the best decisions I have made both in my personal and professional life. Being able to do this big transition in my life, around a group of caring and compassionate individuals looking to better themselves as well, was exactly what I needed!

Kris: One of my good friends had experienced Leadership Anchorage a year before I participated. He told me very little about the program except that I would love it. After we spoke I researched it and learned that you get to work closely with others on current community issues. I was sold. I knew this program would challenge me and enrich my knowledge on how to be a leader in this time. And it did! How has your idea of leadership changed or been transformed through this experience? Kris: I was always encouraged to be a leader but never knew what that meant. I wondered why someone would want to follow me. Leadership Anchorage helped me to realize that leading and being a leader is not always about someone following others but elevating others and helping them see that they are capable of so much more. Marilyn: My experience in Leadership Anchorage has solidified what I believe to be leadership and a leader, having real communication, and engagement through teamwork. It’s easy to think that concepts like leadership never really change much from generation to generation, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. We have come to recognize that leadership comes in many forms and representations, which I witnessed firsthand within my cohort. From the start, I knew that like anything else I’ve done, I needed to be present and engaged. I am a true believer that the more you put into something the more you get out of it and that is exactly what I did. I have now transitioned into the role of an alum and will keep participating and engaging with Leadership Anchorage because it will continue to bring me more opportunities and lasting relationships.

Why do you stay connected/involved with Leadership Anchorage? Kris: Over the first year following Leadership Anchorage I kept finding myself utilizing skills I developed in the program. The connections I gained kept deepening and I was also making new connections with people who had been in Leadership Anchorage before me. I was drawn back because I wanted a place where we could share our growth as leaders and help those who are taking their first steps into leadership roles.

Marilyn: The conversations and people grasped my attention the most. There is nothing that makes me more happy than being around brilliant people who speak their mind. The alumni that have gone through this Alaskan program are involved locals that are making changes all across the Alaska. As an individual in her mid-20s, I have a hard time getting out of my “bubble” and I thank Leadership Anchorage for exposing me to a wide range of people that I would have most likely never had run into. Staying involved has helped me make strong relationships with fellow alum and be a better advocate for the program in my community.

Why would you recommend Leadership Anchorage to your networks? Marilyn: I know for a fact, that if I would not have joined Leadership Anchorage I would have never met my fellow cohort members, and that says a lot because I try my best to be heavily involved in several different network groups in town. You get an experience of learning leadership through the lens of the humanities, working on a community project, connecting with a mentor, and working with phenomenal people. I would recommend Leadership Anchorage to everyone I know because it is extremely special and different than any other program in Alaska. Kris: Leadership Anchorage made an impact on my life that truly catapulted me into the person I am meant to be. It challenged me to listen to the issues and not solve them but create a solving environment. I was challenged to have difficult conversations about race, history and diversity. When I graduated from the program in 2017 I didn’t feel the impact right away. It only planted a seed. Little did I know that seed would become a forest and I can’t thank the Leadership Anchorage enough for planting that seed in me. This is my recommendation: If you want a challenge and can stay open-minded, this program can catapult you into any leadership role you were meant to fill.

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