Over the past few years, Virginia McClure has boosted her leadership skills and community connections through the Forum's leadership programming. First, as a member of Leadership Anchorage 20, then last year through a Leader to Leader exchange that took her to Utqiaġvik, and most recently as a participant in this summer's facilitation workshop on Yukon Island.
Virginia, who has a background in the culinary arts and the restaurant industry, came to Alaska almost four years ago from Kentucky to manage the Mountain View Branch of the Anchorage Public Library. She is currently the Assistant Director for Public Services for the library system.
Below, she has shared with us some reflections on leadership.
When did you first become involved with Leadership Anchorage?
I work for the Anchorage Public Library and that organization is a strong supporter of Leadership Anchorage and has encouraged many library staff to go through the program. I was encouraged by my supervisor to apply for the program in August, 2016 and I became part of the LA20 cohort. My husband has hosted the Leadership Anchorage kick-off event for several years, although my first time at the event was when I was also a new recruit, so that was pretty funny.
What has surprised you the most over your participation in LA or in Leader to Leader?
I really enjoyed visiting Utqiaġvik and it was particularly interesting to meet the emerging leaders in the community. We had the opportunity to visit different institutions in town and we also spent a day working with Middle School students.
I was surprised to learn that Anchorage is not the only highly diverse community in Alaska, Utqiaġvik is as well. Additionally, I was surprised by how much climate change is affecting the community and how little of the direct impact on the residents' daily lives makes it into the news here in Anchorage.
One of the most memorable aspects of the trip was our visit to a whaling crew as they prepped and sewed the skins for their umiak. We learned that a whaling crew includes an extensive support crew and the work starts many months before the actual whaling season begins. The crew we had the privilege to visit was captained by a woman, just one more of the many surprising aspects of our visit.
The aspect of Leadership Anchorage that has surprised me the most is the continued connection to my fellow LA20 graduates and to the many opportunities that arise through my relationship with the Humanities Forum. My connection to this organization continues to be as valuable as when I was in the LA program.
What similarities, if any, did you notice in leadership in Anchorage and in Utqiagvik?
After going through Leadership Anchorage, I think we learn to look for a particular learning process. We find ourselves in a new, unfamiliar situation or meeting new people, we acknowledge our own biases and fears, we learn from the new situation and share what we bring to the situation, and we hopefully move forward having made or strengthened important life long connections.
These programs push us to be engaged and make important connections and rather than resisting a transformation, to expect that we will be different people after we have gone through the given experience, and in return to have a positive effect on the people around us.
What have you gained as a result of your participation?
I have certainly gained a much deeper understanding of the people and communities of Anchorage and more and more parts of the state of Alaska. Leadership building is not always a comfortable experience but I have learned to trust the process as I have gained so much insight into myself and my potential as a leader. I have also gained a thirst for more knowledge and understanding through these wonderful interactions. I keep returning to the Humanities Forum programs because they have all been such valuable, and really cool, experiences.