CNM Leadership Training for Female Veterans May Be First in Country

August 28, 2013 -- What could possibly be the first-ever leadership training program for female veterans in the country ended in July with a celebratory lunch for the nine Central New Mexico Community College participants.
July 16, 2015

All were CNM students and veterans, ranging in age from their early 20s to mid-50s. They came from a variety of backgrounds and ethnic groups. Their one common attribute is that each served in the U.S. military – some for lifelong careers and others for just a few years.

CNM has offered this leadership training, developed by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, since 2002. While the national program has been disbanded, CNM Dean of Students Rudy Garcia, Ed.D., who is an official trainer, is continuing it at CNM because of its repeated success. This spring’s 10-week leadership program, called Female Veterans Civic Engagement LeadershipPlenty Institute, was the first at the college for female veterans only. It is also believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

“At the direction of Dr. Garcia I spent days researching the existence of female veterans’ leadership programs and found none. I came upon plenty of opportunities for men but nothing for women,” said Jessica Kimbrough, graduate intern and program facilitator. She is also CNM’s Enrollment Services Coordinator.

After hearing this, Garcia decided to proceed with a pilot program geared just for female ex-military members. Program organizers obtained a list of female veteran students on role at the college and began a calling campaign inviting them to participate.

The course Garcia developed for the female veterans followed the Pew LeadershipPlenty curriculum with a few exceptions. It introduces essential skills for community leadership such as building partnerships, managing conflict and taking action. It is a powerful tool that helps people learn to work together to solve problems and create opportunities.

“Strengthening leadership is about establishing new ways of thinking and new patterns of behavior in the community -- rather than hoping that if we just waited long enough or interviewed enough candidates, the right person would come along with all the answers,” Garcia said.

Helping develop and facilitate the institute were Gwen Nutter, former CNM VetSuccess Councilor; Nicholas Aragon, who was an Americorps member at the time of the training and current CNM employee; and Arthur Cordova, retired CNM employee.

The classes, conducted in modules, were held every Friday from March 22 through May 24 for four hours each. The module topics included: Finding Leaders Within, Identifying Community Assets, Managing Groups for Results, Making Meetings Work Better, Managing Conflict, Building Strategic Partnerships, Moving from Talk to Action, Valuing Evaluation and Communicating for Change.

Halfway through the program, participants were divided into two teams and asked to use the skills they learned in the modules to develop mock requests for funding of $100,000 per year for three years. The money was to be used to create agencies that would benefit female veterans. The teams had to research community needs, show how their agency would partner with community entities and prepare a detailed budget.

One group proposed a one-stop-shop for female veterans who have recently arrived to the area and didn’t know where to go to find a job, housing, counseling or child care. The other team proposed a child care center for children of female veterans.

Prior to the first Female Veterans LeadershipPlenty program session, after each class and finally when the program was over, the participants were given surveys to complete regarding their before and after leadership skills

“All participants increased their knowledge skills in every area and now feel more confident in their leadership abilities,” Kimbrough said. “The weekly and final evaluations indicated that the leadership institute was a success.”