For Lauren Land, Ouachita Baptist University’s director of career services, it was just another day at the office – until she went to the campus post office to check her mail. Among the letters was an envelope from Leadership Arkansas, a prestigious Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce program for which she had applied.
“I felt like I was opening a letter from college letting me know whether or not I was accepted,” she said. “I checked first to see how thick it was. I felt silly.” Her anxiety quickly turned into excitement as she opened and read the letter. Land had officially been accepted into Leadership Arkansas.
“Leadership Arkansas is a yearlong program that allows participants to explore the elements that make Arkansas tick: economic development, tourism, politics, education, culture and more,” Land explained. “The program helps participants build greater pride in the area in which they live and work while also gathering knowledge about the rest of the state – what’s working, what’s challenging, how people are responding to key issues, what their dreams are for the future.”
According to www.arkansasstatechamber.com, Leadership Arkansas also aims to build “a sense of statewide community by identifying and training individuals with the passion and commitment to become personally engaged in issues, programs and activities aimed at building a better Arkansas.”
Land is in good company with Leadership Arkansas. 2001 Ouachita alumnus Brent S. Gambill, vice president and director of digital & social media at Martin-Wilbourn Partners in Little Rock, is in her class and Dr. Nancy Hardman, Linn Professor of Communication Sciences and Pre-Medical Studies at OBU, is a former graduate of the program. Former graduates from Clark County also include Brent Black, Stacey Blackard, Jimmy Bolt, Shawnie Carrier, Sherry Kelly and Connie Nelson.
“We’re fortunate to have Lauren Land as director of career services at Ouachita,” said Land’s supervisor, Dr. Keldon Henley, vice president for institutional advancement. “The fact that Lauren was chosen for this honor by Leadership Arkansas isn’t surprising to those who know her and who are familiar with her work on behalf of Ouachita students. It’s a well-deserved acknowledgment of Lauren’s exceptional gifts as a leader as well as her dedication to making a difference for students and for our university.”
Land noted that a lot of leadership positions she has held “have been behind-the-scenes and that gives me the opportunity to really take a look around, observe situations from all angles and get feedback from my team. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to work for organizations that let me try new things and set new paths, letting me develop a set of leadership skills while providing me with both support and grace.”
Originally from Hattiesburg, Miss., Land graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from Louisiana State University. She was president of the Order of Omega and a member of Leadership LSU, a program similar to Leadership Arkansas. She also was vice president and philanthropy chair of her sorority, Kappa Delta, as well as vice president of the Mortar Board, a member of the LSU student government and was one of the LSU Top 10 Freshmen.
While in school she also had the opportunity to intern with the Council for a Better Louisiana, which sponsors Leadership Louisiana. “I got to help the staff plan sessions and retreats and decided then and there that I wanted to participate in a similar program once I established a career,” she said.
After graduation, Land’s first job was as the public relations manager at the Atlanta Community Food Bank in Atlanta, Ga. She and her husband, Kendal, moved to Bowling Green, Ky., in 2004 where she was the operations manager at the Shaker Museum at South Union. The Lands moved to Arkadelphia in 2006 where he serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church and she was named alumni director at Ouachita, a position she held until she was named director of career services last year. Land has been a member of Leadership Clark County, vice president of the Arkadelphia Area Chamber of Commerce and was named to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Tri-Lakes edition “20 to Watch in 2010.”
“I’ve always been very interested in Leadership Arkansas and when I began working with career services, it seemed like a great fit,” she said. “I spend a lot of time talking to companies and employers all over the region to gather good information for our students and this program will give me even more firsthand knowledge of industries within Arkansas and the decision-makers who run them.”
Land said she feels a special connection to the Natural State and that being a part of Leadership Arkansas will make that connection even stronger.
As a parent to 5-year-old twins, Jackson and Carlisle, and 3-year-old Evangeline, Land said, “I now see this community through the eyes of both a professional and a parent. I want to see our community take advantage of every opportunity to grow and to thrive as we raise our next generation of leaders.
“On a statewide level,” she added, “I want to do what I can to make sure that Arkansas is recognized and revered nationally for its natural beauty, the talent and creativity of our workforce, accessibility to growing industries and businesses as well as our statewide commitment to outstanding education.
“I do hope to find a specific way that I can make a real difference here in Arkansas,” Land said. “I’m really interested to learn from other college towns. How do they integrate students into the community and provide them with leadership and service opportunities and generate pride in their city?
“I also want to be an advocate for Ouachita throughout the state. As I travel with this program I’ll be representing this university and making connections that will ultimately benefit our students as they begin their own careers and leadership journey.”
By Ryleigh Salmon