June 11, 2010

Whitney McKoy will graduate from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture in August. And when she leaves UK for a job as a 4H Youth development extension agent, she'll have in hand two very valuable pieces of paper-her diploma and a certificate of leadership from the college's Turner Leadership Academy.

McKoy said everyone to whom she applied was really impressed with her leadership credentials.

"They were really excited that I was in the academy. I was hired in Scott County because they knew I had the leadership development skills and the personal and professional skills," she said. "I learned a lot of that in the Turner Leadership Academy."

After completing work above and beyond what is normally expected of undergraduates, McKoy and four other students received their certificates from the leadership academy in a recent ceremony-a certificate that shows employers that the person they seek to hire has true leadership potential.

The Turner Leadership Academy offers an undergraduate certificate in leadership to undergraduates with a declared major in the UK College of Agriculture. It is a two-year program that includes workshops, courses, community service and mentors, all of which combine to develop the student's specific leadership goals-goals the student defined upon entering the program.

"The academy provides a foundation and learning arena for our students who want to excel in the world," said Patricia Dyk, director of the UK Center for Leadership Development, which houses the academy. "Employers often specifically look for people with leadership skills and experiences, and the Turner Leadership Academy helps prepare students for those career opportunities."

The first cohort of academy graduates included animal sciences major Carilynn Gravatte from Fancy Farm, Nicholas Mancuso of Vienna, W.Va., a pre-med student majoring in agricultural biotechnology, Cecil Shelton of Irvine, Kyle Patrick Williams of Butler and McKoy, who comes from Vine Grove. Shelton, Williams and McKoy all majored in public service and leadership.

McKoy said the experience she gained through the academy has shaped and improved her leadership skills.

"It's an excellent program, it really is," she said. "Two years ago, I wasn't as professional as I am now. It pushes you to get involved, and that's really how students are going to grow; it's how you learn about your communities, how you give back to the community, how the community learns about you. You make a lot of connections."

To graduate from the academy, students must fulfill two years of requirements, which include meeting regularly with a college mentor, enrolling in specific academic courses in leadership, acquiring off-campus and on-campus leadership experiences, as well as writing reflections of their experiences and creating a portfolio.

UK College of Agriculture Dean Scott Smith spoke at the certificate ceremony honoring the academy's first cohort of students. During the ceremony, Mancuso received the $500 award for the best portfolio.

The Turner Leadership Academy was created in memory of the late Larry W. Turner, the former associate dean for extension and director of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, who was committed to leadership development.

For more information, visit the academy's website, http://www.ca.uky.edu/tla or contact Lissa Pohl, program outreach associate, at turner.leadership@email.uky.edu.

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