Building a Stronger Community Through Partnerships

UCR Extension's Kasey Wilson leads the way.

By Suzanne Hartzell

Kasey Wilson has mastered many things — she is a distinguished Army veteran who trained at the Defense Language Institute and speaks three languages; she is an experienced teacher and school administrator; she has worked as a career counselor and educational mentor for veterans; and she earned her associate, bachelor’s, MBA, and doctoral degrees as a full-time working professional, wife, and mother.

Kathleen “Kasey” Wilson, Ed.D.
Director, Professional Programs
UCR Extension

She understands the special demands and challenges working adults face when trying to pursue professional development and training to expand their opportunities. When UCR Extension was looking for a director of professional programs, the combination of Wilson’s personal and professional experiences, and her unrelenting commitment to the adult learner, made her the perfect fit.

Wilson’s charge is to anticipate regional workplace needs, design training programs for adults looking to update their skills, and find real-world experts in the community to bring their expertise to the classroom. Wilson explained, “Such training is critical in a world where technology and expectations are constantly changing. People need to stay current to be relevant in their jobs, and if you just stand still, things are going to pass you by,” she said.

The tricky part is identifying the needs and having the programs ready to deliver when people need them. Wilson knew that the best way to succeed was to dig deep and get to know her new community.

She hit the ground running, becoming a member of the Western Regional Committee for the Workforce Board, joining the Riverside East Rotary, signing on with the Riverside Resistance Revival Chorus and Philanthropic Education Organization, landing a board appointment to the Riverside Community Center for Spiritual Living, and participating in the Riverside-Corona Chapter of 100 Women Who Care.

“I always have to be really careful about not taking on more than I can do,” Wilson said. “I want to make a difference and make my community better. I’m not really a joiner; I’m a doer. I like to get involved and work collaboratively to make things better. That’s why the Leadership Riverside program appealed to me. I saw it as a way to really get to know the region, and start building networking relationships and lasting partnerships.”

Wilson applied, completed a rigorous review and interview process, and was awarded a coveted seat in the 10-month program. “I was thrilled and definitely up for the challenge,” she said.

Leadership Riverside was implemented by the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce in 1986, with its primary goal centered on the development new generations of active leaders for the community. The program’s steering committee accepts only 20-25 applicants from local businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, schools, and universities for each program.

Aly Herrera, the community development coordinator for the Chambers, said, “The number of participants from any one profession or area of interest is limited in order to ensure the broadest possible representation of community experiences. We are looking for candidates who demonstrate strong leadership in professional and civic/volunteer endeavors; aspire to serve on boards or take on other leadership roles in our community; have strong references within the community; and plan to remain in Riverside for at least five years after graduation.”

Herrera also pointed out: “Since the start of the program, there have been 563 graduates, with multiple participants from UCR; however, Wilson was the first graduate to represent UCR Extension.”

Leadership Riverside brings together policy makers, industry experts, and visionary leaders, giving participants a unique opportunity to address critical regional issues such as economic development, education, health care, public safety, social services, arts and culture, and more. Graduates experience a civic leadership framework that enhances both personal and professional development.

“The schedule was demanding, but the experience was invaluable for my work in continuing education, because it provided me with so many insights into the community. The opportunities gained from working alongside distinguished civic and community leaders were immeasurable. The program brought in the highest-level professionals to engage with us, so we learned about real-life community and regional issues from those who are in the trenches,” Wilson said.

“My core belief is that people have the power to change the quality of their lives at any moment,” said Wilson. “Maybe they never had the courage to do it before, but if today is the day they want to take that first step, we need to be ready to help them. That’s what really motivates me. Partnership and collaboration are powerful tools in designing relevant and valuable programs for our region’s working professionals. My educational and professional experiences, combined with what I learned in Leadership Riverside, will help me figure out which problems in our region need immediate solutions, and my new partnerships will help us work to solve them. Together, we will make a difference.”

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Suzanne Hartzell
E-mail: shartzell@ucx.ucr.edu

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