A Closer Look: Amy Jennings
Executive director, Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute
Friday, August 17, 2012 7:00 AM
• Hometown: Granger
• Age: 36
• Education: Jennings received a bachelor’s degree in community health education from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in adult learning and organizational performance from Drake University.
• Family: Jennings’ parents, Gene and Maggie, live in Granger and her younger brother, Andy, lives in Urbandale. Jennings and her boyfriend, Justin Schoen, met through the Young Professionals Connection in 2005. She said the two are a good match because they are both very involved in the community.
A 2007 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute (GDMLI), Jennings was the organization’s interim director for six months before being named the executive director. Jennings spent 11 years with Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield working on health and wellness initiatives. She was part of the team that focused on creating a healthy culture for Wellmark employees and then spent two years helping Wellmark’s large customer groups develop strategies to accomplish the same goal.
Tell me about your role at the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.
The board recognized that in order to continue to grow, they needed a full-time staff person who could be charged with building relationships throughout the community, streamlining processes, and working strategically toward GDMLI’s vision of connecting, inspiring, challenging and developing community leaders.
I had originally planned to take another health and wellness job, but decided to throw my hat into the ring because I really enjoyed my position a lot. When I found out all the things they had planned for the organization, I got really excited.
A lot of what I do is work with the board and committees. There are three main committees: the alumni committee, the curriculum committee and the marketing committee. That makes up most of the work we do. The curriculum committee coordinates the nine-month program, the alumni committee works to engage past alumni, and the marketing committee promotes what we’re doing to the community.
We have almost 1,500 alumni that have graduated in the past 30 years, and many of them are very notable community leaders and all of them are very involved in the community. I absolutely want to see where this position takes the leadership institute and how I can develop in this role.
What are some new things the Leadership Institute has planned for this year?
The curriculum will have a greater focus on leadership concepts and will be connected to the Capital Crossroads work.
There are 11 capitals and 10 [Leadership Institute] classes, so in some way we will get involved with every capital. It gives us a base on which to build our curriculum. We are moving to a class schedule of every third Thursday from 1 to 6 p.m. (as opposed to) every other week from 3 to 7 p.m. Feedback has told us that our students have felt that the curriculum has been rushed in the past and they want more time with speakers or engage with each other about the topic.
What would you like to accomplish this first year as executive director?
One of the main things I would like to see, at least this first year, is to increase our outreach to alumni. I’d like to help them develop a stronger tie to the organization, whether that be from making sure they are aware of what is going on with the curriculum or making sure there are opportunities for them to experience what they did in the class.
Why is an organization like GDMLI important to Des Moines’ future?
GDMLI was started 30 years ago as a way to ensure a constant flow of prepared leaders into the Greater Des Moines community. Leaders can’t carry the weight of everything that is going on; there needs to be an effort to develop the next leaders to assist them or to take their place eventually. We need to make sure we have strong leaders involved no matter what is going on in our community. GDMLI continues to play that role as it helps program participants understand community issues and offers ways for them to develop the skills they need to become stewards for our community.
Do you have any hobbies?
If eating can be considered a hobby, I enjoy supporting locally owned restaurants - especially those that put an emphasis on offering healthy items made with locally grown ingredients. I enjoy being active outdoors, and this time of year, I attend a lot of summer festivals and events.
I enjoy giving my time to organizations that align with my personal interests, so I am involved in the boards for the Center on Sustainable Communities, the YMCA Healthy Living Center, the Central Iowa chapter of the American Red Cross, and serve on a committee for The Tomorrow Plan.
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