UVA Wise Director Selected for State Rural Leadership Institute

Neva Bryan, director of career discovery and planning at UVA Wise is among the first members chosen for a prestigious new leadership program.

Bryan is among 30 individuals chosen by the Virginia Rural Center to establish the inaugural cohort of the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute (VRLI). VRLI is a leadership program that develops and supports highly skilled, highly motivated leaders who are committed to revitalizing their communities across rural Virginia. Other members represent cities and counties across the commonwealth.

Bryan has served UVA Wise since 2013 and now, in her role of director of career discovery and planning, works with students to help them find their career path, gain internship and job experience, create and build resumes and assist in other job and career development. She holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in professional writing from Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pa.

“The Virginia Rural Center recognizes the declining population we are seeing across many of our rural areas, and we are excited and optimistic that VRLI, a program we developed, will directly address this pressing issue. VRLI will focus on leadership data and the skills citizens need to lead long-term economic and community development initiatives in their rural communities.” said Kristie Proctor, executive director of the Virginia Rural Center.

The Inaugural Cohort of VRLI comes from non-profit, public, and private sectors. These leaders span 21 different rural communities across the Commonwealth with diverse backgrounds, ages, employers and skillsets that will assist the cohort to address the issues they face in their communities.

“The overwhelming interest for this program confirmed the need and desire for leadership training for rural communities across the entire Commonwealth,” said Bryan David, chair of the Council for Rural Virginia. “We had an extremely competitive selection process this year, and look forward to the outcomes from this cohort.”

Through 2022, members of the Institute attend a four-session program where they will learn from Virginia’s top experts on economic and community development as well as thorough review of rural issues. They will also have the opportunity to apply their improved skills by working on community impact projects. They will visit five different rural regions across the Commonwealth, including: Southside Virginia, Middle Peninsula/Northern Neck, New River Valley, Shenandoah Valley, and Southwest Virginia. The program also seeks to increase cooperation, collaboration and coordination across a broad array of rural localities.

“We are pleased to develop and launch the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute, and believe this program will build on the success we have created at The Virginia Rural Center. We are optimistic that VRLI will elevate our rural leaders and work to ensure prosperity across the Commonwealth for many years to come,” said Virginia State Senator Frank Ruff, a founding member at the Center for Rural Virginia (CFRV) and current Chairman of CFRV.

A resident of Clarksville, Ruff represents the state’s 15th Senate District, one of the largest and most rural districts in Virginia.

“Rural communities have unique challenges that urban or suburban communities do not face. With each rural community being different, VRLI will help address these unique challenges for each community and build the next generation of rural leaders,” Ruff said.

The Virginia Rural Center’s success with the Virginia Rural Leadership Institute is attributed to the key partners who have worked tirelessly with the Center to bring together the best and brightest for the VRLI curriculum, supporting and providing funding for the program, and recruiting rural leaders in every region of Virginia.

Current sponsors are Appalachian Power Foundation, Appalachian Regional Commission, Dominion Energy Foundation, Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, Liz Povar of RiverLink Group, Microsoft, Mid Atlantic Broadband Corporation, Virginia Community Capital, Virginia Tobacco Revitalization Commission, and Virginia Housing. The Center is continuing to build its list of partners as excitement and interest grow for VRLI.