The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute

The VCU Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute within the L. The Grace E. Harris.

Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs promotes the development of current and emerging leaders in Virginia state and local government, private, and nonprofit organizations. Harris Leadership (GEHLI) Institute promotes the development of current and emerging leaders in Virginia state and local government, academic institutions, public, private and nonprofit organizations, and commu

Operating as usual


Reflecting on the enlightening conversations and invaluable insights shared during the VCU Leadership Development Program's panel session with esteemed Deans. Grateful for the opportunity to embrace the power of leadership and knowledge exchange!


It has been a great day for the 2024 CMA ANNUAL MEETING! We have been diving into conflict and conversations with “Effectively Managing Workplace Conflict” with a self-assessment, talked about “Difficult Conversations in the Workplace”, and ended with a “Managing Conflict Panel Discussion”. The conversation, networking, and camaraderie have been fantastic.

Thank you to the Commonwealth Managers Associationfor planning and putting on a superb day for CMI alums and managers in state government.


We're thrilled to shine a spotlight on Scott Pattison, the Deputy Executive Director of the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC), as we celebrate having his expertise a part of our Virginia Executive Institute (VEI) for 25 years! With a wealth of experience in state finance issues, particularly state taxation, budget, and debt matters, Scott stands as a pivotal national policy expert on state and local public finance for the state of Virginia.

As a proud alumnus of the Virginia Executive Institute (VEI), Scott has been an invaluable asset, sharing his expertise and insights on financial trends in Virginia for an impressive 25 years. His dedication to the field and unwavering commitment to excellence serve as an inspiration to us all.

Join us in applauding Scott's remarkable achievement as a key VEI speaker for the past 25 years and the significant impact he continues to make for those a part of the VEI experience. Congratulations, Scott, on your continued impact and commitment to advancing financial understanding and policy development, and thank you for coming to speak at VEI since 1999.

Training Facilitator, Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute 04/29/2024

We are ! Know anyone who might be interested?

The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute (GEHLI) is hiring for a Training Facilitator! This training facilitator position, which has consulting responsibilities, will be pivotal in designing, writing, delivering, and evaluating leadership development training, team-building sessions, and assessment debriefs. The position will collaborate with various stakeholders to assess training needs, develop engaging curricula, and ensure that training participants have the necessary tools and knowledge to excel in their roles.

The selected candidate will have the opportunity to teach, interact with, and learn from exceptional individuals from all over the Commonwealth of Virginia. Please help us spread the word by sharing this post with anyone who might be interested.

See the job posting here, and please share it with your network!

Training Facilitator, Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute SummaryThe L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs invites applications for a Training Facilitator, Grace E. Harris Leadership Insti...


We're thrilled to announce Terry Worrell as the new program facilitator for our HIGHER Ground Leadership Development Program. Terry, an alumna of the program herself, brings a wealth of experience and insights, having graduated in 2012.

At our recent retreat, Terry was introduced to the class, igniting excitement and anticipation for the journey ahead. With her firsthand knowledge and passion for empowering women in leadership, we're confident that Terry will inspire and guide our participants to reach new heights.

Welcome aboard, Terry! Here's to an incredible journey of growth and empowerment together.


“Don’t limit yourself. Many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, remember, you can achieve.” -Mary Kay Ash

It's all about the mindset. Believing in yourself and your abilities can open up a world of possibilities. When you remove those self-imposed limitations, you allow yourself to reach new heights and accomplish things you never thought possible. It's a reminder to always strive for greatness and never underestimate the power of your own beliefs.


A heartfelt thank you to our incredible speakers at the HIGHER Ground Leadership Retreat in March. Despite the rainy weather, Greg Huber kicked off the day with energizing team-building activities, fostering connections and collaboration among us.

Thurmond Alford then guided the class through invaluable mindfulness tools, equipping our leaders with inner strength and clarity for their leadership journeys ahead. His insights were
truly transformative.

And last but certainly not least, a huge shoutout to Anda Webb (our returning speaker) for her dedicated review of the 360 Feedback Reports and her invaluable one-on-one coaching sessions. Anda, your support and guidance continue to empower our class to reach new heights in their leadership roles.

Thank you all for sharing your expertise and wisdom with the Class of 2024. Together, these women continue to forge a path towards greater leadership excellence!


Simply reflecting on the serene moments spent at our HIGHER Ground Leadership Retreat at the end of March. Despite the rainy weather, it was a two-day experience filled with introspection, personal growth, the forging of strong bonds, and lots of crafts!

From team-building activities that strengthened the class cohesion to the inspiring vision board party where our ladies connected with alumni, every moment was a testament to the power of female leadership and community.

As we reminisced on the leadership path walked by each member, the laughter shared, and the insightful conversations we had, Liz, Terry, and Sherida eagerly anticipate the reunion with the Class of 2024 in early May! The Grace E. Harris Leadership team is counting down the days until we come together once again, ready to continue our journey of growth and empowerment.


Congratulations to the graduates of the Certified Planning Commissioners Program! Your dedication and hard work have paid off, equipping yourselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in the field of planning and development. Your commitment to enhancing communities and shaping sustainable futures is truly commendable. Wishing you all continued success!


Calling All Guest Presenters! The 18th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference celebrates the 25th Anniversary of The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, reflecting decades of poised leadership: Cultivating Graceful Leaders: A Legacy of 25 Years. This year, we are aiming for the stars with the goal of helping our attendees kick off a new era of leadership. You won't want to miss this opportunity to be a guest speaker at this amazing event.

We are seeking ambitious women and courageous leaders ready to share their journeys through life's experiences with women of all diverse backgrounds. We are looking for speakers with expertise in various topics, including integrating mind, body, and soul, retaining and developing women leaders, building self-confidence, elevating her: building your brand, executive presence, building professional relationships, and others.

Please complete the Call for Proposals form here:

Read and learn more here:

For questions, please contact Vickisha Harris at [email protected]


Save the Date for the 18th Annual Higher Ground Women's Leadership Conference! The 18th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute with a theme reflecting decades of poised leadership, Cultivating Graceful Leaders: A Legacy of 25 Years. It’s all happening on November 1st, 2024 from 8am-4pm, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center! Check out our website for more info:


It was such a pleasure having Chris at our Commonwealth Management Institute! Thank you, Chris, for your thoughtful and engaging participation. We can't wait to see you soar!

We’re excited to announce that our Criminal Investigations Unit Supervisory Special Agent, Chris Harris, has graduated from the Commonwealth Management Institute! CMI is one of many professional development courses offered through The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University , and focuses on the design, implementation and evaluation of public programs and policies. Congratulations, Agent Harris!


Congratulations Fundamental for Supervisor Winter 2024 class! Our graduated completed a three day supervisory training from March 26 through March 28.
Please help us congratulate a dynamic and involved group of new supervisors:
Issame Sophie Abisaab RN
Courtney Ayers
Wendy Baker
Cassie Beamon, RN
Karen Bergin, MBA
Robbyn Blackwell
Crystal Brown
McKayla Burnett, MSW
Wendy Duncun
Aubrey Gambil,MPH
Mugure Gatimu-Waititu, MBA, MSc.
Cathy Green, MBA
Adrienne Howard, MBA
Shaderra Jefferson
Melissa Jones
Tamara Jones
Stephanie Keuther
Stephanie Mbengue
Camille McCray, MPH
Alyssa Menard
Jonathan Mondrey, MSA
Ruth Morrison
Matthew Power
Thomas Sakach
Erika Sisson, MBA
Gregory Stanford
Laura Steeves
Qadira Stewart, MHA, DHSc
Kristin Swynford, MA
Ginger Terrell
Michael Vannoy
Robert Watts
Judi Whitt
Lee Wilcox
Taylor Young, DVM


"At some point in a state worker's career, they should be required to take a VCU professional development course. This class expounded on issues that are weakening agencies every day. I was allowed to listen and learn new strategies and skills which I plan to implement during the course of my career." - CMI Spring 2024 Participant

Only a few spots remain for the 2024 CMI Summer Course! Join us or send a member of your team for this dynamic development course.

The CMI program offers a variety of leadership workshops and assessments catered to the needs of managers throughout the Commonwealth.
- 360 Assessment:
- DISC Assessment
- Recruiting, Onboarding, and Retaining Happy Employees
- Do the Right Thing: Ethical decisions
- Difficult Conversations
- Change and Chaos management

This program provides an excellent opportunity for professional development and networking while offering CEUs and SHRM PDCs.

Learn more here and apply by Friday, April 19th, 2024:


The Summer 2024 Commonwealth Management Institute (CMI) is open for registration! CMI is a valued avenue for professional development for managers in Virginia state government to increase their ability to effectively design, implement, and evaluate public programs and policies. Join us or consider sending members of your agency. Application Deadline Friday April 19th! Read more and Apply here:


Excited to have an activity that reflects on the insightful discussion we had at the HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Development program, where we delved into understanding different generations in the workplace. The dynamic Class of 2024 went back in time to explore the diverse perspectives and experiences across generations; this was truly an eye-opening reminder on the power of embracing inclusivity and leveraging our differences as strengths. Here's to fostering an environment of collaboration, mutual respect, and continuous learning as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of generational leadership together!


You are cordially invited to the 18th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference on November 1st, 2024!

This year, we celebrate the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute's 25th Anniversary with the theme, "Cultivating Graceful Leaders: A Legacy of 25 Years".

Join us in continuing Dr. Harris’ legacy and spirit of collaboration, equity, and partnership, which she has modeled throughout her service to the university and the Greater Richmond Community.

More details to come!


A heartfelt thank you to our extraordinary guest speaker, James Wasilewski, who shared invaluable insights at the HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Development program earlier this March. James spoke to our class on leadership branding, kept the class’s focus despite the projector troubles, and brought a dynamic touch to the topic with his improv experience. Your expertise and passion for empowering leaders has left an indelible mark on our journey towards excellence.

Additionally, a special shoutout to our talented guest photographer. James Haskins, who captured our class headshots with such finesse and grace. Your artistry has beautifully portrayed each woman in our program, providing them with opportunities for a refreshed image for their LinkedIn profiles and additional professional networking opportunities.

Thank you to both for your valuable time at HIGHER Ground!

Photo s of James W. (right) and James Haskins (left):


Feeling lucky this St. Patrick's Day to have crossed paths with the vibrant and inspiring Class of 2024 at the HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Development program. The Grace E. Harris Leadership team is truly grateful to have had the opportunity to connect, learn, and grow alongside such a remarkable group of women. Your passion, enthusiasm, and unwavering dedication to leadership excellence have infused our journey with boundless energy and optimism. Here's to the luck of the Irish and the bright future ahead as we continue to empower one another on this incredible adventure!


We are excited to announce that the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute Professional Development Courses are open for Registration! Develop yourself or your colleague in one of our enriching leadership development courses. Read and learn more:


Unlocking the art of navigating tough talks with grace and empathy with Patrick Patrong's captivating session, "Difficult Conversations with Challenging Personalities."


The Spring 2024 Commonwealth Management Institute participants are on a journey of self-discovery and growth! Uncover your strengths, identify areas for development, and propel your leadership journey to new heights by applying to the Summer CMI Program!


LUEP - The Land Use Education Program

Join us in congratulating Dr. Mike Chandler on his retirement after 40 years of educating 15,000 Virginians in land use. Over his 43-year career, Dr. Chandler has trained and educated more than 15,000 Virginians in matters involving land use planning and zoning practices. The Wilder School is grateful for all he has done for Virginians, LUEP, and VCU.

Please welcome the new Land Use Education Director, Will Cockrell! Will has worked with the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC), managed the Charlottesville-Albemarle Metropolitan Planning Organization (CA-MPO), has worked as the senior planner for Louisa County, and now works as a consulting with EPR, P.C., where he assists localities with identifying and achieving their goals. With national experience, Will brings practical experience into the classroom to help students better understand the planning field and the realities of local governance.

Read more about Dr. Chandler, see the LUEP programs open for registration, and meet the new LUEP director here:


True leadership is not merely about holding a position of authority or power; rather, it is about having a deep passion and commitment to a vision or cause. A leader who is truly passionate about their vision will find the courage to overcome obstacles and challenges, even when their position or authority is not enough to guarantee success.


Exciting News Alert!

The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute - who has recently merged with the Performance Management Group - is thrilled to celebrate our Virginia Executive Institute alumnus, John Northon, as he takes on a new role as the Emergency Preparedness Manager for the City of Newport News!
Having recently graduated from the Virginia Executive Institute program at the end of 2023, we hope John will leverage his expertise in the program, as well as his professional experiences in emergency management, to serve the resilient community of Newport News.

Congratulations John!


Dr. Rita Pierson began her career in 1972, teaching in elementary, junior high, and special education over the years. She also served as a school counselor, assistant principal, testing coordinator, and consultant. From the time she started, she was an advocate for children in every role she held. She had a desire to get to know her students and show them the support they needed while telling them they matter in their own growth.

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Videos (show all)

Unlocking the art of navigating tough talks with grace and empathy with Patrick Patrong's captivating session, "Difficul...
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One of our teams in the VCU Leadership Development Program had their project ‘Whistles Against Street Harassment’ highli...
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Save the Date! Mark your calendar and plan now to attend the 16th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference. Fr...
The 15th Annual HIGHER Ground Women's Leadership Conference is fast approaching on November 5th!! Here's a special messa...
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MPLI 2016 Graduation




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