Kari Beesley, marketing manager for the Saline County Library, has recently completed the year one class of the 32nd annual Community Development Institute at the University of Central Arkansas on Aug. 3.
CDI trains community leaders and economic development professionals on how to strengthen their local economies and build communities. This is achieved by developing the ability of participants to identify community assets, set goals, encourage collaboration and partnerships with stakeholders, and bring communities, organizations and businesses together to respond to a broad range of economic and quality of life issues.
“It was a little humorous when we all introduced ourselves and most people worked with the city chambers or department of health or education. We even had six mayors in our class,” Beesley said. “But, when I stood up and said I am with the Saline County Library, the class chuckled a bit- myself included.
"Most people don’t think about the library being a key role in community development, but we are. Think about all the people we interact with on a daily basis. We have an average of almost 1,000 people in our doors daily. Plus, we connect many local organizations and are a central hub for meeting community needs.”
The complete institute experience is a three-year program, with one week of training per year. Participants move through the program curriculum in cohorts, and are exposed to a comprehensive, applied approach to the field of community and economic development.
Beesley was elected class champion. A class champion is defined as someone engaged, concerned, committed, compassionate and inclusive and who also demonstrates leadership that inspires and unites.
Other Saline County community members who participated in year one class include Jessica Teague, Benton city planner, Jason Brown, Greater Bryant Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, and Chris Treat, Bryant Parks and Recreation parks director.
City of Bryant Mayor Allen Scott completed year two class and City of Bryant Director of Planning and Community Development Truett Smith completed year three class and graduated from the institute.
Dana Poindexter, City of Bryant assistant to the mayor, graduated last year but continued CDI this year with a group of year four, advanced year, participants in which they traveled to a local community and spent one week developing an in-depth community development plan.
UCA is the birthplace for the Community Development Institute, which started in 1987 in partnership with Entergy, Southwestern Bell and ARKLA. Since that time, CDIs have been established in California, Texas, Idaho, Alabama and Illinois, and a national governing and certification body, the Community Development Council has been created.
More information about CDI can be found at www.uca.edu/cdi.