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Women Leading Today

From March issue African American Point of View

by: Lora Wondolowski

I have to say that I was dreading writing an article for Women’s History Month this year.  Regardless of your political leanings it was a bruising year for women.  We witnessed a barrage of anti-female sentiments from political candidates and voters throughout the year.  Sexual assault crisis hotlines experienced a 30-40% increase in calls this fall.  Women’s aspirations of seeing a woman break the highest glass ceiling were dashed.  How do women heal and lead?

In 1912 the women’s suffrage movement was frustrated with their lack of progress after years of advocating for the vote.  Alice Paul and Lucy Burns proposed an “audacious” and massive march on Washington to coincide with Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration.  Their group got to work organizing this massive march.  Their march in March of 1913 drew 8,000 marchers including Helen Keller, Nellie Bly, and Ida Wells and a half-million spectators. Additionally, a group hiked in the cold from New York to the march in Washington, covering 234 miles in 17 days!    This was a huge display at the time that helped the movement continue and eventually win the vote in 1919.

Earlier in January of this year, two women leaders took the world by surprise organizing the largest protest march ever. More than a half-million marchers descended on DC while millions of others joined affinity marches around the world.  The march in my little Greenfield, MA drew roughly 2,500 people.  It was in inspiring show of women’s leadership and perseverance around the world.

The other stand out at the event was the sea of pink kitty hats worn by most of the marchers.  Jayna Zwiman and Krista Shuh designed the hat’s pattern with the owner of The Little Knittery in LA.  They made the pattern available for free online and organized hundreds of knit-alongs around the country.  Craft stores and knitting shops around the country reported a shortage of pink yarn in the weeks leading up to the march.

In LPV we have been discussing the leadership capacity of advocacy.  Advocacy is an important skill for leaders—it is the act of giving voice to your intentions.  Leaders need to be advocates in order to engage others in their vision.  An advocate should be clear, compelling, credible, and committed.  The message of the women’s march was “women’s rights are human rights.”  This was a clear, compelling message from committed leaders that engaged others.

The Women’s March showed the world that women’s leadership has not gone away in the face of an atmosphere that was increasingly hostile to women and our rights.  The spirit of the early suffragists is alive in a new generation of women leaders who are advocating for their basic rights and dignity in a hostile and divided world.  Their leadership is giving hope to many that despite steps backwards, new women leaders have stepped up to make a difference.

Boston-Based Leadership Experts Present “Science of Leadership”


Boston-Based Leadership Experts Present “Science of Leadership

Maximizing Your Human Quotient Emphasized

Lora Wondolowski, Executive Director                                                              (413) 737-3876 or c: (413) 695-2038

Feb. 22, 2017                                                                                                       

SPRINGFIELD, MA— Leadership Pioneer Valley will host a three-part leadership development series on March 6, 13, and 20th from 5:30- 8:00 pm at the Scibelli Enterprise Center in Springfield. The series will be led by Strategy of Mind, a global leadership and team development firm based in Boston. The company specializes in building the Human Quotient, a concept they created that refers to a unique set of evidence-based qualitative skills crucial for professional success. They work across a diverse range of industries and with companies of all shapes and sizes.  This innovative and dynamic series will focus on the science of leadership and best practices for 21st Century leaders.  Topics include understanding of the “human quotient”, mission-driven leadership, and managing stress.

The session leaders include David Brendel and Springfield-native Ryan Stelzer.  David is a certified executive coach, psychiatrist, and philosophical counselor. David specializes in coaching executives and other high-level professionals on leadership development and career transition. David writes about his approach to coaching in frequent blog articles for the Harvard Business Review and other publications. David earned an MD from Harvard Medical School and a PhD in philosophy from the University of Chicago.  Ryan is a management consultant who specializes in both individual and organizational performance improvement. Prior to his work in consulting, Ryan served at The White House as a Presidential Management Fellow during the Obama Administration. Ryan holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and undergraduate degrees from Boston University and the University of Cambridge in the UK. He has written articles for various publications.

Dinner will be included in the event, which costs $100 for general admission, or $75 for Leadership Pioneer Valley members. Tickets can be purchased at

Leadership Pioneer Valley is a non-profit that works to identify, develop, and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region.

The New Workplace: An Evolving Professional Environment

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the “new workplace” and what it is evolving into.  I know you are conjuring in your mind something akin to the Jetsons with robots scampering around and lots of glass.  As much as I would love a robot to get me coffee in the morning (no assistants at this non-profit), the evolving workplace is happening right now and isn’t all about technology.  There are a number of trends emerging that affect workers and business alike including: multi-generational workplaces, diversity of the workforce, and technology.

Okay, I know that most of the hoopla is around Millennials in the workplace, but the fact is that we now have four generations in the workplace: Traditionalists (born before 1946), Baby Boomers (1945-1964), Generation X (1965-1984), and Millennials (1984-2000).  Right now the focus is on Millennials but the real issue is accommodating and working with folks from so many different frames of reference and tendencies.  It is not helpful for so much energy being taken up with rants about why all the other generations “hate Millennials.” To succeed in this workplace stew, we need better awareness of the difference, similarities, and motivators of each generation.

Demographic shifts in this country tell the story of increasing diversity, especially among younger generations, which is driving increased diversity in the workplace.  As Baby Boomers and Traditionalists retire, younger and more diverse populations will be moving into the workplace.  This is also happening at a time when more companies see the value of diversity and the buying power of People of Color is growing; demanding products and companies that meet their needs.  The second part of the equation is women.  More women than ever are in the workplace and are going to college while the participation among men in the workforce and in higher education is on the decline.  Fewer women are completely stepping out the workforce after the birth of a child which will shift policies around work/family balance.

The last factor to consider is technology.  The use of technology in the office has become ubiquitous in a way that was hard to imagine just twenty years ago.  Videoconferencing, smart phones, and other connectivity applications are allowing workers to exist remotely.  There are also increasingly better tools for collaboration.  This is reshaping personnel policies and creating new possibilities.  Workers are arriving with their own technology which is forcing companies to figure out how to integrate our tablets and other devices into the networks.  The cost of technology will be an increasing cost for businesses whether it is just the cost of keeping up or training workers.  With such rapid change, it is hard to imagine how the workplace will look in 20 years.

The 21st century workplace is evolving before our eyes becoming more diverse and technology-driven.  Understanding how to navigate these new waters will be incumbent on leaders to be aware-of and responsive to the trends.  Workers also need to be aware of how this will affect them to allow them to pivot and take advantage of new opportunities.  The companies and leaders of the Pioneer Valley can’t afford to ignore the trends or we will be left behind.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Unveils 5th Anniversary Class

37 Emerging Leaders Participating

HOLYOKE, MA — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) officially kicked-off their program and introduced the Class of 2017 on Sept. 27 at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke at 5:30 pm at its annual Reach Beyond Reception. The reception marked the inception of an intensive, ten-month regional leadership development curriculum for the new cohort. This year marks the 5th Anniversary of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

LPV’s regional leadership development program annually features a diverse class from Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin Counties—representing private, nonprofit, educational and public organizations. This year’s class includes 37 emerging leaders from the Pioneer Valley that filled the room with energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to the future of the region.

“The LPV Class of 2017 represents the future of our region,” commented Leadership Pioneer Valley Executive Director, Lora Wondolowski. “They bring a wide variety of backgrounds and skills to bear while all of them are committed to deepening their community involvement. With LPV in their toolboxes, they will go far.”

Leadership Pioneer Valley addresses the critical need to build a diverse network of leaders who aspire to work together across traditional barriers to strengthen the region. The region-specific curriculum is designed to help the participants refine their leadership skills, broaden connections, and develop a greater commitment to community trusteeship and inclusion within the Pioneer Valley.

In January of 2014, Class of 2014 member Isabel Serrazina passed away suddenly.  To honor her memory and leadership, fellow-class members, alumni, and the board created the Serrazina Scholarship Fund to enable potential participants to attend LPV.  This year’s annual Serrazina Scholarship was awarded to Intiya Isaza-Figueroa, who works for Home City Housing to provide housing for low-income individuals and families.  Intiya embodies Isabel Serrazina’s longtime work on low-income housing issues in Springfield.

LPV Class of 2017 Participants

Galina Abashina of Westfield Jewish Family Service of Western MA
Ryan Barry of Easthampton Bulkley Richardson & Gelinas LLP
Latoya Bosworth of Chicopee Springfield Public Schools
Chelan Brown of Springfield MGM Springfield
Drew Christensen of E. Longmeadow MassMutual
Sarah Crouse of Granby Appleton Corp
Tasheena Davis of Springfield City of Springfield
Morgan Drewniany of Westfield Springfield Cultural District
Patrick Egan of Longmeadow YWCA
James Farrell of Chicopee Health New England
Jillian Ferguson of Northampton Chicopee Office of Community Development
Melissa Fernette of Greenfield Baystate Franklin Medical Center
Dawn Gatzounas of S. Hadley Cooley Dickinson Hospital
Emily Gaylord of Easthampton Center for Ecological Technology
Johnathan Griffin of Greenfield UMass Amherst
Gillian Hinkson of Springfield State of MA
Mark Hudgik of Hadley Greenfield Community College
Justin Hurst of Springfield Self-employed
Intiya Isaza-Figueroa of Holyoke Home City Housing
Kimberly Lavallee of E. Longmeadow Greater Springfield YMCA
Yaileen Medina of Springfield MassMutual
Daniel Nietsche of Greenfield Franklin Regional Council of Governments
John O’Leary of Westwood Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Julia Ortiz of Springfield Springfield Housing Authority
Katherine Person of Easthampton Veterans Inc.
Karen Pohlman of Northampton Baystate Health
William Reichelt of West Springfield Town of West Springfield
Jessica Roncarati-Howe of Chicopee Chicopee Chamber of Commerce
Kristine Rose of Holyoke Mount Holyoke College
Daniel Schwarting of Longmeadow ISO New England
Jill Scibelli of E. Longmeadow Baystate Health
Jane Sicard of Holyoke Baystate Health
Renee Tastad of Holyoke Holyoke Community College
Giselle Vizcarrondo of Springfield Self-employed
Bianca Walker of Chicopee Alzheimer’s Association
Laura Walsh of Springfield City of Springfield
Brian Westerlind of Agawam The Markens Group, Inc


About Leadership Pioneer Valley:
The mission of Leadership Pioneer Valley is to identify, develop and connect diverse leaders to strengthen the region. Formed in 2010 to fill a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region, Leadership Pioneer Valley combines both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning at different locations throughout the Valley. The curriculum is designed to foster the skills, collaboration, and commitment needed to further a vibrant and culturally competent Pioneer Valley. The inaugural class launched in the fall of 2011.

Bridging Divides

By: Lora Wondolowski

(This piece was featured in the African American American Point of View May 2016 Issue)

Like many of you and Americans around the country, I’ve been thinking a lot about the national elections.  As someone who worked for political organizations, it is disheartening to watch the kind of rhetoric, violence, and tone of this year’s elections.  I know that I am not alone in that feeling and observation.  As the director of an organization that teaches leadership, it has been hard to watch folks exhibit what we would call negative leadership.  I haven’t known how to wade into this conversation or do more than wring my hands until last night.

I was fortunate to be invited to meet Mark Gerzon the author of the book The Reunited States of America and also listen to him address an overflowing crowd in Hartford about his ideas on bridging the partisan divide.  Gerzon believes that civic leadership organizations like ours are already doing the work to bridge divides and can be the key to rebuilding our communities.  I couldn’t agree with him more.

This election cycle has surfaced some of the worst traits in Americans and perpetuated the idea that the world is divided into two camps that are diametrically opposed.   At the same time, we have become more and more segregated in this country—only listening to certain radio stations or TV that agrees with us, living in towns that are liberal or conservative based on our beliefs, and using social media as an echo-chamber with like-minded folks.  There is absolutely polarization going on, but at the same time there are many that fall into neither “camp.”  Hence, the fact that Gallup recently found that 42% of voters are independent, which is an historic high.

How do we engage the growing middle and create a third way?  Gerzon believes that only through dialogue and not debate can we build bridges of trust and collaboration that will knit our communities back together.  I whole heartedly agree with him and see it happening every month in our core leadership program.  We bring together 30-40 individuals from different employment sectors, geographies, ages, cultural backgrounds to learn, collaborate, and problem-solve.  I know that our participants don’t all belong to the same party or agree on issues but they are still able to come together without partisan politics ever entering the conversation.  We explore together some of the challenges faced by our communities and region.  We don’t purport to have the solutions but instead, ask them to be part of the conversation and problem-solving.  This is the best way to create a new way that is actually an old way.

It is easy to feel like things are broken beyond repair in America, but I am feeling hopeful again.  Leadership Pioneer Valley and the hundreds of other community leadership programs around the country are already doing the work that connects people in meaningful ways across divides to tackle community challenges.  We have the opportunity this year and after Election Day to get to work in a more deliberate way that engages more people in the dialogues that we are already engaged in.

Join the conversation: we are now accepting applications on our website until July 1 for the 5th Anniversary Class of Leadership Pioneer Valley.

Leadership Pioneer Valley Recruiting for Class of 2017

SPRINGFIELD — Leadership Pioneer Valley (LPV) is now accepting applications for enrollment in its class of 2017. The regional leadership-development program begins in September.

LPV utilizes a 10-month, topically relevant, ever-changing curriculum designed to challenge and engage emerging leaders from all sectors of the community within the Pioneer Valley region. The curriculum consists of both classroom and hands-on, experiential learning through retreats, day-long seminars, field experiences, and team projects. To date, more than 180 individuals representing more than 82 companies, organizations, and municipalities have participated.

LPV is seeking applicants from nonprofits, businesses, and government who are eager to increase their leadership skills and take action to better the region. Applicants are considered in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity by employment sector, geography, race, gender, and sexual orientation. Emerging leaders, mid-career professionals with leadership potential, and those looking to better the Pioneer Valley should consider applying.

In its five years running, the program has filled a critical need for a leadership program that builds a network of emerging leaders to address the challenges and opportunities of the region. Fifty-three percent of alumni have a new leadership role at work, 64% have joined a new board of directors, and 99% made new, meaningful connections.

The deadline for LPV class of 2017 applications is July 1. Applications and further information can be found

Challenge Day 3: Creativity

challenge day 3 collage

“Creativity isn’t just doing art, it’s a mindset,” executive director Lora Wondolowski told the Leadership Pioneer Valley Class of 2016 on February 12th.

That was the theme of Leadership Pioneer Valley’s most recent session: Creativity. The Class of 2016 spent the day at Holyoke Community College, exploring the interconnected role creativity plays in leadership through hands on activities, physical exercises and group collaborative work. The trainer, Izzy Gesell, used improv as a vehicle throughout the day for connecting leadership to creativity. He utilized volunteers from the groups to demonstrate techniques and practices, and then had the groups make use of the terms, approaches and techniques they had learned.

Leadership and creativity may not seem like an obvious connection. But creativity and leadership, the class learned, go hand in hand. Creative leadership is characterized by a few specific traits: fluency, flexibility and uniqueness. Fluency is the ability to come up with lots of ideas instead of getting hung up on the first one that comes by. Flexibility is the ability to create ideas from multiple perspectives, and uniqueness is the key trait of being able to generate ideas that are uncommon. Combined, these traits are key to innovation and problem-solving. They help leaders get out of rigid thinking and allow them to approach ideas in a way they haven’t before. Today’s leaders need to be creative.

Gesell said, “For most folks, the stuck is the stop” and encouraged the participants to persevere and find creative approaches to discussions and problems when they get stuck on a project instead of shutting down.

They were eager to try to do so, and they successfully did, exercise after exercise. The mood was light and full of curiosity as the class laughed, smiled and engaged. It was clear by the end of the day that for the class, creativity no longer had the same meaning. Creativity wasn’t to be dreaded, and definitely wasn’t something that had no place in leadership or business. Creativity was a tool they had been given and now knew fully how to use.

The next Challenge Day is May 20th, and will focus on Skillful Negotiations. Meanwhile, the class of 2016 will be participating in two Field Experience Days, one in March and one in April. The former will focus on Holyoke and Chicopee, and the latter will concentrate on Franklin County.