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UA Little Rock Launches Leadership Academy to Provide Professional Development Opportunities for Business Community

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has launched a new Leadership Academy to provide customized and affordable professional development training for local businesses and organizations.

The Leadership Academy provides leadership development to support professional growth within the organization. The Leadership Academy offers a variety of training in areas including business decision-making, personnel management, and communication. Courses are offered in person or in hybrid learning.

“The need for the Leadership Academy came from the industry,” said Dr. Otmar Varela, director of the Leadership Academy and professor of management. “After conducting several focus groups last year with local business experts in leadership development, we realized the need for the academy. We believe this program offers a tremendous opportunity to provide unique training for the business community.”

The UA Little Rock Leadership Academy is a joint effort between the School of Business, the Department of Applied Communication, and the Office of Extended Education.

“I love that the School of Business and the Department of Applied Communication are teaming up on this venture,” said Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter, chair of the Department of Applied Communication. “We both have offered these types of workshops separately for years, but teaming up allows us to expand our offerings and tailor them to the needs of specific businesses in the community.”

Training programs are tailor-made for each organization. The Leadership Academy experience begins with a client meeting to understand their specific needs. An expert facilitator will assess the organization and collaborate with the clients to create a custom-learning curriculum that supports the needs and goals of the organization. Clients are able to design their own curriculum and set the schedule and learning method that best fits their organization.

Courses are offered in a variety of topics including strategic decision-making, performance management, and public speaking for professionals, as well as diversity management, emotional intelligence, and workforce engagement. The Leadership Academy faculty members will also work with organizations to create a personalized training that adapts to the attributes of participants.

“I am thrilled that the School of Business and the Department of Applied Communication will be offering the Leadership Academy to Little Rock,” said Dr. Jane Wayland, dean of the College of Business, Health, and Human Services. “Businesses will be able to customize the training they need at a reasonable cost. High-quality instruction is assured by using full-time faculty who are experts in their fields.”

The faculty instructors in the Leadership Academy include Drs. Naeem Bajwa, Richard Woodridge, and Otmar Varela from the School of Business as well as Drs. April Chatham-Carpenter, Gerald Driskill, Kristen McIntyre, Julien Mirivel, Bailey Oliver, Avinash Thombre, and Carol Thompson from the Department of Applied Communication. Christine Cotton serves as the partner from the Extended Education office.

McIntyre, director of UA Little Rock’s Communication Skill Center, has collaborated with Varela for many years on offering communication workshops to business students and is excited to see the effort expand to the Leadership Academy.

“It’s exciting to see our years of collaboration together formalized in the offering of such a valuable program,” she said.

For more information on the Leadership Academy, including a free assessment of your organization’s training needs, contact Dr. Otmar Varela at or visit the Leadership Academy’s website.