Board Spotlight: Alan Bloomgarden, Coordinator of Community-Based Learning at Mt. Holyoke College

LPV: What leadership skills are you currently emphasizing at MHC?

AB: There are two things that I am emphasizing extensively: 1) facilitating collaboration across diverse constituents and 2) conflict resolution. Collaboration means different things to the different students I work with, but for all of them it means assisting people with different resources and perspectives on social issues to work together. I am teaching students strategies on how to bring groups together and make them productive, despite the identity of organizational differences. The other high priority in working with both students and community partners is conflict resolution. What do you do when things aren’t going well? How do you prevent tension from reaching a level that cannot be resolved? Instead, how do you be proactive in addressing the natural differences that people in organizations have from one another early enough in the process to resolve them?

LPV: What traits do emerging leaders in the Pioneer Valley need to at this point in time?

AB: I think something particular to our region is the location of a very large, culturally important education sector. That means that we need leaders who understand the proper balance and relationship between outcomes and actions, as well as the conversation about process and inclusion. In an area where there is so many educated people, there is a lot of attention paid to process, and that’s sometimes seen as at odds with outcomes. I don’t think it’s helpful for leaders to view those two things as in conflict with one another. Instead, leaders in this area have to understand the value of both.

LPV: What makes LPV essential to leadership development in the area?

AB: Above and beyond developing leaders by giving them leadership skills, LPV focuses on community stewardship. The idea is that we’re all responsible for developing and applying leadership skills explicitly for the purpose of managing and owning the future of our region. What makes LPV compelling and unique is that focus on community stewardship, or trusteeship. There is a question we have asked of the Board and our participants: If we own responsibility collectively for the future of our region, what would we do differently?

LPV: What led to your involvement as a board member of LPV?

AB: I see communities as having assets that cross the boundaries and silos that we all work in. I work in the education sector, but I have always been interested in how education organizations collaborate with non-profits and businesses. Because I work at those junctures as the Director of Community Engagement, I see the potential of leadership development for enabling individuals in those sectors to also see those intersections. LPV very early on seemed to me as a way to promote collaboration across all sectors in this region that will improve both life and sustainability.