Dr. Kristen Westover, Class of 2013
Dr. Kristen Westover
President, Mountain Empire Community College
Big Stone Gap, VA
What is new and exciting with you now or since your time with Lead Virginia?
In 2017, I was selected as the 7th President of Mountain Empire Community College and I relocated with my family from Martinsville, Va. to Big Stone Gap, Va. to begin this position.
How did Lead Virginia shape you as a leader?
I learned about the diversity of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the culture of the people that live within each region, the opportunities and challenges, the innovations and the history. I was able to better understand each region’s educational opportunities, economic development initiatives, health care prospects and infrastructure.
Since Lead Virginia, how have you put your social capital to work?
I have always been a bit of an introvert, but Lead Virginia helped me build a network of colleagues form diverse backgrounds. Had I not had such a good experience in the class, I likely would have never taken risks in pursuing professional opportunities that helped me grow as a leader. I stay connected to classmates and newer class members of Lead Virginia through the common bond of the experiences we shared and to aid in the development of each member’s region.
What were your expectations of Lead Virginia prior to beginning the program? Did the program exceed or meet your expectations?
I thought it would be “another one of those leadership development programs” until a colleague I trusted shared her experience with me and I was invited to visit with former alumni. The program totally exceeded all of my expectations and our class formed a strong bond.
What was your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from Lead Virginia that continues to stick with you today?
The stark contrast between the areas that are thriving economically and those that are struggling economically was the most impactful takeaway for me. The most important lesson I learned from my Lead Virginia experience is the power of networking and how intentional networking can be used to improve conditions of communities.