LeadAR Alumni Spotlight: Kandi Williams
Kandi Williams, LeadAR Class 16, has been working in the agriculture industry for over 20 years. Currently, she works for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in collaboration with Silas H. Hunt CDC as an Extension Program Aide. Kandi serves individuals and communities all across Southwest Arkansas.
Over the years, she has received numerous awards related to service including the USDA Natural Resources and Conservation Service Award, the And Justice For All Award, and the UACCH Random Act of Kindness Award.
Kandi attended the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She is the proud mother of two daughters and one son. For Kandi, leadership is inextricably tied to community and economic development. We asked her to reflect on her LeadAR experience and how this experience impacts her life today. We’ve shared some of her answers below.
What leadership roles or positions have you held/ currently hold?
I work as the Outreach Coordinator for the "Keeping it in the Family" Sustainable Forestry and African‐American Land Retention Program (SFLR). As the KIITF Outreach Coordinator, I provide one‐on‐one assistance, outreach education and technical assistance to farmers and landowners.
Why did you choose to be a part of the LeadAR program?
I was seeking a way to maximize my networking and communication skills in order to help address major issues in the counties that I serve. I was searching for professional development training that would allow me to grow as a person, test my self‐confidence, and engage in new activities that would help develop my outreach efforts and technical assistance that I provide. That’s when I turned to LeadAR.
How did your LeadAR experience impact your professional life?
LeadAR was an amazing, life‐changing experience for me. Each session left an impact and desire to bring sustainable resources to the communities where I live and work. For me, the Rural Health session held in Mena had the biggest impact. It inspired me to look more closely at the prevalence of mental issues in the state. In my profession, it’s important to meet clients where they are at in order to help them accomplish their goals.
What is a significant LeadAR memory or moment that you still think about today?
My most memorable experience was the National Study Tour and the Florida homestay. During the Florida homestay, we were hosted by Erin Freel and her husband Rob Mann. It was an amazing experience to get to know Erin and learn about her accomplishments revolving around healthy living. She shared her journey of losing over 100 pounds and the journal she kept to inspire others. She is a real estate agent and owns a marketing firm all while actively participating in Ironman Triathlon competitions throughout the country.
What advice would you give to an up and coming leader?
It’s important to be a team player. Lead by example, be innovative, don’t take all the credit, and be willing to empower others in setting and accomplishing goals.
What leadership quality do you admire most in others?
Being an inspiration to others is the leadership quality that I admire most. If you are able to encourage people to believe in themselves, you can make a greater impact within the community.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
Normally people are surprised that I am the mother of three amazing college students.
What is one crucial ingredient for true happiness?
We all go through life’s challenges. I have found when life doesn’t work out as planned, have a backup plan and be ready to get back up and try again. When life gets hard, take it moment by moment and know that hardships won’t last forever. Just focus on the simple things that you can control. Establishing healthy routines and lifestyle habits can help you more adequately prevail over adversity.
How can leadership help move communities and the state of Arkansas forward?
Great leadership will teach people of all ages and backgrounds how to have a voice and input within their own communities. The Cooperative Extension Service is an organization that has tools and resources available to make people feel inclusive and proud to live within the great state of Arkansas.
What else do you want people to know?
LeadAR was an fantastic investment filled with activities that developed my leadership and communication skills. As a result of LeadAR, I feel confident in my ability to build thriving communities.