LeadAR Alumni Spotlight: Ann Owen
In this month’s LeadAR Alumni Spotlight, we talk with Ann Owen of LeadAR Class 11. Owen recently joined the staff at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock as the first-ever Sustainability Coordinator. In this part-time, volunteer position, Owen will coordinate various creation care efforts, serve as a liaison between various departments, and promote efforts to the wider community. A member of Presbyterian Church with her husband Rick since 2006, Owen started the current Environmental Stewardship group 10 years ago. These efforts played a role in the church becoming a PC (USA) Earth Care Congregation in 2010.
Owen has also served as a municipal recycling coordinator in Texas, as a community relations representative at Heifer International, and as an AmeriCorps volunteer at Pinnacle Mountain State Park. Owen earned a Master of Public Service degree at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service in 2014, and has a BA in communication from the University of Alabama. We’ve asked her to share how her LeadAR experience informs her work and life today. We’ve shared her answers below.
What leadership roles or positions have you held/currently hold?
I’m currently the Sustainability Coordinator at Second Presbyterian Church in Little Rock, where we are working to reduce our carbon footprint – both at church (we recently installed solar panels) and in the wider community. I’m also serving as the president of the KLRE/KUAR Friends Board.
Why did you choose to be a part of the LeadAR program? What motivated you?
I joined LeadAR because I wanted to strengthen my knowledge of rural Arkansas and the issues facing those communities. At the time, I worked for Heifer International, which gave me the added incentive to learn more about agricultural issues domestically and abroad.
How did your LeadAR experience impact your professional life?
LeadAR connected me with others that are passionate about our state and that want to improve it, while helping me build my leadership capacity. It also helped me to view situations from multiple perspectives.
What LeadAR activity or part of the program do you believe most helped you develop as a leader?
The international trip my class took to Panama and Costa Rica underscored for me just how much I had to learn about myself and the world, and that to be an effective leader, I needed to increase my cultural literacy.
What is a significant LeadAR memory or moment that you still think about today?
One of my favorite memories was the time when one of our classmates was anxious about doing an extemporaneous talk, and another classmate offered wonderful words of reassurance and encouragement – it was the epitome of gracious leadership! LeadAR gave me the unique opportunity to introduce Gov. Asa Hutchinson during our class trip to Washington DC – at the time, he was serving as the first Undersecretary for Border & Transportation Security at the US Department of Homeland Security.
What advice would you give to an up and coming leader?
I would encourage emerging leaders to apply to the LeadAR program, as it has the potential to increase your effectiveness by teaching you to work with others cooperatively and collegially to achieve common goals.
What leadership quality do you admire most in others?
I admire most leaders that have vision, integrity and empathy.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a huge fan of the Enneagram – studying my personality type, and those of others, has been extremely beneficial to me personally and professionally.
What book are you reading? What show are you watching?
I’m currently reading All I Did Was Ask: Conversations with Writers, Actors, Musicians, and Artists by NPR’s Terry Gross, gifted to me by my friend, and LeadAR Class 18 alum, Lori Burrows! I’m watching Outlander, which I read more than 25 years ago -- This is Us, and Homeland.
What is one crucial ingredient for true happiness?
For me, loving others and being loved in return is the most essential ingredient for happiness!
How can leadership help move communities and the state of Arkansas forward?
Learning more about our state not only helps us become better leaders and citizens -- with more insight into the complex social and political issues that face our individual communities, it provides the understanding that promotes the desire to make improvements that benefit us collectively.
Can you talk about your passion for sustainability?
My passion for sustainability grew during my time in LeadAR, as I became more aware of the environment as well as the needs of communities — large and small — around the state. Later, as a student at the Clinton School of Public Service, I selected as my Capstone, a research project for small town in Arkansas County: identifying innovative tourism opportunities for DeWitt.
I’m very grateful that LeadAR alum Mark Robertson (Class 10) brought this project to my attention, as it was both meaningful to me and beneficial to this Delta community. More recently, my interest in sustainable living led my husband Rick and myself to build a Platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) rated home in Little Rock, one that won the National Home Project of the Year for 2018 from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I’m grateful I had the opportunity during my two-year LeadAR experience to make connections with my classmates, as well as with community leaders locally, nationally and internationally!