The Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute hosted the kick-off session for its second class October 26 – 28 in College Station, Texas. The institute is a state-of-the-art leadership program that aims to be a transformative experience for participants, with aspirations of leaving a deep and lasting effect on their ability to lead in daily environments.

    The leadership institute offers a constructive and inspiring learning environment, enabling opportunity for personal growth by giving participants access to tools and speakers that will strengthen their leadership skills.

    “There are so many partners that don’t have access to this type of formal leadership training,” said Hughes Simpson, Texas A&M Forest Service Forest Systems Department Head. “We believe as an agency that by building the capacity of our partners through leadership training, we can help strengthen their organizations and help further the overall reach and mission of Texas A&M Forest Service.”

    This year’s class boasts a diverse group of 25 members from differing natural resource organizations across the state including parks and recreation directors, fire chiefs, conservation managers and organization executive directors.

    “I felt very honored to be selected to participate in the second class of the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute,” said Ted Stevens, Texas Forestry Association Education Director. “I knew I would be participating with a lot of influential people from all over the state and have the opportunity to not only network, but also learn from their experiences and perspectives. The skills and relationships I develop through the Institute will be extremely beneficial to me as I communicate about the importance of sustainable forestry.”

    The vision of the institute is to establish a program that will rally existing and emerging leaders within the fields of natural resources and increase their capacity and ability to enact meaningful change throughout the state of Texas.

    “I spent many years in state government, and I have never seen a state agency put this much effort into people outside of their own organization,” said Stevens. “I think that says a lot about Texas A&M Forest Service and the impact they want to have around the state, to give partners the tools to succeed professionally to move forward the mission of conservation.”

    One key to success for the institute is dynamic and engaging speakers. In this session, participants heard from Frank Keck about core leadership skills, Dr. Steven Beebe about listening skills and Dr. Richard Grant about leveraging personality types in leadership settings.

    “I find the best leaders are the most self-aware - they know who they are and where they’re going,” said Frank Keck, Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute speaker and facilitator. “Our goal is to really help leaders in different natural resource capacities to develop themselves, to invest in these leaders to make a better Texas.”

    The inaugural class was completely virtual in 2020 – 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the 25-member class still felt that they learned invaluable lessons and became a network to rely on.

    “I have been working in economic development for 36 years and have been through many leadership classes from different organizations,” said Nancy Windham, President and CEO of the Texas Forest Country Partnership and inaugural class member. “But, I have yet to find one that was as impactful, and something I could really use today in the workplace and at home as the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute.”

    Each year, the leadership institute hopes to continue to grow and support local leaders while increasing the network of natural resource professionals across the state.

    Over the next several months, the class will participate in monthly lunch and learns, networking opportunities and course activities. The class will graduate from the institute in April, after the second three-day session, which will have a new host of speakers and leadership trainings.

    To learn more about the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute, the speakers and how to participate, visit

    Hughes Simpson, Texas A&M Forest Service Forest Systems Department Head, 979-458-6658,
    Leighton Chachere, Texas A&M Forest Service Communications Specialist, 979-458-6606,