University Affairs

USU Faculty Graduate From Prestigious Leadership Program

By Shelby Ruud Jarman |

USU faculty members (left to right, beginning second from the left) Matt Yost, Heloisa Rutigliano, and AndreƩ Walker Bravo recently completed a year of leadership training in the USDA and Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities LEAD 21 program.

Three Utah State University faculty members were among the 88 individuals who recently completed the LEAD21 leadership development program.

The program, offered by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, focuses on developing outstanding leaders for the 21st century.

Matt Yost, Heloisa Rutigliano and Andreé Walker Bravo invested time in the past year meeting with peer groups, completing personal assessments and identifying ways they can improve and become better leaders. The intensive program included three weeklong retreats as well as various assignments in between.

“LEAD21 helps you dig in to figure out what is holding you back from being the best professional you can be,” Walker Bravo said. “I'm just so grateful that USU is willing to invest in employees and faculty like this.”

The purpose of LEAD21 is to develop effective leaders at land-grant institutions.

“In higher education, we're not formally trained to become leaders,” Rutigliano said. “We have to become leaders on the job. Having a little bit of training and guidance empowers you to use your strengths, address your weaknesses and be open to feedback.”

The program was also an opportunity to connect with university leaders from across the country.

“I learned that many other university faculty face the same challenges that I do in my leadership, and I now have a large network of friends to lean on when things are tough,” Yost said.

Fostering Innovation

Rutigliano is the associate dean for academic programs in USU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. She wanted to expand her leadership skills to better collaborate with colleagues, develop an innovative curriculum, and make decisions about the program's future.

“My goal is to create a culture of continuous improvement and innovation so we can keep up with the developments in veterinary education that are happening out there and be a source of excellent teaching methods for the profession” she said.

Participating in the LEAD21 program helped Rutigliano explore how trust, productive conflict, accountability and engagement are important for teams to generate positive results.

“We have a vision for being a student-centered program,” she said. “We're dedicated to creating curriculum policies and support services that are designed with the best interests of our students in mind. Having strong leadership will help us create a shared vision for what that looks like.”

Building Trust

Yost currently serves as the associate department head in the Department of Plants, Soils, and Climate. He also directs the USU Crops team, which includes nearly 25 Extension faculty who serve field crop growers throughout Utah to increase yields, improve soils and optimize water use. Yost’s participation in the LEAD21 program helped him discover his leadership style when guiding teams of graduate students, faculty researchers and Extension faculty.

“One major takeaway for me was to spend more time focused on building relationships of trust,” he said. “I tend to focus too heavily on the outcomes and results of my work and sometimes neglect important relationship building.”

Yost also learned how to encourage healthy conflict, ensure accountability and produce results.

“I walked away from the program with a long list of things I want to do to improve as a leader,” Yost said. “I'm not sure what the future will hold, but my hope is to continue to serve, help and lead where I can.”

Embracing Healthy Conflict

Walker Bravo is an associate professor and the director of county operations for USU Extension, which serves people in every county in the state. She communicates with faculty and staff to understand the needs in their communities and helps develop programs that serve children and adults.

Her main takeaway from the LEAD21 program was how to be a resource for the people she leads while allowing them to solve problems for themselves.

“I've always felt like I needed to be involved in every detail when it comes to our programming, but I’m recognizing that I have an amazing team and I hired them for a reason,” she said. “I completely trust them so I can let them do their thing.”

She also learned the importance of embracing conflict rather than ignoring it. Based on skills she learned and developed, Walker Bravo was invited to provide a presentation about embracing conflict to the USU Staff Employee Association.

“We are all going to face conflict in our work and in our lives,” she said. “But if we approach it in a productive way where we are building trust, then it can be a chance for growth.”

Yost, Rutigliano and Walker Bravo’s accomplishments exemplify USU's commitment to professional growth. Their new leadership skills will benefit the entire university, contributing to the culture of excellence and continuous improvement at Utah State University.


Shelby Ruud Jarman
College of Agriculture and Applied Sciences


Heloisa Rutigliano
Associate Dean of Academic Programs
College of Veterinary Medicine

Matt Yost
Specialist/Assistant Professor
Extension/Plants, Soils and Climate Department

Andree Walker Bravo
Associate Professor, Director of County Operations
Utah State University Extension


Awards 712stories Faculty 323stories Agriculture 228stories

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