The third cohort of the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute has graduated, following completion of its final session recently in College Station.

A group of people standing with plaques in their hands after graduating from the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute
A diverse group of 17 individuals from various natural resource organizations from across the state recently graduated as the third cohort of the Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute. (Texas A&M Forest Service photo)

The institute is a leadership program that aims to be a transformative experience for participants, hoping to leave a lasting effect on their ability to lead. It offers a constructive and inspiring learning environment, enabling opportunity for personal and professional growth by giving participants access to tools and speakers that will strengthen their leadership skills.

“The vision of the institute was to establish a program that rallies existing and emerging leaders within the fields of natural resources and increases their capacity and ability to enact meaningful change throughout the state of Texas,” said Hughes Simpson, Texas A&M Forest Service forest resource development chief operating officer.

This year’s class included a diverse group of 17 graduates from natural resource organizations across the state, including nonprofit professionals, fire chiefs, conservation managers and chief executive officers.

“I love the diversity of the group and team members and all of the different perspectives,” said Devin Ginther, CEO of Texas Urban Sawmill in Austin, one of the new graduates. “I’ve been involved in several of these, but this was the most effective for me because of the diversity of the group and all of the different organizations involved.”

Building capacity and teamwork

The leadership institute offers training and professional development to members of organizations that share the Texas A&M Forest Service mission while building capacity and cohesion within working alliances of other entities who serve the same customers.

Over the course of several months, the class participated in two, three-day training sessions, monthly lunch and learns, as well as networking opportunities and course activities.

“The Texas A&M Forest Service Leadership Institute was insightful, engaging and motivating,” said Suzanne Simpson, a land acquisition manager with the Galveston Bay Foundation, another new class graduate. “It was inspiring to learn from other leaders in the natural resource industry.”

One key to success for the institute is dynamic and engaging speakers. In the final session, participants heard from Frank Keck, CEO of Core Build Solutions in Shawnee, Kansas about motivating volunteers. Other speakers included John Daly, Ph.D., with the University of Texas at Austin about leadership and engagement and Steven Beebe, Ph.D. of Texas State University in San Marcos about listening in leadership. They also heard from Jessica Sager with Delta Associates of Austin about personality types. 

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

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

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