Wanda Lockhart said she was honored when asked to speak about the program she has been participating in.
Lockhart is the director of clinical reporting for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. She also is a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student in the Essentials of Leadership Certificate program, the first undergraduate certificate program offered by the University.
This August, she will also be a trailblazer—as the first awardee of the certificate.
“For personal reasons, it was important to me to be the best leader I can be not only myself—but for the company and for the people that I’m trying to mentor up,” said Lockhart, who has worked for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee since 2010 following a 23-year stint at Cigna Healthcare. “The curriculum they selected is so relevant to today’s conversations and the challenges that companies face. Their course curriculum is spot on.
“Even for someone who has an established career, this can build on that and develop those internal skills. Although you think you know a lot, you continue to learn—and I think this fleshed it out. I would definitely recommend this to anyone to pursue this certificate.”
The online Essentials of Leadership Certificate program is intended for students in a wide range of career fields with an emphasis on innovative and effective essential skills and knowledge needed to solve problems, communicate clearly, resolve conflict and increase effectiveness in diverse environments.
Lockhart recalled first learning of the certificate program after being invited into a meeting involving her BCBS boss, Dr. Rodney Woods, and Dr. David Rausch, director of the UTC Learning and Leadership program and associate dean of the College of Health, Education and Professional Studies.
“As soon as I heard about the offerings for leadership, I was immediately intrigued,” Lockhart explained. “Hearing about the curriculum and what they were planning to do aligned with what I wanted to do; I wanted to be was a better leader.
“I think for me, other than courses embedded inside the company at Cigna and BlueCross, this was the first time I got more exposure to those philosophies and that learning style that could help me develop my personal skills.”
To earn the undergraduate certificate, students must complete five 3-credit-hour courses. Four specific Learning and Leadership (LEAP) courses are required; the fifth course, said Dr. Beth Crawford, UC Foundation professor and Learning and Leadership program advisor, can come from anywhere on campus as long as it pertains to leadership.
In Lockhart’s case, the “perfect fifth course” was offered this summer in the form of a Health and Human Performance class, Organizational Wellbeing, led by lecturer Bailey Payne.
“That was such a perfect match for her because she’s at BlueCross BlueShield, and organizational wellbeing is a really big deal to BlueCross BlueShield—and something applicable to other people as well. That fifth course is outside the LEAP discipline but still related,” Crawford said.
“One of the things we wanted to do was create an opportunity for people who don’t necessarily need a degree but want to have those same skills. They want to build those leadership skills and they want a document to show that they’ve done it. This Essentials of Leadership certificate was built to do just that.”
Lockhart said several of her classes didn’t apply just to leadership.
“They apply to humans,” she said. “Just being a better human being and being open to understanding different cultures and people.
“I thought it was a great course. To me, it should be a required course for anybody exiting college at any level. It prepares you for the workplace, whether you lead people or not.”
Lockhart said she would encourage anyone interested in leadership to pursue the certificate.
“Whether you’re leading people or projects, all of this is applicable. It doesn’t have to be leading people in a management role. You could just be leading within a team, your community or your church,” she said.
“When you think of UTC, I think you think more of up-and-coming seniors out of high school, but to have the opportunity to even come into UTC and take these courses was just a great opportunity. LEAP is a great program to work with. They recognize that most of us are in full-time positions. We are adult learners—not that young people aren’t—but we’re a little further along, and they truly have worked well with us.”
Added Crawford, “She’s a great spokesperson for this program. Wanda knows a lot of people who may be interested in it and she’s someone with a large amount of visibility. Word of mouth for us has been the best marketing.”