Skip to Content

Emerging leaders’ graduates receive leadership wisdom to guide their journey

Group photo of Emerging Leaders program graduates and Executive Leadership team
Emerging Leaders Class of 2022 pose for a group photo with the Executive Leadership Team following the official ceremony December 7 here. (Department of Veterans Affairs photo, Sarah De Boise, medical media)

Eight newly minted leaders celebrated their accomplishments during the Emerging Leaders Program graduation ceremony hosted by VA Loma Linda Healthcare System’s Education Service here December 7.

Denise Connor, Gabdo Diakite, Europe Harge, Tonya Hetrick, Dr. Carol Matthews, Ashley Ramos, Lisa Waggoner, and Shaneese White successfully completed more than ten months of leadership development training, coaching, and projects to increase their leadership capacity.

Now that the official portion of the program has ended, graduates were charged to continue to be lifelong learners.

"Leadership is a journey. This is the beginning of many beginnings. Challenge yourself to become a life-long learner. Strive to apply the skills you have learned in this program and your positive attitude in everything you face," Karandeep Sraon, VA Loma Linda Healthcare System Director, said.

The graduates were also reminded that leadership and achieving goals could be challenging.

In her congratulatory remarks, Sophia Fregoso, a Graduate Health Administration Training Program fellow, shared some sage advice with the graduates and the audience.

"It's not always easy achieving your goals, but when times get tough, just remember to chip away at it." Fregoso shared advice from her former mentors, reminding everyone of the value of relationships and support. 

In addition to their regular jobs, Emerging Leaders program participants spent ten months of intense work reading and discussing case studies, writing, and goal setting. A feat not easily accomplished without support.

The support requirement resonated deeply with program participant Europe Harge, an MRT ROI Scanning Supervisor. "I really enjoyed the program. It allowed me to get uncomfortable and grow. But I could not have done it without the strong support of my Service line," said Harge. "My supervisor and leaders really stood in the gap when it mattered. They didn't allow me to quit but supported me through every aspect of the program."

Another guest speaker Maria Florez, health system specialist to the Assistant Director, shared instruction from her active-duty days that still serves her today in her service to Veterans.

"You must remember to be at the right place, at the right time, doing the right things, in the right uniform, with the right attitude."

The graduates and nearly 50 audience members will benefit from the wealth of leadership tips and the personal insights and commendations shared by Ms. Tammi Catalano and Ms. Danna Keller, staunch supporters of the leadership development program. Catalano and Keller served as program coaches. Both shared poignant personal insights with their respective coachees.

One participant, Lisa Waggoner, a prosthetics representative, shared that the experience helped her become more of a servant leader.

Waggoner, excited about the possibility of being a catalyst of change, wants to encourage others to participate in VA development programs.

"I loved the Emerging Leaders program and would recommend it to anyone who wants to become a better leader and grow in their positions."

Before passing out the certificates, Sraon reminded the group of an essential fact of leadership. "Remember, great leaders are courageous, have integrity and humility, and focus on taking care of people while attaining organizational goals. Remember that leadership isn't just about titles but influence. You are a leader whether you have an official title or not, so please manage your influence well."

See all stories