Opinion Columns & Blogs

Suzy Finn: Young professionals are taking leadership roles


I couldn’t be more excited about the heightened level of conversation around identifying the emerging leaders of our community. At the same time, I want to recognize all the amazing young leaders in our community who have been leading for years.

More than 1,000 volunteers have contributed many thousands of hours to helping young professionals (YPs) connect to the people they need to meet to build their businesses or careers, to the tools they need to develop professionally, to opportunities to give back to the community, and to things to do that help them lead great lives.

Young professionals are also taking leadership roles and making things happen in the economic development area. Two vice presidents at Wichita Downtown Development Corp. are YPs. Half of the team that brought 1 Million Cups to Wichita consists of YPs. Sam Foreman played a key volunteer role in developing the E2E Accelerator project.

The current generation of young leaders also includes business owners, presidents and founders such as Aaron Bastian, Jon Rolph, Lamont Anderson, Crystal McDonald, Shannon Dykman, Kalene Smith, Cassandra Bryan, Chris Callen, Stacy and Torrey Lattin, Brock Beran, John Rupp, Christina Long, Chad Glenn, Janelle King and many more.

They’re also filling important roles in our community. At least 50 spots on nonprofit boards of directors are currently filled by past or present members of Young Professionals of Wichita. YPW leaders have been on the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce board of directors since 2008, and chamber leadership has focused consistently on growing that number. In 2016, at least 12 chamber board members represent a growing group of young leaders making their voices heard.

A few examples include Jade Martin, vice president of the Kansas Aviation Museum board in 2015; Keith Marshall, 2016 chairman of the Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County; and Dominic Canare, 2016 president of MakeICT.

There are at least 20 other organizations created for or led by fellow YPs that cover everything from professional associations to sports leagues to arts and culture groups to government advisory boards.

This community does not lack for YPs who are passionate about making Wichita a destination. They are already leading within their companies and within the community. (For a longer list of leaders’ names, visit the website www.ypwichita.org.)

What we need from all YPs is this: Pay attention to what YPs are doing in the community and celebrate their good work. Engage in community organizations. Vote. Identify and develop more YP leaders. Share your passion for Wichita with others.

What we need from the established community leaders is this: more mentorship, encouragement and recognition. And inclusion in the weighty conversations about our community’s future.

Suzy Finn is executive director of the Young Professionals of Wichita.