Christy Chiarelli has been a part of the agricultural community for as long as she can remember. Whether she was helping out on her grandfather’s farm or participating in 4-H and Future Farmers of America, she wasn’t afraid to step up, eventually becoming the national FFA vice president for the southern region.
Chiarelli will continue taking the lead as the next director of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute. As director, she will also be an Extension assistant scientist in the agricultural education and communication department, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“The future of agriculture and natural resources in Florida depends on strong leadership, and I’m confident that under Ms. Chiarelli’s direction, WLI will continue growing a community of world-class leaders,” UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne said.
The mission of WLI is to develop and refine the leadership skills of members of the agricultural and natural resources sectors. Initially called the Florida Leadership program for Agriculture and Natural Resources, the institute was established 1989. In 2003, the name changed to honor George Wedgworth and his contributions to Florida agriculture. Since its founding, approximately 300 alumni have participated in the program, which takes 22 months to complete.
Chiarelli is the third director of WLI, following UF/IFAS professors Gene Trotter, who established the institute, and Hannah Carter.
“Dr. Trotter and Dr. Carter’s leadership established the Wedgworth Leadership Institute as one of the premier programs in the country,” Chiarelli said. “I am looking forward to continuing to build on their legacies as we begin expanding our alumni programming, launching Class XI and finding meaningful connections between the program, the agricultural education and communication department and the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.”
Chiarelli got involved with the institute while she was completing her master’s degree in agricultural education and communication in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
“I surveyed the WLI alumni association for my thesis research. In 2011, Dr. Carter invited me to serve as the WLI program adviser, allowing me to travel on the national and international seminars with Class VIII,” she said. “Traveling with this class set an extremely high professional standard for me and encouraged me to succeed in my role with UF/IFAS Advancement. Given my past experience, when I saw the chance to work with the program, it was opportunity I could not pass up.”
During her time with UF/IFAS Advancement, Chiarelli rose to the rank of senior director of development administration, securing $1.7 million for the Wedgworth Leadership Institute and raising more than $13 million for UF/IFAS overall.
While fundraising is certainly one of her strengths, Chiarelli’s passion is helping others develop as leaders.
“Leadership development has a domino effect,” she said. “It’s exciting to think about how WLI class members will use their experience in the program to then make a positive difference in their local communities and industries.”
Keeping up with alumni and their accomplishments is also a high priority for Chiarelli.
“I am looking forward to meeting more of the alumni of the program and learning about their experiences both as a class member and an alumni member,” she said. “I hope to utilize their perspectives to ensure future classes have a meaningful experience.”