DLI Graduates Three Alabama Leaders Equipped to Support Local and Regional Economic Development

September 23, 2020

Delta Regional Authority celebrates 15th DLI Executive Academy graduating class.

CLARKSDALE, MS – Today, the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) congratulates three new Alabama graduates of the Delta Leadership Institute (DLI) Executive Academy.  This graduating class marks the 15th year of DLI-trained regional leaders equipped to improve the economic competitiveness and social viability of the Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt.

The three Executive Academy fellows completed the year-long DLI Executive Academy, a leadership development program that brings together public, private, and nonprofit sector leaders from DRA’s eight-state region. The program empowers fellows with the tools, experiences, and networks to address local and regional challenges, improve decision-making and policy development, and strengthen leadership capacity and mutual understanding of regional, state, and local cultures and issues.

“The Delta Leadership Institute is a dynamic tool within DRA to promote the economic advancement of the Delta,” said DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Caldwell.  “DLI’s diverse curriculum provides the next generation of economic and community development leaders with the tools needed to create change within their communities.  I congratulate the DLI graduates and challenge you to use this new skillset to shape the development a more resilient Delta economy.”

The graduates participated in six training sessions over the past year to educate them on the regional and local economic and community development best practices employed across the Delta to catalyze innovative solutions implementable in their own community and region.  DLI fellows learn from local, regional and national experts in infrastructure and transportation, small business and entrepreneurship, workforce development, public health and other fields necessary to facilitate economic growth in the Delta.

"It's always wonderful to celebrate the accomplishments of Alabamians, and I am proud of the Alabama graduates of the Delta Leadership Institute," Governor Kay Ivey said. "These leaders are using their knowledge and skills to better our state, and I look forward to the positive impacts they will have in Alabama, especially in our Black Belt Region."

The Alabama graduates are:

  • Ollie Davison, Birmingham | Deputy District Director, U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell

  • Llevelyn Rhone, Greensboro | Founder, Greensboro Regional Opportunity Works, Inc.

  • Fengna “Yvette” Zheng, Livingston | Business Advisor, Small Business Development Center, University of West Alabama

Since 2005, DLI's Executive Academy has enhanced the leadership skills, policy knowledge and networks of community members in the Delta. After graduation, the Alabama fellows become members of the Delta Leadership Network, which includes more than 500 community leaders who understand the importance of regional collaboration, resource sharing and innovative thinking.

DLI is a program of DRA in partnership with three institutions of higher education in the Delta region: Arkansas State University, the University of Louisiana Monroe, and the University of Arkansas.

About the Delta Regional Authority

The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) is a federal-state partnership created by Congress in 2000 to promote and encourage the economic development of the lower Mississippi River Delta and Alabama Black Belt.  DRA invests in projects supporting transportation infrastructure, basic public infrastructure, workforce training, and business development.  DRA’s mission is to help create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of those who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state region.

DRA Media Contact:
Shawna Blair
Director of Communications and Public Engagement
202-434-4842
sblair@dra.gov