Welcome to our latest Insider Spotlight edition. Several times a year, we will sit down with someone connected to the Leadership Rockland program and discuss their interaction with Leadership Rockland. This issue focuses on Dorothy Filoramo, the current chair of the Leadership Rockland program.
Like her predecessor Frank Borelli, Dorothy has been an integral part of the program since graduating as a member of the Class of 1995. She has served in a variety of positions with both the Alumni Association and the Board of Directors, and has served as the leader of both entities.
Leadership Rockland had the opportunity to sit down with Dorothy in the fall of 2010 and discuss the Leadership Rockland program.
Leadership Rockland just celebrated its 20th Anniversary. As chair of the program, can you tell me what that landmark means to you and to Leadership Rockland?
I think the Anniversary was a milestone achievement that gave us the opportunity to measure what these 20 years have meant as far as the impact of our graduates on our Rockland community, which is the purpose of the program. Our program is designed to educate emerging leaders to take a role in the community and hope they have a positive impact. To that end, we used the occasion to survey all our alumni to determine from very specific questions how their Leadership Rockland experience impacted their life, whether in terms of their professional role or their role in the community. It was not surprising that the results were quite amazing. Leadership Rockland graduates are in every aspect of our community in leadership positions, in government, in business, in our education system, our health system; they’re in the non-profit community serving on boards; they’re in the athletic community serving as managers, coaches and running programs. The outcome indicated that our mission of educating and informing a group of over 400 people who are now leaders in the county has been quite successful.
You were a member of the Class of 1995. How did you hear about the program and what at that time did you think would be the benefit of participating?
I heard about the program when I became a member of the Dominican College staff. At that time, Dohn Harshbarger was very active in Leadership Rockland. He was a member of the 1st class and had taken a leadership role with the program. He was so enthusiastic about the program that he presented it to me, first, as part of my job as an external representative of the College and second, as a newcomer to Rockland County. He felt that this would be a wonderful way for me to get a quick emersion within one year of the resources available in the county and meet the leaders, which it did.
You have served in a variety of roles after graduating from the program. Can you tell me about the various positions you have held for the Leadership Rockland organization?
As part of our class project, I was one of a trio that came up with an idea because we all looked at each other as the graduates of today’s programs look at each other and wonder what’s next? We developed this program called “Continue the Experience …” It meant continuing the experience we had all enjoyed as members of the class. I was asked to take the lead and put this together. So for nine years I chaired Continue the Experience … by presenting a program that followed our leadership experience and engaged our alumni. Then through that I became involved with the alumni association, and I served as vice-president and then as the first woman president of the association. As president of the alumni association I then had a seat on the Leadership Rockland, Inc. board. When my term as alumni president was over I was asked to stay on the Leadership Rockland board and eventually moved up the executive chain, serving as vice-chair, chair-elect and now as the chair of Leadership Rockland, Inc., a position I am honored to hold. I also served with Teen Leadership Rockland, getting the first group together, being a mentor and a presenter in their program and I continue that role today. Leadership Rockland has been a big part of my volunteer life and has certainly influenced and impacted my relationships with people in the community and my role at the College.
You mentioned the Continue the Experience project that you were very involved with which continues to this day. Tell us how the concept evolved and how it benefits the alumni members?
The concept is true to its beginnings. It is to offer a program to alumni that has an impact on their leadership development. To that end I think that it is important that the purpose is remembered. It’s not a social networking program, although that is some of the benefit of it. It has a specific purpose and that is to offer a leadership development experience to alumni.
One of the roles that you didn’t mention was your leadership for many years of the selection committee. Tell us what it is like trying to put together the next year’s class of Leadership Rockland.
I must say that serving as the Chair of the Selection Committee is one of the highlights of all my experiences with Leadership Rockland. I was asked by the then Chair, Frank Borelli, to undertake the leadership of this committee. It has been an incredible experience, from the standpoint of the organization to put a team together, to review all the applications, quantify and qualify all the candidates, and through that process to select the best class for the Leadership Rockland program.
What type of factors play into trying to put the makeup of a class together?
Over the years, the process has certainly been perfected. It is both an objective as well as subjective examination of candidates. Questions have been developed that are asked the same of every candidate. Every candidate goes through the first part of the process which is submitting the application. That has several points of rating on it. Every member of the committee rates every candidate on their application. Those scores are computed and averaged out. Part two is the interview, which can be a little more subjective. There are five questions that have been tweaked over the years, that certainly address the issues that we feel a qualified candidate should be able to answer. Their answers are again rated on a scale and averaged out and then added to their application score to get a final score. The scores then go to the entire committee where they are looked at along with other factors. We try to get a balanced class and while the scores are important they are not the only things considered. When it comes down to it you don’t want a class where all 25 people are say from the non-profit community because there would be little interaction or learning from each other. We try to balance the backgrounds; we try to balance the gender; the cultural mix is important so that you have a diverse group of people who through the richness of that diversity will be able to contribute to the class as a whole.
What would you say to an individual or to an employer who wanted to know the benefit or value of going through the Leadership Rockland program?
There’s a very famous saying that I like to always keep in the back of my mind that knowledge is power. Any kind of learning experience empowers people to an end. While our end is certainly leadership, that person is transformed through this educational experience, to first be a leader; second, to contribute to their community. The knowledge of who the leaders are; what the resources are; where to get information; who to call; are powerful tools for assuming leadership roles. Through the networking experience with their classmates they form a cadre of leaders.
Where do you see the program headed in the next 5 or 10 years?
For the 20th Anniversary we had a theme of “Looking Back - Looking Forward”. Looking forward, we would certainly hope to keep our programs infused with the standard of excellence which has marked them; to keep them viable by addressing current issues because we live in a changing society. In 20 years a lot of things have changed in Rockland and so I would imagine in the next 5 years things are going to change as well. I think the responsibility of our board is to make sure our programs are addressing current issues so that whoever is going through this experience is getting the best and most current information possible. I would hope our programs will only become stronger, more relevant and that we continue to provide this county with the leadership that it deserves.
If you could have any message emanate from the program; have any thought pop into someone’s mind when they hear the words Leadership Rockland, what would that be?
I think it would be our mission statement – identify, inform and inspire leadership.