How does CDI impact its participants? Don’t ask us, ask them.

Our team has reached out to participants spanning the three decades to document how CDI has helped shape them, the communities they serve, and the organizations they represent.


Ruth Nichols Testimonial


Heather Hendrickson is a Research Specialist with Entergy Arkansas, Inc., a CDI graduate, and a UCA alum.


Candace Williams, executive director of the Rural Community Alliance, is a member of CDI class of 2017.


Randy Holland, Mayor of Mayflower, is a graduate of CDI class of 2015.


Pam Hipp,  is a CDI graduate, Advanced Year participant, former class director, and holds PCED certification. She describes CDI as “the best professional development I have ever participated in. I got more out of it and felt like I had brought something useful to my community. Community development is nebulous and hard for people to wrap their brains around what it is and what it means. CDI gave me credibility in my community because I had credentials from a program of educational study and this prepared me for the PCED certification.” She notes that CDI provided concrete examples that she can bring to her small community. The tour of the Argenta District in North Little Rock was especially impactful. “It was so beneficial to see what can happen in an actual site where it has all come together and is working. I use it as an example when I talk to Crossett leaders about what is possible.”



Skip Smart, PCEDCDC Council PresidentDirector, Community CompetitivenessLouisiana Economic DevelopmentTerm Expires: 2015Skip Smart, Director of Community Competitiveness for Louisiana Economic Development and a member of the CDI Advisory Board, credits CDI with being “the single most important event contributing to my personal and professional success. Before CDI I thought that jobs were created through recruitment, retention and entrepreneurship. CDI opened my eyes and broadened my horizons on what it takes to be a successful community and how community development creates the capacity that attracts economic investment opportunity for the community. This realization made me a more well-rounded professional whether I was at the local, state or regional level.”



Drew Williams, with the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and an Ernest Whitelaw Award recipient, also values the relationships built during CDI. “CDI interaction helps move professional association into personal friendships that are built on trust. These relationships that might normally take years to develop are expedited by the close working relationship found at CDI. My job is relationship building and CDI speeds that up for quicker connections on a personal level and make me more effective professionally.” Williams had his aha moment with Newtown which “helped me understand the politics of dealing with people. We were able to explore why people do or think what they do. People don’t act rationally all the time. Newtown, case studies and simulations helped me really understand community development process and practice.”


Alumni Book - Ivy OwenIvy Owen, Executive Director for the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, was an experienced developer when he came to CDI but says that “CDI had more impact on my career than I thought it would. I had a very long career in economic development and had just been getting by with learning by doing. I was working with six communities spread over a one hundred eighty mile radius of the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi. I was doing land use planning with clients that knew very little about zoning and such and I was faced with the challenge of being an outsider telling leaders of a sovereign nation what to do. There was little trust and many challenges. CDI helped me understand how to build relationships, to understand the basics of community development and the importance of never burning a bridge. CDI taught me how to use community development principles on more than one platform—establishing and retaining relationship, over the short and long term.” He says the presentation on diversity woke him up more than anything and changed his perspective on working with people.