Sara J. Dunnigan
Greater Richmond Partnership, Inc.
901 E Byrd St, Ste 800
Richmond, VA 23219
BS Business Economics, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Professional/business/civic/nonprofit organizations in which you are/have been involved and positions held:
• Board Member, Operations Committee Chair, Strategic Planning Committee Member, Capital Regional Workforce Partnership; Richmond, Virginia; July 2009-present.
• Member, International Economic Development Association; 2006-present
• Member and Past President, I-70/75 Development Association; Dayton, Ohio; 1996-2006. The association is a 235-member organization devoted to professional development opportunities for economic development practitioners in the greater Dayton, OH region.
• Recipient, “Dayton’s ‘40 under 40’ – Next Generation of Leaders” by Dayton Business Journal, Special Leadership Awards; 2004.
• Graduate, Leadership Dayton; Class of 2003.
Who were the important mentors you have had and how did they impact your career?
I have been so fortunate to have many mentors in my career – including my parents. Most important mentors also include some inspiring faculty at Wright State University in the economics department who introduced me to the concept of economic development and the thought that you can influence the economic well-being of your community and improve the quality of life for the people in it. Also a great former boss, Steve Stanley, who really helped me to find my wings at a very difficult time in my life. He also taught me to take risks to get the right things done and not be afraid to offend a few people (or bend a few rules) along the way.
What do you consider your biggest personal and/or professional accomplishment and why?
Personally, it was going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment without losing my mind. I was overwhelmed with support from family and some special friends. It was an important time professionally as well because it forced me to separate the things and people in my career that drained me from those that energized me. It’s like looking at life through a new lens. The whole way you approach problems, tasks, people, and relationships changes. It sounds trite, but life really is too short to waste on things that don’t work for you.
What advice would you give to a young person graduating from college this spring?
Build and nurture your network. It will carry you into your first job and advance you to your next. Learn something new every day. Surround yourself with really smart people because to be effective, you have to be open to collaboration and that’s a lot more fun when you’re working with a team of people who know what they’re doing. And take some chances for causes, people, products, services, ideas you are passionate about.
How do you achieve a balance between your professional life and your personal life?
I’m trying to get away from the word “balance” and into the word “blended”. I’m most productive at work when I’m being true to my roles as parent, spouse, daughter and friend. And I’m most effective in those roles when I’m fulfilled professionally. I’m also blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband, family, friends (and boss) who help me keep it all together. I try not to compartmentalize it because there are days when it just won’t all fit in the box.
When you were growing up, what did you want to be?
I wanted to be a teacher when I was young. I started college with that intent, left and took a few years off, landed a job in banking, returned to school and graduated with a business degree in economics. Helping people learn to love learning is still something I’m really interested in and teaching is on my list of things to do in life.
What is your favorite book or movie and why?
I have quite a few favorite books, but one that really got me thinking recently is Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It really debunks the myth that success is random and just happens to some people. Truly successful people are passionate about what they do and work harder than most.
What are two things about you that not many people know?
I would love to sing in a band and also learn how to be a professional clown. Not at the same time, of course.
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