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In the summer of 2021, Sumner Menchero found herself reflecting on her 19-year career at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and wondering what her next chapter might be. At PBS, she had worked in television programming, community engagement, and operations, but she was eager to continue growing professionally.
As a Falls Church resident whose parents live in Charlottesville, Menchero was familiar with UVA. She looked at programs offered at George Mason and the University of Maryland, but felt herself drawn to UVA’s School of Continuing & Professional Studies. “I wanted to add tools to my toolbox and challenge myself in different ways. UVA’s SCPS seemed to offer those opportunities,” she stated. Additionally, she felt that the asynchronous nature of many SCPS certificate classes would mesh well with her job and family schedules.
Cautiously testing the water at first to ensure she could balance work, school and family commitments, Menchero registered as a visiting student. “My first class – Strategic Leadership – was so interesting, and I discovered I really had a passion for learning more about it,” she shared. While taking the class, she found she was able to strike the balance between being a working mother and a student, and decided to enroll in the graduate Certificate of Leadership program.
“At first, I was worried that as a creative person with a liberal arts background, I might be an outlier in my classes. But I wasn’t. What I learned was really relevant to me and my work,” Menchero said. She especially enjoyed when one of her professors wove films into the learning experience. In that class, students watched the movie “Elizabeth” and a rich dialogue about female leadership and stereotypes followed on the discussion board. “There are certainly benefits to being physically together in the classroom, but there are also benefits to sharing in a virtual space. I think my classmates opened up and shared more on the discussion board than they might have if we had been talking in person. People got personal, and it led to discussions that were really stimulating and we learned a lot from each other.”
Three courses into the program, Menchero began to see herself in a new light. “I felt more empowered by what I was learning,” she said. “I started to understand my leadership style, the value I can bring to the table, and how I can continue to evolve as a leader.” With that in mind, and after a great deal of thought and discussion with family members and mentors, she decided to hit the pause button on her public media career and double down on school in order to expedite completion of her certificate.
Her journey of personal growth and reflection didn’t stop at SCPS. She proudly launched Menchero Creative Consulting after completing her certificate. “I’m not sure I would have made this leap had I not taken the program at SCPS,” she said. “I felt so well-equipped with the content I had learned through my classes and my prior work experience.” Now, she’s enjoying steering her company through its young years and consulting on strategy, leadership and operations issues for public media and nonprofit organizations. “My work centers on helping an organization or a person understand their story and who they really are,” she shared. And, given her own transformative journey, Menchero is primed to be the perfect guide.