December 12, 2013

In the midst of reorganization and new alignment, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville announced its new leadership team.

“After several months of searching and interviews, I believe we have put together a strong, motivated and highly capable team to execute our mission,” Executive Director Jerry L. Gwaltney said.

The team consists of five unique individuals who are tasked with ensuring the implementation of IALR’s mission, which is to serve as a catalyst for economic and community transformation in Southern Virginia by leveraging applied research and experiential learning.

Core focus areas include research that provides a clear path to commercialization, advanced learning opportunities where education meets experience, and economic development through a partnership with the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.

Michael Duncan, director of research and commercialization

As director of research and commercialization, Michael Duncan along with IALR’s world class scientists and their research teams will build on the existing strong plant science and chemistry assets within the organization, while adding new programs in aerospace and analytical technologies.

The department’s express intent is to support research opportunities with existing industries, conduct advanced research in sectors that will aid in the economic development of the region, and collaborate closely with those working with local citizens and other partners to help optimize today and tomorrow’s workforce.

Duncan also plans to progress research in conjunction with Virginia Tech and private companies with the intent to expand, and to continue leveraging relationships with Virginia Tech, Averett University and Danville Community College.

A native of Virginia, Duncan first moved to the area in 1998 and successfully turned around Clairemont Electronics in Yanceyville, NC. Duncan and his family then moved to Danville and with the help of some former employees, started TWM Cabling Solutions, Inc. TWM later joined forces with EIT in 2005.

He grew EIT to two manufacturing facilities in Danville, strong sales and solid profitability. Duncan has served on Danville Community College's (DCC) Workforce Services Advisory Board, DCC's Educational Foundation, the Utilities Commission, the Southern Piedmont Technology Council, the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board and the Virginia Defense Force. He earned his Master’s in Business Administration from Averett University in 2009.

Julie Brown, director of advanced learning

Dr. Julie Brown is the newest team member joining IALR in December. Dr. Brown’s plans for the advanced learning department are to support existing efforts and develop new initiatives to build the region’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) capacity in partnership with K-12, postsecondary, and nonprofit institutions.

“These initiatives include formal, informal, and work-based learning opportunities that support current industry demands, IALR’s areas of research expertise, and regional economic development targets,” Brown said.

Brown has 18 years of experience in the education sector, working for a public research university, two community colleges, and regional K-12 districts. She has extensive experience in federal grant reporting, program development, and fiscal accountability, and currently provides management services to the Dan River Region Collaborative, a regional partnership dedicated to working with employers to address workforce needs while moving individual employees to high-skill, high-wage situations. Dr. Brown holds degrees from the University of Virginia, Longwood University and Old Dominion University.

She resides in Pittsylvania County and serves on numerous non-profit boards, including The Arc of Southside, Danville Pittsylvania Community Services Board, The United Way, and the West Piedmont Workforce Investment Board.

Steve Bridges, director of economic development for Southern Virginia Regional Alliance

Steve Bridges is a life native of Southern Virginia, spending most of his career here as well. He joined IALR in November 2013, and comes with a background in marketing and public relations and nine years as a regional representative and business development manager with the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Bridges is a graduate of Averett University with a Bachelors in History and English and a Masters in Business Administration.

In October, the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance (SVRA) and IALR announced an innovative partnership to market Southern Virginia. Over the past two years, SVRA has worked as a regional economic development organization to market the counties of Patrick, Henry, Pittsylvania and Halifax, as well as the cities of Martinsville and Danville.

The new partnership with IALR secures the long term sustainability of the regional alliance while simultaneously enabling IALR to build upon its regional mission in the areas of research, advanced learning and economic development.

While the SVRA’s office is located at IALR, the mission of the alliance remains committed to promoting the four counties and two cities to prospective industries, site selection consultants, and other regional and state economic development allies.

SVRA works closely with its member local economic development offices to identify target industry clusters and to develop marketing and outreach strategies to reach key decision makers and influencers.

Leigh Cockram, director of business development and strategic initiatives

A native of Southern Virginia, Cockram understands the many benefits companies have who locate within the region. Cockram is dedicated to rebuilding the region that has supported her family and the families of many others in the Commonwealth of Virginia over years past.

In her new position, Cockram will work with existing industries to ensure awareness of the research capabilities and advanced learning opportunities available at IALR. Cockram will work closely with Virginia Tech’s economic development office, among others, to promote those services to IALR’s footprint. She will work to ensure IALR maintains a regional identity and focus.

Prior to joining IALR, Cockram served as vice president of the Martinsville-Henry County Economic Development Corporation and most recently as the executive director of the Southern Virginia Regional Alliance.

Cockram is a graduate of the University of Virginia with a Bachelor of Arts in Government and the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute.

Patricia Chatt, director of finance and administration

Pat Chatt joined IALR in January 2011 as the financial controller and was later named director of finance and administration. Chatt oversees the financial department as well as additional administrative services such as information technology and conferencing activities.

“IALR’s administration departments are going global,” Chatt said. “Our dedicated team is ready to assist in the advancement of IALR’s endeavors and will collectively seek solutions in support of our mission, programs and activities.”

Chatt’s 30 years in senior leadership positions include technology development, financial reporting and compliance auditing of higher education institutions, VP for business processing, auditing for accounting and regulatory compliance for Wachovia, finance and administration management for various professional services corporations, and owner of PAC Financial Consulting for new businesses designing accounting and business processes, in North Carolina, Alabama, and California. She is a professional accountant and holds a Masters in Business Administration.

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