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    New Memphis Institute producing leaders and a whole lot more

    James Dowd - The Commercial Appeal -

    Brighter name, broader game.

    That's the motivation behind the former Leadership Academy's rebranding as the New Memphis Institute.

    The identity makeover is intended to more accurately convey the organization's emerging role as a positive change agent for the city.

    "New Memphis indicates that we're filled with promise and Institute signifies a place of thoughtful engagement where we value data along with a sense of permanence and purpose," said Nancy Coffee, the organization's president and CEO. "Our mission hasn't changed, but our narrative has."

    And that means relaunching a decades-old Memphis organization that isn't defined solely by its leadership training program. The new name signals opportunities to become more engaged in the community while symbolizing strategic partnerships with local companies, groups and business leaders to develop a dynamic environment that attracts top talent.

    One way the organization does that is with its annual Memphis: The Summer Experience program that provides cultural and service opportunities for college interns at area businesses. Another is through its memphisconnect.com website, which suggests ways to get involved here, while also enlisting guest bloggers to write about cool things to do and unique places to visit.

    And of course there's the Fellows program, an intensive training initiative for up-and-coming leaders that features yearly community action projects to benefit area nonprofits.

    "We're part of a restless, dynamic energy that defines this city," Coffee said. "There are many ways for people to step up and make a difference and we encourage them to seize opportunities for greatness."

    Working with alumni and the creative team from the Red Deluxe branding agency, the organization's leaders considered several options before agreeing on the updated name, logo and tagline: Talent for Transformation.

    The final selection best represents the breadth and depth of the group's mission, said board chairman Bill Dunavant III, who was a member of the organization's inaugural Leadership Development Intensive in 1997.

    "We've grown so much with all our programming that we felt we'd outgrown our name," said Dunavant, president and CEO of Dunavant Enterprises. "We're committed to recruiting, developing, activating and retaining talent and by doing so we're making positive changes in our city. The new name clearly reflects that."

    Board member Susan Stephenson, cofounder of Independent Bank, agreed.

    "The former name became increasingly limiting, similar to how it would be if we were a holding company, but were named for one of our subsidiaries," Stephenson said. "Our work is so much bigger than the former name implied. We want to be the gold standard talent engine of Memphis and this name exemplifies our focus on innovation and new ideas."

    Brent Westbrook, an investment officer with Argent Sector Capital Management, is a current member of the Fellows program and described it as one of the most meaningful experiences of his life.

    "I grew up in Memphis, but this program offers exposure to different communities and neighborhoods and people throughout the city that I haven't come into contact with before," Westbrook said. "I'm meeting bright and hardworking people who are determined to make this a better city for everyone. It's definitely broadened my perspective."

    Kerri Campbell, a Fellows program graduate who works with Memphis Mayor AC Wharton's Innovation Delivery team, echoed those sentiments.

    "I've learned a lot about Memphis that I never knew and I've learned a lot about myself, about how to maximize strengths and develop my own personal leadership style," Campbell said. "I've developed a wonderful network of people committed to making a difference and I believe that by working together, we can."