Leadership Chattanooga is a 10-month leadership development program that allows local professionals opportunities to learn more about and engage with the community where they live and work. Leadership Chattanooga has been a launching pad for the careers and civic impact of some of Chattanooga’s most prominent professionals. We’re here to share their stories and catch up on what’s happened since they completed the program.
This month, Donna Elle Harrison, Director of Cultural Tourism for the Chattanooga Tourism Co. and Media Personality for Groove 93 for Brewer Media Group, shares insights about being an active and engaged Chattanoogan.
Trend: When did you graduate from Leadership Chattanooga?
Trend: Tell us a little about yourself. What do you do for fun?
Harrison: I have a passion for the Chattanooga community. I really enjoy the amazing people here. The things I enjoy most are live music, running and hitting the bridges, performances, teaching my Donna's D.I.V.A.s workout program and checking out downtown restaurants.
Trend: Name one way you have impacted the community in your space.
Harrison: I am a Chattanooga native who has been in the media since I was 13 years old and now marketing full-time. I love what I do! I always wanted to be the hometown girl that people looked at and said, 'If Donna can do it, I can too!' My personal motto is to engage different people from all walks of life, to encourage, inspire and to bridge the gap. I have been fortunate to be able to do that through marketing at Chattanooga Tourism Co. and working with our amazing arts community and learning so much from them, or by staying engaged with my media followers through public speaking and hosting events, or volunteering with different organizations.
Trend: What drew you to the Leadership Chattanooga program when you applied?
Harrison: I had an amazing colleague who had gone through the program and recommended it to me. I really wanted to broaden my understanding of Chattanooga and sharpen my leadership skills.
Trend: How has your career been impacted by the program?
Harrison: Since I graduated from Leadership Chattanooga it really added to my career confidence. It was a great reminder that everyone is an asset to the community and we all can bring great impact to this city, and we need to use it. I really believe the program connected me with more amazing people, was a great asset to learn more about Chattanooga and I landed a new amazing career.
Trend: You're a highly successful contributor to the Chattanooga community. What practices do you follow that help you achieve success?
Harrison: It is okay to face that fact that I don't know it all. I have been in Chattanooga for years and in marketing and PR for years but I am always open to learning and I am constantly reinventing myself. Instead of constantly connecting with the people I have always known, I am learning from new diverse friends all of the time and my ears are open to hear change. I also love reading and listening to podcasts on motivation and leadership. Anyone can do a job, but every leader can't motivate wonderful people and I aim to achieve that in every aspect of my life.
Trend: What advice would you give someone who is looking for ways to become more connected to the community?
Harrison: Everything that you are looking for in a mentor, strive to become it. Attend events by Leadership Chattanooga, enjoy our attractions as if you are a visitor, volunteer (boards, organizations, committees), become a student of the industry that you love. Meet new people monthly.
Trend: Any recent award or acknowledgments?
Harrison: Yes – I'm a current class member of Leadership Tennessee, a HerStory Healthscope Magazine feature and recently featured in a national article in D1 Sports Training.
Trend: Is there anything you would like to add or tell about yourself?
Harrison: I'm a mom of a young man, Brandon. I also inspire women daily. I am a mentor and advocate for women; I’ve lost 100 pounds and have kept it off 15 years; I have a workout program (Donna's D.I.V.A.s workout classes) at D1 Sports training and speak nationally about health and fitness.