Jennifer Gastelum Joins VL Team

August 9, 2021
News and Announcements

Jennifer Gastelum has joined the Valley Leadership team as a leadership development manager.

Gastelum will design and implement Explore, the second experience to launch as part of VL’s new leadership development opportunities, taking leaders to all corners of the state to get to know the great diversity of Arizona and how our most pressing issues show up in rural, urban, suburban and Native communities. VL announced its reimagined leadership development model in May – launching three new programs aimed at attracting and preparing a pipeline of Arizonans committed to leading and making a difference on the most pressing issues facing the state.

“I love Arizona because I feel incredibly connected to the community and my part in helping to celebrate, advocate and build the community,” Gastelum said. “The richness and diversity of the place we get to live is incredible, and I love discovering new parts of Arizona every chance I get.”

Jennifer Gastelum

She joins VL from the Mesa Arts Center, where she developed and led The Collective Creative Leadership program, which uses creativity to activate leadership skills and enhance innovation across sectors. She has worked for the past six years to integrate the arts into community and economic development efforts in her hometown. She is an advocate for community-based practice and using art as a tool for economic and community connection, spreading this message by serving on panels, running workshops and serving as the secretary of the board for RAIL CDC.

“We are thrilled to have Jen join our growing leadership development team,” said VL CEO Dave Brown. “She brings experience, curiosity and drive to this new program and we can’t wait to see where she takes Arizona’s leaders – figuratively and physically.”

Get to know Jen and join us in welcoming her to the VL team.

Valley Leadership: You’re joining us from Mesa Arts Center – are there any creative endeavors you take on in your spare time?

Jennifer Gastelum: Yes! I love to paint, sew and try my hand at any new creative activity that catches my eye. I recently took up block printing, which I really love, and I have a vintage typewriter I picked up at the thrift store that I incorporate into watercolor paintings. I also love photography; although I know little about it, I love to snap photos of the community work that I am a part of to tell the story later on. 

VL: You’ll be designing VL’s next new program, Explore. What aspect of Arizona are you most excited to show people?

JG: I am so excited to be designing this program with the communities that we will be exploring in different parts of Arizona. I have spent time in Ajo, which is a really amazing example of a community that has struggled and found creative solutions to their economic and community challenges. My favorite part of envisioning what this program can become is imagining how the people in these places will tell their story to broaden the perspective of VL’s community and create connections across the state. 

VL: What  Principle of Doing do you most identify with right now?

JG: Building Trustreally resonates with me because it is essential to thoughtful community work, and especially to going into places (like the Explore program) and seeking to understand how a community operates. Building these community relationships will be most successful if done so with humility and curiosity, and with an understanding that we are not the experts in the places we are visiting. The principle of Building Trust goes deeper in that it is about seeking to understand, compromising and listening. For Explore, I think our biggest job will be to take on that listening role and to build trust with the communities with which we are seeking to connect. This will open the door for future collaborations and high impact work that will allow us to really apply the Driven to Do mentality. 

VL: How long have you called Arizona home, and what do you love most about living, working and playing here?

JG: I was born and raised in Mesa, with some brief time spent in the Bay Area and in Flagstaff for school. I love Arizona because I feel incredibly connected to the community and my part in helping to celebrate, advocate and build the community. The richness and diversity of the place we get to live is incredible, and I love discovering new parts of Arizona every chance I get. I have two young girls and I love being able to show them how they can be involved and make an impact locally, and to have them see that and experience that through mine and my husband’s work while they are so young means the world to me. 

VL: What’s something you’ve been reading that you’re thinking about as you get ready to take on this new role?

After building The Collective Creative Leadership program at Mesa Arts Center, my reading list tends to lean in the creative direction, especially regarding how important it is to build creativity as a skill that is absolutely integral to staying relevant in our ever-changing world, no matter your industry or goals. My reading list right now includes Reimagining Innovation: The Future of Exponential Leadership by Aaron Bare & N. Forbes Shannon, Imagination First, Unlocking the Power of Possibility by Eric Liu and Scott Noppe-Brandon and Finding the Space to Lead by Janice Marturano.