Inspirational Leadership award 2023: Whitney Fordham follows ‘authentic’ model in approach to leadership

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Whitney Fordham has been drawn to leadership roles for her whole life.

Through Girl Guides and 4-H and serving as a goalkeeper on various soccer teams, she has emerged as someone who can keep her eye on the big picture and guide her teammates or colleagues through their challenges.

As Director of Alumni Relations, Fordham leads a small staff team and directs the activities of the UFV Alumni Association. As Executive Director of the association, she directs and manages the activities of the organization and works directly with a board of directors and a community of volunteers.

In recognition of her exemplary leadership skills, Fordham is a recipient of the 2023 Inspirational Leadership Award at UFV.

“Leadership to me is tied with being a positive influence on others,” she says. “I strive for that in all aspects of my life. Motivating others to be their best starts with me being my best self.”

Whitney Fordham (centre), with Maggi Davis and Tony Biondi, the Alumni Relations team.
Whitney Fordham (centre), with Maggi Davis and Tony Biondi, the Alumni Relations team.

A UFV alumna (BBA ’09), Fordham has a long and positive relationship with UFV. She took on her director role in 2022 having previously held the role of Manager, Alumni Relations since 2015. Prior to that she worked in Residence Services and Student Life. Fordham also served as an elected staff representative on the UFV Board of Governors. Her work on the Board inspired her to obtain a Master of Public Administration from the University of Victoria in 2019.

Fordham says that she follows the “authentic leadership” model in her approach to leading.

“Authentic leadership follows an approach that says that leaders who are true to themselves and their values can inspire trust, loyalty, and commitment in others, which leads to a more cohesive and high-performing team,” she says. “Components of authentic leadership include self-awareness, transparency, openness, and honesty. An authentic leader demonstrates that value through actions and words, and treats everyone with respect and fairness.”

She also believes in creating an inclusive community, on her team, the alumni board of directors, and in the broader UFV alumni community.

“We value diversity, and welcome you because of who you are, not despite who you are. Everyone has unique gifts. They might be seen as quirky. But they are welcome to show up as their authentic selves.”

Fordham believes in demonstrating empathy and empowerment.

“I encourage everyone I work with to learn, grow and, thrive.”

Whitney Fordham (second from left) with Alumni board members.
Whitney Fordham (second from left) with Alumni board members.

Throughout her time at UFV, Fordham has consistently displayed strong leadership qualities in various roles, both as a student and staff member. As a student ambassador, orientation leader, and part of the student Leadership Institute, she positively influenced her peers while pursuing her degree. This experience led to her securing a position in Student Life upon graduation and embarking on a career at UFV.

Reflecting on her journey, Fordham says that she especially values being able to influence students and others she has led.

“I enjoyed being a positive influence on the students in residence at a time in their lives when they were really beginning to discover themselves. I was able to watch as they grew into campus leaders over their years at UFV.”

Now, Fordham continues to demonstrate her leadership by fostering a sense of community for alumni. She is dedicated to meaningfully connecting alumni with opportunities and with each other, as well as celebrating their accomplishments and unique gifts. Through her efforts, Fordham remains a guiding light and a strong advocate for the alumni community.

Fordham has faced challenges in her personal life that have shown her the importance of perseverance and resilience and prepared her to be a better leader.

“I’ve had to be resilient from a young age and that has helped shape me and my approach to others.”

She is particularly honoured that her staff members and other colleagues nominated her for the leadership award.

“It means so much to be recognized by my colleagues. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have a positive impact on them and the university in general. Around 10 years ago one of my mentors had just left UFV and I told her that if she hadn’t left I would have nominated her for the leadership award. She told me that one day I would win that award. So I guess we’ve come full circle.”

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From UFV Today, article by Anne Russel