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July 30, 2020 | Spotlight

Local and state leaders benefit from Institute’s virtual programs

Nearly three dozen finance officers were honored with a virtual graduation ceremony for successfully completing the Institute’s Primary Governmental Accounting Series.

Writer: Roger Nielsen

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic by developing safe and effective ways to deliver meaningful instruction, provide online facilitation services and coordinate virtual training conferences.

Institute faculty and staff have worked with partner organizations to deliver dozens of classes on virtual platforms since this spring. In addition, the Institute is presenting an increasing number of virtual retreats, workshops and training conferences.

Recently, dozens of information technology professionals attended a virtual conference the Institute presented in partnership with the Georgia Chapter of the Government Management Information Sciences (GA-GMIS). The GA-GMIS conference covered the same critical topics that are presented during a face-to-face conference in a shorter time-frame, said Institute faculty member Mike Hourihan, the lead instructor.

“People were happy that we did it virtually instead of canceling it. They were happy with the content, happy with the pace,” Hourihan said.

The Institute has also developed virtual conferences for the Georgia Chapter of the America Public Works Association (APWA) and the Georgia Certified Public Manager (CPM) program and will host and provide technical assistance for the Charter System Foundation’s fall conference in September. The CPM conference will include a virtual graduation ceremony similar to the online commencement held in June for more than two dozen finance officers who successfully completed the Institute’s Primary Governmental Accounting Series program.

The Institute also is transitioning conference sessions that were delivered face-to-face in past years. For example, nearly a dozen online classes in the Harold F. Holtz Municipal Training Institute replaced face-to-face leadership development classes this spring and summer.

Virtual classes make it easier and more economical for government officials to attend professional development courses, according to Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, chair of the training board that provides guidance on the Holtz Municipal Training Institute curriculum. “This could be a training game-changer if we can continue to deliver these courses virtually,” she said.

Other online classes are being provided in certificate programs for economic development professionals, city and county clerks, state and local finance officers, planning and zoning officials and others. All of the Institute’s fall semester financial management classes will be held online, as will 19 classes for the Georgia Clerks Education Institute, a certificate program the Institute provides for the Georgia County Clerks Association and the Georgia Municipal Clerks Association.

In addition to online classes, Institute faculty and staff are conducting online workshops and planning sessions with school districts, local government staff and elected officials. For example, Institute faculty organized two virtual retreats to gather input necessary to update a school district’s strategic plan, mission statement and vision.