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User Spotlight: Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Meet Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Ph.D., Community Viability Specialist with Virginia Cooperative Extension – Southeast District.

“I work in communities to mobilize and engage diverse groups in dialogues regarding a host of community issues including poverty, youth gangs, and teen pregnancy.”

Q: Tell us about yourself and your work.

Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) is the educational outreach of Virginia Tech and Virginia State University. I began my work at VCE in 2004. Prior to that, I worked as a research and evaluator in the Washington, D.C. area where I evaluated state and federally funded programs. I also taught at the University of Maryland after serving in multiple community-based educational roles, including Outreach Director with Downtown Richmond YMCA and regional provider of training and technical assistance with AmeriCorps. 

In my current role, I deliver training on team building in group sessions and am a certified Myers-Briggs practitioner. In addition, I deliver training workshops on facilitating groups and teams, group dynamics, leadership development, managing conflict in groups, and working in diverse group settings. I serve as a facilitator for meetings, such as strategic planning, action planning, brainstorming sessions, and team building.

Q. What do you find most rewarding about your work?

I am currently providing statewide leadership to a civic-engagement project, “Turning the Tide on Poverty” in which community members are trained as facilitators to lead group discussions for addressing poverty-related concerns. These efforts aim to build the capacity of community members, leaders, and agencies to strengthen communities in Virginia.

I am most rewarded when a program participant shares what they have been able to accomplish by using information and skills gained from training programs they have attended. 

In this position, I have learned that community-level change can be a slow process and we have to be patient, and value the history and viewpoints of people from all walks of life. 

Q. What’s coming up that’s got you really excited?

We have just launched a series of trainings entitled “Keys to Effective Teams.” This series of workshops includes sessions on running productive meetings, working with people who have different personalities and styles, conflict management and facilitation skills. On January 30-31, we are hosting the Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills training. And on February 6, we will host a one day conference on Conflict Management, which will include a session by Dr. Mike Ellerbrock, a nationally respected expert in conflict resolution. 

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