BSC alumna directs learning academy at Alpha Natural Resources - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

BSC alumna directs learning academy at Alpha Natural Resources


(Bluefield)— She spearheaded development of one of the nation's most innovative employee learning academies, but at age 21, Cheryl Stapleton envisioned herself as a small business entrepreneur. At first glance, it may appear that her career path shifted, but she doesn't see it that way. As Alpha Natural Resources' VP for Learning and Development, she relies regularly on the life lessons and practical knowledge gained through high school and college experience.

The Alpha Natural Resources “Running Right Leadership Academy” directed by Stapleton won the 2014 Institute for Quality Public Services' Corporate University Best in Class (CUBIC) “Learning Organization of the Year” award. Her career journey began as a teenager.

“I began working at a local grocery store in Roderfield, WV at 18,” she said. “This grocer saw something in me and my work ethic. He was a great mentor. He told me I had the potential to be whatever I wanted to be. Although my family wasn't able to afford college, he encouraged me to apply.” Following graduation from Mount View High School, she enrolled in the business program at Bluefield State.

“The faculty at Bluefield State were invested in me and wanted me to succeed,” she recalled. “I still call on a couple of BSC professors there when I want to talk about the challenges I face in business. In fact, when I rolled out my first performance program in 1996, I partnered with (BSC Professor of Business) Dr. Steve Bourne. He has been available for business advice throughout my career. When I built the learning and performance management system currently used by Alpha Natural Resources, I relied on the experience I gained from Dr. Bourne.”

After graduating from BSC, Stapleton worked at Turner Vision, an area firm transitioning from cable TV to satellite TV. She was a member of the small management team that helped Turner Vision grow from 15 employees to more than 500 in just a few years. “The late Bill Turner was a joy and inspiration to work for,” she stated. “He taught me the importance of vision and positive thinking.”

The BSC alumna earned a Master's degree in Organizational Development and Communication at West Virginia University, then worked as assistant director at a local commission on aging. Soon thereafter, she was recruited by former colleague and friend Harry Hull for a position in the Human Resources department at Alpha Natural Resources, then was promoted to HR director. ”Harry established a cultural development program for Alpha,” she explained. “He and I frequently collaborated on training and development initiatives for the company. Before long, I was heading up the development of Alpha's learning and development department, which included the launch of the Running Right Leadership Academy (RRLA).”

The Running Right Leadership Academy at Julian, WV is a one-of-its-kind, world class training facility that mimics an underground coal mine. “The RRLA allow us to safely replicate events like fire-fighting, water inundation, and smoke-filled entries, stretching the critical thinking skills and enhancing the preparedness of our employees,” she continued. Developing and deploying curricula that drives business performance objectives with an emphasis on preparing Alpha employees to work smart and safely is the daily focus of the Running Right Leadership Academy, she added. “Our recent nomination and award of Corporate University Best in Class (CUBIC) learning organization of the year validated for us that following our passion and commitment to serve our employees is the RIGHT thing to do. The facility is energetic and dynamic.”

“My experience at BSC--its approach to investing in its students and their success—is a model for what we attempt to do at the RRLA,” she added. “We meet a student just where they are and work with each student on their learning journey. We are committed to excellence and expect excellence from our participants. That's very much like what I experienced at BSC.”

Stapleton's daughter Hannah is enrolled at BSC. “From what I hear from her, BSC has the same type of support and values as I experienced when I was a student there 20 years ago,” she said.

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