Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders: Challenge (Feb 26-28)

An intensive training for high potential managers and supervisors through exposure to broad perspectives of the utility business, its interrelationships and successful leadership strategies. This program is designed by a utility-driven Curriculum Development Team, and directed by facilitators, and executive and alumni mentors. Program sessions are hosted by member utilities and topics are presented by executives, subject matter experts and formal instructors. The first four sessions focus on leadership development, industry perspectives, customer connections, communications and strategic planning. The program includes a capstone project which is delivered to industry leaders at the WEI Annual Meeting. Participants build a broad peer network that continues well into their future careers.

General Details

  • Program Location
  • Salt River Project - PERA Club
  • 1 E. Continental Drive
    Tempe, AZ 85281
  • Who Should Attend
  • Participants are nominated by WEI members and selected through a formal application review process. 

    Applicants make a commitment to attend and actively participate at each session, and should plan time for additional work between sessions. It is expected that students commit to completing “homework” assignments during evenings and off-hours with additional assignments required outside of the normal work day. Each group is assigned one executive and one alumni mentor who will support the group’s development throughout the program and guide them to a successful final project.

  • Full Course Dates + Locations
  • Session 1: February 26-28, Salt River Project, Phoenix, AZ
    Session 2: April 30-May 2, FortisAlberta, Calgary, AB
    Session 3: June 25-27, Idaho Power Company, Boise, ID
    Session 4: August 8-10, NW Natural, Portland, OR
    Session 5: September 23-25, Annual Meeting, Newport Beach, CA

  • General Cancellation Policy
  • Due to contractual obligations and the critical role of group compositions for the success of the program, cancellations received after January 5, 2018, will not be eligible for a refund, and the organization will be responsible for the full 2018 registration fee. Substitutions from your organization for the program are always welcome prior to session one.
  • Participation Policy
  • Western Energy Institute programs and events are open to energy companies (including gas production and electric generation, gas and electric transmission and gas and electric distribution utilities). Select programs and events are open to energy industry product and service suppliers. Programs and events are closed to all media representatives and to the general public.
  • For more information contact Beverly Woolf, Program Manager at (503) 688-2790.


Monday, February 26, 2018

12:30 PM - 1:00 PM

Student check-in

Students meet in the hotel lobby to travel by bus to the tour location.

1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tour of the Salt River Project History Center
Speaker(s): Leah Harrison, Senior Historical Analyst, Salt River Project

SRP historian, Leah Harrison, will lead a guided tour of the new History Center. Everyone will be required to show photo ID and pass through a metal detector for entry.

SRP History Center
1500 N Mill Avenue
Tempe, AZ 85281

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Return to hotel

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM

Student networking reception

We will have a reception for both cohorts, no invited guests, at the hotel. Dinner is on your own.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Travel to the PERA Club

Meet in the hotel lobby at 7:30 am.  We will travel to our meeting location: 
Desert View Room 
1 E Continental Drive
Tempe, AZ 85281

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM


8:30 AM - 9:15 AM

Welcome to Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders
Speaker(s): Neena Master, Director of Community Relations, Southern California Gas Company

The 2018 Facilitator, Neena Master, will provide an introduction to the program and describe the goals of Business Acumen for Emerging Leaders.

9:15 AM - 10:00 AM

Student Introductions

Students will introduce one of their peers and share information learned from the partner interview assignment.

10:00 AM - 10:30 AM


10:30 AM - 11:30 AM

Welcome to Salt River Project
Speaker(s): Mark Bonsall, General Manager & Chief Executive Officer, Salt River Project

11:30 AM - 12:30 PM


12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Leading High Performing Teams
Speaker(s): Aidan McSheffrey, Chief Financial Executive, Salt River Project

1:30 PM - 2:30 PM

Leadership Exercise
Facilitator(s): Maureen Williams, Manager of Learning & Development, Salt River Project

2:30 PM - 2:45 PM


2:45 PM - 4:00 PM

Strengths Based Leadership Book Discussion
Facilitator(s): Neena Master, Director of Community Relations, Southern California Gas Company

4:00 PM - 4:30 PM

Networking Tips Refresher & Close
Speaker(s): Neena Master, Director of Community Relations, Southern California Gas Company

We close out the day and provide tips and tricks for intentional networking.

4:45 PM - 5:15 PM

Travel to reception

5:30 PM - 7:00 PM

Reception with invited guests

Reception sponsored by Burns & McDonnell 

Enjoy a networking reception with all 2018 BAEL students and mentors, as well as special invited guests and hosts from Salt River Project and Arizona Public Service.

Tempe Center for the Arts
700 W. Rio Salado
Tempe, AZ 85281

7:15 PM - 7:45 PM

Return to hotel

Buses return to the hotel. Dinner on your own.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

7:30 AM - 8:00 AM

Travel to the PERA Club

Meet in the hotel lobby at 7:30 am.

8:00 AM - 8:30 AM


8:30 AM - 9:00 AM

Review of Day 1 and Welcome to Day 2

9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

Leading a Diverse Work Force
Speaker(s): Rob Nichols, Senior Director of Human Resources, Salt River Project

10:00 AM - 10:15 AM


10:15 AM - 11:15 AM

Leading Through Change
Speaker(s): Renee Castillo, Senior Director of Power Customer Services, Salt River Project

11:15 AM - 12:00 PM

Homework Assignment Review

Revisit Strengths Finders results and students will share information from their conversations with Supervisors and Board Members.

12:00 PM - 12:30 PM


12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Team Building Exercise
Facilitator(s): Neena Master, Director of Community Relations, Southern California Gas Company

1:30 PM - 2:45 PM

Capstone Project group time

Groups will brainstorm topics and set up group work plan.

2:45 PM - 3:00 PM

Session Close and Introduction to the Elevator Speech
Facilitator(s): Neena Master, Director of Community Relations, Southern California Gas Company

Throughout the program, you and your classmates will have several opportunities to mix and mingle with executives and key leaders from host utilities. A polished elevator speech provides you an opportunity to make a great first impression and share a little bit about yourself and your organization with folks you meet. Alumni Mentors will provide examples and share their own tips on effective elevator speeches.

Hotel + Travel

  • Reservation Instructions
  • Please contact the hotel directly at (602) 225-9000 to reserve your room. Identify yourself as being with Western Energy Institute to receive a special rate of $259 USD/night. This rate is guaranteed until January 29, 2018 or until the WEI room block is full.

Meet The Speakers

Leah Harrison

Salt River Project

Senior Historical Analyst
Learn More

Leah Harrison is a Senior Historical Analyst with Salt River Project’s Research Archives. A native Phoenician and former secondary history educator, Leah earned her Bachelor’s in History Education from the University of Arizona, and her Master’s Degree in Public History and a certificate in Scholarly Publishing from Arizona State University. As a historian with SRP, she analyzes the history of water and power in the valley.

Renee Castillo

Salt River Project

Senior Director of Power Customer Services
Learn More

Renée Castillo is Senior Director of Customer Strategy Integration for the Salt River Project (SRP). She oversees the business portfolio to develop and support the transformation of SRP’s strategic initiatives and enhance the customers’ experience.

She holds a B.A in General Business Studies from Western International University and a M.A in Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Renée inspires her team with a high-energy attitude that promotes creativity, innovation and exceptional customer-centric performance.

Maureen Williams

Salt River Project

Manager of Learning & Development

Mark Bonsall

Salt River Project

General Manager & Chief Executive Officer

Aidan McSheffrey

Salt River Project

Chief Financial Executive

Rob Nichols

Salt River Project

Senior Director of Human Resources