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Two AVIAN leaders graduate from Leadership Southern Maryland

Jul 30th, 2021

LEXINGTON PARK, Md. – AVIAN's Tracy Barkhimer and Tara Strickland completed the 2021 Leadership Southern Maryland (LSM) Executive Program during a graduation ceremony last week.

On July 22, Barkhimer and Strickland were two of 27 professionals to graduate from the 2021 LSM Executive Program, a nine-month course providing a behind-the-scenes understanding of the industries and local issues that shape the Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s County communities.

“Our flagship program’s Class of 2021 represents a diverse cross-section of senior professionals who are passionate about helping to shape the future of Southern Maryland,” said Denise Foster, Executive Director, Leadership Southern Maryland. “Our Executive Program looked a bit different this year, as we had to adjust for the pandemic, but our class remained committed to completing the program and fully embracing this experience. I am confident they will now apply the new perspectives, self-awareness, and connections they’ve gained to aid in our region’s recovery.”

Both residents of St. Mary’s County, Barkhimer and Strickland participated in nine, one-day sessions from September 2020 through June of 2021 and engaged with classmates and county leaders on topics concerning housing and human services, education, public safety, energy, and environment, defense, economic development, and multiculturalism.

According to Strickland, with numerous program delays and health restrictions due to COVID-19, the LSM class of 2021 became known as the most resilient class and the Best Class Ever (BCE).

“We each made a commitment to the program in the spring of 2020 knowing that COVID might impact our experience,” Strickland said. “I think this made us more connected as a class and even more dedicated to the outcome. We talked to industry leaders during an unprecedented time in history and I am forever grateful for the things I learned.”

Strickland, AVIAN's director of communications, will soon celebrate her 10th anniversary with the company. In her tenure she’s created internal and external communications strategies, working with C-suite members, executives, and managers to build a strong culture at AVIAN that encourages candor, transparency, and care. With a bachelor’s degree in communications from Frostburg State University and a master’s degree in strategic communications management from Purdue University, Strickland specializes in strategic communications, change management, public relations, and graphic design.

"The program exceeded my expectations and reinforced the value of building trusting relationships at work, in professional groups, and with my family," Strickland said. "As a leader at AVIAN, I plan to lean on my LSM network and these experiences to ensure our employees understand the communities we serve and how we can continue to support them.”

Barkhimer, a senior acquisition consultant at AVIAN, served 26 years of active duty in the U.S. Navy, culminating in a major acquisition command tour at the Naval Air Systems Command. She holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from SUNY Maritime College and a master's degree in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee Space Institute. 

"LSM is not just about leadership at all," Barkhimer said. It's about connecting with the world around us and getting to know the community. It's opened my eyes to services and opportunities right here in Southern Maryland that I didn't know existed. It's about connecting with like-minded people and giving back to the community. LSM Class of 2021 BCE introduced me to some amazing people who care about Southern Maryland and I look forward to continuing those relationships." 

Barkhimer and Strickland join AVIAN employee and LSM Communications Chair, Kristine Wilcox (LSM, ’15), as well as several former AVIAN employees who have completed the program.

About Leadership Southern Maryland

Leadership Southern Maryland is a non-profit organization dedicated to building a diverse cadre of informed and engaged leaders from Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s Counties. Founded in 2008, LSM sets out to prepare leaders in the area to address common issues and bring long-term benefits to their industries and communities. To learn more, please visit or call 301-862-7663.


AVIAN (pronounced *ae-v-yin*) is an employee-owned small business that celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2020.

AVIAN is a two-time honoree on the Inc. Best Workplaces in America list (2018 and 2020) and a 10-time honoree on the Inc. 500 | 5000 lists of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies. AVIAN ranked No. 230 in 2010, No. 267 in 2011, No. 660 in 2012, No. 1675 in 2013, No. 2630 in 2014, No. 2417 in 2015, No. 3599 in 2016, No. 3764 in 2017, No. 4878 in 2018 and No. 4496 in 2019.

AVIAN believes talent and passion generate solutions to today’s business challenges. We understand that these characteristics thrive in a business culture that embraces innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit.

We are resourceful, responsive, and reachable for our clients in program, financial, and logistics management; engineering and systems engineering; counter-threat solutions; test and evaluation of manned and unmanned surface, subsurface, and aerial systems; workforce development and training; communication strategy, video production, and graphic design. 

AVIAN is headquartered in Lexington Park, Maryland with hundreds of employees located across the county.


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