Executive Leadership Academy and Carnegie Mellon Launch Certificate Program for African American Execs

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According to Biz Journal’s website, “Pittsburgh is tracking at about half the national average for African-American representation on publicly traded company boards (4.5 percent versus 8 percent); has no representation in the CEO ranks and – as reported by Vibrant Pittsburgh – has 0.1 percent of the C-Suite positions.”

But that’s about to change.

In partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, the Advanced Leadership Initiative has created an executive education certificate program called the Executive Leadership Academy that looks to expand the number of African American C-Suite executives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The inaugural co-hort of 24 participants (selected out of a pool of 60) began courses last month and will complete the program in July. They hail from the non-profit, government and for profit sectors and hold degrees from top schools all over the country including Stanford University, Columbia University, Boston College and University of Virginia.

In a recent interview, Evan Frazier, founding director of the Initiative and senior vice president of Community Affairs at Highmark Health, told TNJ.com that the program aims to solve two big challenges. “The hope is that we encourage more C-Suite level African American executives to work in our region. The numbers are disproportionate to our population, so we hope to create a delivered effort to help build that pipeline. That’s why we launched it,” he shares. “The second challenge is that Black executives who are already based here say they feel disconnected and isolated. Through the program, we plan to create a professional peer network to inspire a stronger interest in staying in our region.”

Program highlights listed on the Initiative’s site include:

  • Eight, two-day modules totaling 120+ hours of instruction from renowned academy and industry experts;    
  • An integrated sponsorship program that pairs each participant with an industry-aligned sponsor for collaboration throughout the academy; * *
  • Executive coaches who individualize the content ensuring immediate application;
  • And personal growth in confidence and ability with direct impact on leadership effectiveness     

Frazier, a 2010 Network Journal 40 Under Forty award recipient, says that what sets this program apart from others are the unique offerings such as the customized curriculum geared towards African Americans in business. “Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business has customized this program not only to include strategy and finance and all of the topics you would traditionally find in a business school experience, but has also included topics that are often left out of business programs such as a course that answers how race plays out in the workplace or what the best practices are for dealing with implicit bias in the workplace,” he notes. “Those are the types of topics that impact African Americans in business, but there’s no place to have those discussions, and to grow, learn and break barriers.”

But perhaps the most unique aspect, says Frazier, is the sponsorship piece.

“We are connecting everyone to their own executive mentor – senior level folks who are at least one or two reporting relationships above where the current co-hort participant is. One of the biggest barriers to moving into C-Suite level roles is often a lack of sponsorship. It’s very difficult to gain access into these roles without a sponsor,” he says. “So, we’re trying to create professional sponsorships that will carry on beyond the program itself.”

Upon completion of the program, each participant will receive an executive education certificate from Carnegie Mellon. “The idea is that if we invest in 20 to 25 certificate students per year, in 10 years we’ll have 250 highly-trained, connected, well-established African Americans in Pittsburgh, which will change the face of how people think of diversity and leadership in this region,” Frazier shares.

Robert Young, managing director of the Initiative, says he pleased with the early show of support for the program. “One exciting aspect is that the program has gained traction and support from a number of the large companies in the city that are supporting the initiative by serving as executive mentors, and more significantly, identifying top talent within the organization that has exhibited leadership traits and ambition – people who are on a trajectory to participate in the program,” Young told TNJ.com.

Research reported by Notre Dame’s website suggests that a certificate in business can be essential to your career. “The American workforce has reached a critical juncture; even as the unemployment rate declines, new jobs will require higher levels of education and skills than many of the jobs of the past. Our workforce increasingly finds itself lacking the skills and education demanded by the growing needs and challenges of today’s global marketplace,” the piece states. “The need for better results has never been greater. Workers who lack credentials or evidence of the skills, knowledge and experience valued by employers will continue to have difficulty finding employment. And all workers will need to keep their skills up to date throughout their working lives.” But what’s the best way to update your knowledge, skills and credentials?”

The Executive Leadership Academy targets executives in mid-level managers positions, but anyone who has an interest in being an executive in their respective fields and has at least 10 years of experience can apply. Says Frazier, “On the corporate side, we have vice presidents, senior vice presidents and executive vice presidents. We also have some directors and some senior managers. On the non profit side, we have executive directors and financial officers. So. for example, we might have someone planning to become a CEO or President of a non profit; this program would help them take that last step. But also, the people who are already in those roles are looking to enrich their skills and connections as they look to work at larger organizations.”

Anyone Interested in attending the 2020 co-hort should head over to Advanced Leadership Initiative’s website or email Young directly at robertyoung@advancedleadershipinitiative.org