Second Cohort of 78 Staff and Faculty Graduate as ‘Culture Champions’ from the Inclusive Leaders Academy

“Change begins with the person in the mirror,” said Jarrett Ellis, senior associate for the Georgia Tech Research Corporation, during the Inclusive Leaders Academy closing ceremony on May 11.

After engaging in up to 24 hours of study and practice, 78 staff and faculty leaders from 52 campus units graduated as the second cohort of the Inclusive Leaders Academy and were celebrated as “Culture Champions” during the program’s closing ceremony.

Within the first full year of its launching, more than 250 staff and faculty leaders have participated in the programming, yielding 165 Culture Champions. “By launching the Inclusive Leaders Academy and creating a cadre of Culture Champions, we knew that we would move more rapidly down the road toward building an inclusive campus community,” said Archie Ervin, vice president for Institute Diversity.

The Inclusive Leaders Academy is a professional leadership and legacy development program for Georgia Tech staff, faculty administrators, and research leaders who manage people. Created by Institute Diversity’s Staff Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement (SDIE) unit, the curriculum was designed to blend neuroscience and social science in ways that spark insights and guide personal transformation.

“Through this program, we provide leaders with the reflective space to contemplate who they are as people, and we engage them in becoming grounded in their common humanity and leading bravely,” said Pearl Alexander, executive director of diversity, inclusion, and engagement and co-founder of the Inclusive Leaders Academy. “We value the wholeness of people, and the program is fostering both personal and community transformation.”

The Academy is designed to enhance self-awareness, social intelligence, and co-active leadership, which have been identified as critical competency areas for leadership development and agility. Curriculum content has been curated from the NeuroLeadership Institute on unconscious bias and from Brave Leaders Inc on Daring Leadership: The Four Pillars of Courage, based on the research of Brené Brown.

Upon completing the curriculum, Ashley Beavers, project manager for the Georgia Tech Research Institute, stated, “Many biases are in our lives because we are rushing from one thing to the next. Often, we don’t have time to reflect on the decisions made, and we don’t have time to integrate the ethics that we value into our actual daily practice.”

To date, more than 100 learning experiences have been offered, including wisdom labs, individual and group coaching sessions, and co-active leader and inclusive leader dialogues.

SDIE also launched an executive and senior leadership coaching program earlier this year. Eight participants – in positions of executive director or associate chair and above – engaged in the same online curriculum and commited to completing up to three individual 60-minute coaching sessions or experiential diversity and inclusion-related reflective activities.

“It is such a humbling experience to be with these wonderful leaders and witness their unfolding over the program cycle. Our Culture Champions have looked themselves squarely in the eye, courageously confronting the truth of who they are,” said Cheryl Cofield, director of inclusion and engagement and co-founder of the Inclusive Leaders Academy.

The Academy was recently honored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education with a 2018 Circle of Excellence Award. A panel of experts from peer schools, colleges, and universities recognized the Inclusive Leaders Academy in the “Diversity Programs: Internal Constituencies” category among nine entries, and Georgia Tech was the only winner in the category.

The nomination period for the third cohort of the Inclusive Leaders Academy will open this fall, and the next program will run through the spring semester in 2019.

To view the Inclusive Leaders Academy second cohort highlight video, visit, and to learn more, visit

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Annette Filliat

Communications Manager

Institute Diversity