Leon Jackson (EMBA ’19) doesn’t need to look at the data on diversity in leadership roles to know that women and minorities make up only a small percentage of those in the corporate ranks. Sometimes he can just look around.

One of a handful of minorities in his Executive MBA cohort of professionals working at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, he recalls thinking, “This is an incredible space. Notre-Dame is special; it’s just. Why don’t we have more diversity?

In August, he returned to Mendoza with 21 women and men from under-represented groups for a three-day immersion in accounting and finance principles with finance professor Walt Clements. The course is part of the new Diversity in Leadership (DIL) program at Marian University of Indianapolis, which Jackson launched during his tenure as Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Léon Jackson (EMBA ’19)

Jackson, who was appointed chancellor of St. Joseph’s College at Marian University in September, envisions DIL as a vehicle to transform the state into “a place where human flourishing is a realistic endeavor for all.”

The six-month program – a collaboration between Marian, Notre Dame and several other universities in Indiana – is designed to help bridge gaps in educational attainment, wealth, skills, and career opportunities for minority groups and to pave the way for executive leadership and entrepreneurship. Other partners include Butler University Business Schools, Indiana University’s IUPUI Campus, and Purdue University.

Questions about how to move more people from under-represented groups into leadership and leadership positions have been on Jackson’s mind since graduating from graduate school. Jackson, who holds a PhD in Workforce Development and Organizational Leadership from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, believes higher education is one of the gatekeepers to these opportunities. “Typically, if you don’t have those credentials, you won’t be in those positions,” he says.

While a student at Notre Dame, he bonded with Clements, who became one of the many people at Notre Dame who served as both a sounding board and a resource when Jackson began to develop the program.

“This program seeks to wrap the learning context around real growth experiences, opportunities that are often not offered to minority groups, and to remove barriers in degree programs that lead to the aftermath. C, ”Jackson said. “DIL will transform passionate, talented and underutilized women and ethnic minorities into impact agents, ready to help central Indiana realize its full potential as a major economic engine in the region, but it will take a concerted effort by all to facilitate access. “

Each partner institution welcomes program cohorts of up to 25 to their respective campuses once a month, led by faculty and staff from those institutions. Eligible participants must identify themselves as a member of a minority group or as a woman. Special attention is given to women who have been out of work for more than two years. All applicants must have obtained a bachelor’s degree and have more than seven years of professional experience and at least two years of supervisory experience. The program had 48 applications for the first cohort, and by mid-September there were already over 300 applicants for the spring 2022 cohort.

“Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion is essential to our mission and educational experience in Mendoza, as well as the organizations our students will one day join,” said Martijn Cremers, Dean Martin J. Gillen from Mendoza College of Business. “We are excited to partner with the Diversity in Leadership Initiative to serve a very diverse group of people and help prepare them for the next step in their career or business training. “

“If we are to see the most complex business issues resolved, we need diverse and ethical leadership at the highest levels – C-suite, board, governance, regulation and policy,” said María Stutsman y Marquez , Director of Graduate Recruitment and Admissions. in Mendoza. “Given the statistics that 8% of Fortune 500 C-suite leadership positions are women and only 16% of Fortune 100 C leadership positions are racially diverse, it’s clear that boards, teams leadership and organizations are responsible for fostering such change. “

Members of the first Diversity in Leadership (DIL) cohort.  (Photo by Barbara Johnston / University of Notre Dame)
Members of the first Diversity in Leadership (DIL) cohort. (Photo by Barbara Johnston / University of Notre Dame)

Participants are tasked with developing an understanding of the key concepts, tools and frameworks learned through five courses, including business analysis, leadership communication, accounting / finance, organizational strategy and change management. They work with an executive coach for the duration of the program and apply what they have learned by carrying out a synthesis project at their workplace.

“That way employers get a real return on their investment, a real return,” Jackson said. “And the individual now has a grounding experience that they can use to advance in the organization.”

Graduates of the program receive a leadership mindset certification approved by all participating universities. They are also eligible to bypass the GMAT and GRE requirements for admission to graduate programs and are eligible for a streamlined admission process into the business-related master’s program of their choice, as well as a discount on tuition fees from one of the participating universities. Graduates can also take advantage of this experience for admission to Marian University’s Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, if they meet the program entry requirements.

“At every stage of life, education is a catalyst,” said Stutsman y Marquez. “We know there are incredible disparities in our education system that impact access and opportunities based on factors such as race, ability and socio-economic conditions. It is through partnerships such as these that create pathways to education for those who aim to expand their capacity and impact within their industries, organizations, communities, families and beyond.