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On June 7, 2023, the seventh cohort of Culture Champions completed the 2023 Inclusive Leaders Academy (ILA) program at Georgia Tech after being nominated for and accepted into the program last fall. The total number of graduates is now close to 500.

Written by Wendy Yu

“I have been a part of plenty of leadership development programs, but the Inclusive Leaders Academy is drastically different,” said Michael A. Dixon, director of operations in the Office of Commercialization. “This life-changing experience extended spaces to unlearn and relearn ideologies gained throughout my life. I learned new information that positively changed me both personally and professionally.”

Since the program’s 2017 launch, ILA has become a premier leadership development program for staff and faculty at Georgia Tech. It is also vital to the Institute Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (IDEI) strategic plan goals of cultivating inclusive leadership and retaining and developing a world-class workforce where everyone feels supported, valued, respected, productive, and engaged.

To achieve this, ILA employs a curriculum designed to improve self-awareness, social intelligence, and courage. The self-paced program gives participants the opportunity and space to be self-reflective while offering practical tools to integrate into their leadership practice.

After attending a workshop from the NeuroLeadership Institute, Jonathan Rivera Perez, global internship advisor in the Office of International Education, said, “Bias in the workplace is something I feel more comfortable identifying and mitigating now. Learning skills around creating shared goals, focusing on similarities and taking in all viewpoints has allowed me to implement these teachings from the ILA program and apply them every day."

The curriculum blends content from multiple disciplines, including mindfulness, the science of teams and bias, and the courage-based leadership research of Brené Brown, Ph.D., in her book, Dare to Lead. Speaking to the ILA pillar of social intelligence, Kelly Rowland Prather, director of catering for Georgia Tech Dining, said, “While I engaged my direct reports daily and felt a sense of connectedness, there was limited engagement with their direct reports. So now I start my day in the catering pantry and kitchen speaking with staff as they prepare for the day's production and deliveries, which has helped build rapport as well as a mentorship program with a frontline supervisor.”

To complete the program, each participant also practiced courage through personal storytelling. The intensity of self-reflection was a challenging first for many, but they understood that vulnerability and sharpening their communication skills were integral to learning how to create connections, have candid conversations, and strengthen relationships.

On June 7, President Ángel Cabrera and Archie W. Ervin, Ph.D., IDEI vice president, kicked off the closing program of the 2023 Inclusive Leaders Academy, followed by a keynote address on allyship featuring Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at the New York University School of Law, who discussed using neuroscience to recognize and break down the barriers to allyship, “An ally is someone who leverages their advantages in support of others who don’t have those same advantages,” he said.

“We are thrilled to continue the work of supporting this network of empowered leaders who join hundreds of previous participants to expand the community of mindful, socially intelligent leaders at Georgia Tech,” said Pearl Alexander, executive director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement. As Dixon said, “The cohort model shattered silos by bringing colleagues from across the Institute together under the spirit of evolving self-awareness, strengthening one’s personal power, and unleashing the capacity for global leadership.”

Alexander invited “all people leaders to continue to grow with us and become ‘Culture Champions,’ each doing their part to transform the culture here.”

ILA is enriched by the engagement of leaders and subject matter experts from across the Institute — including Joi Alexander, director of the Wellness Empowerment Center, and Christie Stewart, senior academic professional in the School of Biological Sciences, who facilitated a lab on resilience; story coaches Lindsey Laney, assistant registrar of Academic Scheduling; Rayne Bozeman, academic professional in the Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing; Stephanie Ray, associate dean of Students and director of Student Diversity Programs; and Melissa Foulger, artistic director of DramaTech.

For a full list of the newest cohort of Culture Champions, click here.

To learn more about the Inclusive Leaders Academy, including how to nominate yourself or a colleague, visit