A new certificate program is connecting students with a cohort of Black public administrators from across the country to focus on innovative leadership skills.
The Georgetown University School of Continuing Studies launched the Innovative Leadership in Public Administration Certificate Program in February in partnership with the National Forum for Black Public Administrators, a nonprofit organization that promotes leadership development for Black professionals working in public service. The five-month program, taught by adjunct lecturers from SCS, includes a curriculum that focuses on fostering leadership and professional development skills, according to Dean Kelly Otter.
The certificate program’s curriculum is a unique approach to leadership development, according to Otter.
“The idea is to focus using the leadership coaching strategies that allow the participants to develop as a manager and a leader by understanding the contemporary best practices in leadership coaching,” Otter said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
This year’s inaugural cohort included 13 students, based in various locations across the United States, who began coursework in January and will complete a capstone project to receive their certificate in May, according to Otter. Students will design their capstone projects by applying module topics and covered concepts to a real world situation.
Through choosing their own focus for their capstone projects, students have the opportunity to think about the impact of social justice issues in their communities, according to Otter.
“I would like to see 13 capstone projects that show how these 13 individuals in their unique ways can make transformational change, and can make the world a better, more inclusive place,” Otter said.
Participation in the program has developed leadership skills that benefit both administrators and the constituents they serve, according to David Gray (GRD ’21), a student in the program who works as the economic recovery program project manager for the City of Austin, Texas.
“I think the program is outstanding as a public administrator and as someone whose job it is to serve the community every day,” Gray said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “It’s really important to make sure my management style, my leadership style and my work style is adaptive and can change and be responsive to the needs of the communities that we’re serving.”
The Executive Leaders Institute, a professional development program in the NFBPA, has instructed students over the past 30 years, but those who graduated from the program did not receive any certificate that acknowledged their newly acquired skills, according to Otter. Brandon Daniels, an adjunct lecturer at SCS and a member of the NFBPA brought up the idea that Georgetown should partner with the association so people who complete this development training would receive official certification for their work.
The program unites a unique cohort of people who come from different public administration backgrounds, according to Daniels.
“I think there is nothing like this in the country. Even though it’s the NFBPA, we have people from all walks of life coming in and being part of the program. There is nothing like this that focuses on Black leaders in city government getting leadership coaching and being able to work with Georgetown to do this,” Daniels said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya.
The certificate program includes monthly modules that cover topics like mindful leadership, data-driven decision-making, budget management and approaches to sustainability and economic development, according to Otter. Students will participate in one-on-one leadership coaching sessions throughout the program’s duration.
While personal improvement is often overlooked in the practice of professional leadership, it is a necessary skill for successful management and administration, according to Julia Murillo, senior director of custom programs at SCS.
“We start here because this is the foundation — the values and the principles on which we want to encourage our students to make strategic decisions,” Murillo said in a Zoom interview with The Hoya. “We want to help and to guide people on this approach of making budgetary decisions, strategic decisions, economic decisions, from a place of social justice and looking at how to make social change, looking at how our current structures might be inhibiting fairness and inclusion, and to redesign those structures to maximize fairness and inclusion.”
The first course module, which focused on mindful leadership, introduced participants to self-care strategies that incorporated Georgetown values, like cura personalis, or care of the whole person, according to Murillo.
“I do hope that this program exemplifies cura personalis and how it does pull not just our emphasis on people’s academic history but really their personal, professional and all walks of life history,” Murillo said.
A module focused on practices like mindful walking and mindful eating provided stress management techniques for the group, according to Murillo.
“Many of these participants are involved in a high stress, crisis-oriented profession in which they don’t take time for themselves and are constantly prioritizing the needs of others,” Murillo said.
While the new program is a learning experience for both students and faculty alike, the growth of its inaugural students demonstrates a promising future for the program, according to Otter.
“I really would like to see this grow, because I think we’re doing a wonderful service to people who are eager to become more engaged leaders and to get the best out of themselves and their work, and there’s a lot of people who want to do that,” said Otter.