African American Leadership Program celebrates fifth anniversary

Thursday, January 23, 2014 5:00:00 PM


Stritch’s African American Leadership Program (AALP) recently celebrated its five-year anniversary.

Jeanette Mitchell, Ed.D., '01, program director for the Leadership Center, developed the program and has received great joy in seeing it thrive.

In 2005, Mitchell partnered with Enrique Figueroa, Ph.D., from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee to establish the Latino Nonprofit Leadership Program (LNLP). She credits this program with inspiring the AALP.

The LNLP’s format and delivery were successful in strengthening connections and leadership development within the Latino community.

“Yet, there was a void to fill within Milwaukee’s African American community,” said Mitchell.

In 2008, Stritch launched the African American Leadership Program; a nine-month program that provides African American professionals the resources and training to strengthen their leadership.

One key difference between the LNLP and the AALP; however, is the cross-sector model incorporated by the latter. The AALP accepts applicants from business, nonprofit, education, and entrepreneurial backgrounds.

 “The [AALP] encourages the development of African American leaders across all sectors who can impact individual lives, as well as the greater community,” said Mitchell.

According to Margaret Arney, Leadership Center program coordinator and an AALP alumna, the “leadership pool” in the Milwaukee area has historically not been very diverse.

“We consider our program to be the pipeline for the next generation of leaders,” Mitchell explained.

By creating a network of leaders (through current participants, as well as alumni) that spans generations, life experiences, and work sectors, the program accomplishes exactly that.

The curriculum includes active learning, executive coaching, and professional networking. Participants engage with prominent leaders in the Milwaukee area; connect their learning to a broader issue through community leadership projects; and give and receive “360 degree feedback” to identify strengths and opportunities for growth.

Over the course of the program, participants develop a mission statement to represent their values and objectives.

“Our alumni most often cite the 360 degree feedback and development of their mission statements as the most valuable experiences,” explained Arney.

Interest in the AALP has increased steadily in its first five years. Many organizations even pay the full fee for their employees to complete the program.

Northwestern Mutual, Johnson Controls Inc., and The Boys and Girls Club, for example, have been strong advocates for the AALP and support employees through the program each year.

In fact, Northwestern Mutual recently hosted an event for all program facilitators and alumni to reconnect and celebrate the AALP’s five years of leadership in Milwaukee.

Mitchell explained that the program’s benefits are not limited to the individual participants, but are also extended to their employers and, ultimately, the community.

“Leadership is directly applied to their jobs,” said Mitchell. “Our alumni understand their strengths, opportunities, mission, passion, and values. We are all more powerful when our work aligns with our mission.”

After a successful and inspiring first five years, the program’s facilitators are looking to further enhance its offerings.

Mitchell and Arney agree that the AALP’s next step is to further develop connections with its alumni base in the form of an alumni association.  The group is engaged and seeking additional opportunities to connect and support each other; a representation of the program’s impact on their lives.

Learn more about the African American Leadership Program online.