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Why the Certificate in Cultural and Ethnic Arts Leadership is Different from Others

The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs has announced a new program to create a pipeline for arts professionals from diverse populations to management positions: the Cultural and Ethnic Arts Leadership Certificate Program. This in response to a study that demonstrates what everyone in the industry recognizes:  the people who are leading US cultural organizations are not representative of the broader population;  and, more significantly, since most of the arts organizations are in urban areas, the leaders are not representative of the populations in the cities to be served.

Concurrently, we at Rutgers Business School Institute for Ethical Leadership have inaugurated  the Cultural and Ethnic Arts Leadership Certificate Program (“CEA”) that is significantly different from all others.  We believe that real change happens at the leadership level. The CEA Program is unique among all other diversity arts programs in seven ways:

1. CEA identifies, encourages, and enables individuals from underrepresented populations who are already in senior management positions, who have a desire to become CEOs;

2. CEA faculty is composed of arts and cultural leaders from underrepresented populations who will not only teach, but also mentor the cohort group.   The faculty are leading arts individuals and pioneers, with CEO experience who can also influence the participants by sharing stories of what it is like to be from an underrepresented population working with majority boards, funders, audiences and visitors.

3. We define underrepresented populations broadly as not only racial and ethnic minorities, we are seeking to include those from underrepresented religious, LGBQT, and differently-abled communities;

4. CEA is a residency program designed so that the group of 15 to 18 selected individuals will have the opportunity to bond. The group will be residing at the same boutique hotel, visiting arts sites together, enjoying informal time to share experiences with each other and with the faculty. Following the residency, they will have the opportunity during the year to communicate with each other and maintain ties.

5. The curriculum, contains sessions on finance (“Working with a CFO when you are the CEO”) and fundraising (“The role of the CEO in fundraising”), addresses leadership issues like “Ethical Leadership,” “Emotional Intelligence.”  But the unique aspect of the curriculum is the emphasis on cultural competency, and the knowledge faculty will share from their experience navigating roles as a CEO from an underrepresented population in a mainstream majority stakeholder organization (“Interviewing with a Search Committee” and “Negotiating Your Compensation Package” among others).

6. Becoming a CEO requires ambition and training but also for those from underrepresented populations it requires support from the field of influencers.  Each faculty member will mentor a program participant and, when a CEO position is open, advocate on her or his behalf.

7. To ensure that there are no barriers to taking advantage of the program, the cost for ten days of instructions, room, board, transportation (flight) and supplies is only $300 – and if that is still a barrier, we are offering scholarships (we are also asking the employers of these individuals to provide them with the paid time off and to make a proportionately small contribution to the program that will also be reduced or waived if cost is a barrier).  The real barriers are not financial.  The barriers are complex and subtle: decision makers who do not reflect the broader US population; lack of confidence on the part of some that they don’t have the skills or “what it takes” to lead; or a distrust of the system, that no matter what, if you are from an underrepresented population you cannot become the CEO so why try.

To those barriers we say this: Leaders are not born.  There are some whose path has been easier; and for some, race religion, sexual orientation or physical abilities have blocked that path. Clearly, we at the Institute for Ethical Leadership believe the CEA program can open that path to a group of leaders.

James Abruzzo, Consultant, Consulting, Executive Search, Nonprofit Compensation, Expert Witness, Cultural and Ethnic Arts Leadership

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