By Traci Rosenthal
This spring semester, Columbia Business School will launch the pilot phase of the Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership (PPIL). As part of the School’s ongoing efforts to prepare its students for inclusive and ethical leadership roles, this co-curricular program teaches the essential leadership skills necessary to manage and champion diversity through a combination of assessments, workshops, and programmatic efforts.
The program focuses on each stage of a student’s journey at CBS. Beginning with orientation, all MBA, EMBA, MS, and Ph.D. students will take an initial assessment prior to the start of their coursework, which will serve as a baseline for their individual skillset as it relates to diversity, equity, and inclusion issue areas. All students will then be introduced to PPIL as part of their core Leadership classes and will be required to participate in at least one PPIL-approved event coordinated across the School’s centers and programs, academic divisions, and student groups each semester. At the end of the program, and concurrently throughout their CBS journey, students will have reflection assignments and assessments to measure progress and impact as well as areas in need of continued improvement for future engagement with the program as alumni.
“The Pathway gives every student an awareness of their own cultural competencies and biases,” said Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Gita Johar, who was an integral partner in the development of the program. “During their time at CBS, every student will attend trainings and workshops that can help them improve their proficiencies in critical areas.”
Designed by Mariah Celestine ’20 and Camira Livers-Powell ’20 as part of an independent study project with Professor Johar, the co-creators describe the out-of-classroom experience as a “choose your own adventure” program that gives students the freedom to explore different areas of DEI, dig into elevated discussions, and actively learn from their peers.
“Camira and I have partnered with every center, program and student organization on campus to offer programming that brings DEI issues to the very forefront of the conversation,” Celestine said. “This allows students to navigate to the sessions that are most interesting to them.”
The program is named for the late Professor Katherine Phillips, one of the world’s leading experts on the power of diversity in teams and organizations. PPIL honors her life’s work and positions CBS as an institution that empowers future leaders to advocate for diversity and equity in their personal and professional endeavors. Now more than ever, inclusive leadership is an essential competency needed throughout the business world.
“One of the things we wanted to make sure was clear was the point that DEI is in everything; it’s not a standalone, one-hour session that you go through at work,” Livers-Powell said. “DEI exists across functions, across fields, and across industries and the more you can understand the importance of building equitable systems and creating inclusive environments as a leader, the more likely you are to catch the moments that aren’t going right.”
While the success of PPIL will be quantified in many ways in the short-term, Columbia Business School is focused on long-term gains, recognizing that a commitment to fostering inclusive leadership now, will create better business and stronger business leaders in the future.