Management Leadership for Tomorrow

April 2016 Member Spotlight: Management Leadership for Tomorrow

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SNAPSHOT:

Elevator Speech: Launched in 2002, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) is a national nonprofit organization that is transforming the career and life trajectories of a new generation of diverse leaders. MLT is also expanding its partners’ talent pipelines at more than 100 leading corporations, social enterprises, and universities. MLT’s acclaimed programs propel the careers of high-potential African American, Latino, and Native American women and men – more than 5,000 and growing. MLT’s programs span the career spectrum – from college (Career Prep) to MBA (MBA Prep and MBA Professional Development) to the executive level (Career Advancement Program).

MLT’s newest initiatives include MLT Ascend, in which MLT’s Rising Leaders (alumni) volunteer to coach low-income and first-generation college students, and the Africa Business Fellowship, an opportunity for American business professionals to gain up to six months experience working with an African-led company in Africa. In partnership with top-tier corporations such as Citi, Google, Deloitte, LinkedIn, Goldman Sachs, and PepsiCo, along the top 25 business schools, MLT has achieved breakthrough results for its community of rising leaders. MLT has been featured on the cover of Fortune, and in CNN’s “Black in America 2: Tomorrow’s Leaders” series. MLT’s experience and expertise are influencing national conversations about opportunity, race, workforce diversity, and economic mobility, and proving that these vexing gaps and inequities can be overcome.

NPEA Member Type: Organizational Member
Leadership: John Rice, Founder and CEO
Interviewee: Theresa Atta, Associate Director, MLT Ascend
Contact Information: tatta@ml4t.org, (202) 751-2320
Location(s): Based out of Washington, D.C., working with college students and alumni across the country.
Year Founded: 2002
Staffing: 40 FTE with MLT, 2.5 FTE with MLT Ascend, and over 200 volunteer coaches.
Students Served: Currently, the MLT Ascend initiative serves over 250 college students annually.
“About Us”: About Us, Our Story, Our Impact, Programs and Initiatives, Testimonials
Get Involved: Become a Partner, Careers, Donate, Get Involved
Main Website: http://ml4t.org/
Social Media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn


INTERVIEW:

Click on the links below to learn more, or scroll down to read the full interview.

Ascend Coach Tiffany and Scholar CeCe_2

Q: Please provide a brief overview of your organization, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), and specifically your work with the MLT Ascend program.
A: MLT equips African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans with the skills, coaching, and connections they need to lead organizations and communities worldwide. We propel our Rising Leaders at all stages: from college to a first job, from B-School to the C-Suite. More than 100 partners – corporations, social enterprises and universities – amplify our efforts and rely on us for top talent and data-driven insights into expanding the diverse leadership pipeline.

MLT has pioneered four core programs, including Career Prep, MBA Prep, MBA Professional Development, and the Career Advancement Program. Career Prep provides eighteen months of one-on-one coaching and in-person workshops to help undergraduate juniors conquer the job search process, maximize their college and internship experience, and accelerate their post-undergraduate career. MBA Prep offers ten months of personalized guidance and strategy to successfully navigate through the application process, business school, and beyond. MBA Professional Development (PD) is a comprehensive five-month pre-MBA program that provides young professionals with the coaching, network, and support needed to gain a competitive recruiting edge before business school starts. Finally, the Career Advancement Program (CAP) is tailored to experienced professionals so they can advance to senior leadership. CAP offers a personalized approach to professional growth through six-months of executive coaching, workshops, introspective experiences, and assignments.

In addition to this programming, MLT’s newest initiatives include the Africa Business Fellowship, an opportunity for American business professionals to gain up to six months experience working with an African-led company in Africa, and MLT Ascend, in which MLT’s Rising Leaders (alumni) volunteer to mentor first generation college students. MLT Ascend is a college success and career readiness program. Ascend Scholars have access to an MLT volunteer coach who provides guidance and curriculum that helps them stay on track to graduate from college and progress in a fulfilling career. MLT Ascend coaches are young career professionals and recent college graduates who have successfully completed an MLT program. Their unique ability to relate to Scholars’ experiences and to provide ongoing coaching and mentoring helps Scholars continue along their path to success. Back to top.

Q: Please share a little more about the history of MLT and more specifically MLT Ascend initiative. What significant events and/or people have shaped the mission and goals of your organization?
A: As a Harvard MBA student in the early 1990’s, John Rice began delving into the reasons why there were few other students there who looked like him. He wanted to bring vision, innovation, and energy to solve a growing problem in the workplace. Despite comprising nearly 30% of the U.S. population, underrepresented minorities makeup only 3% of senior leaders at corporations, nonprofits, and entrepreneurial ventures. John realized that as minorities fall out of the leadership pipeline, they often fail to reach their full potential due to skill gaps, lack of a clear roadmap, and limited access to career opportunities leading to senior management. These diverse individuals would then, in turn, not have a voice in solving the most complex problems within organizations. Additionally, they would likely not participate in decision-making processes that could directly address economic challenges in communities where their corporations derive revenues or offer services. Mr. Rice developed a thesis for a nonprofit organization that would provide the training, coaching, and networks that traditionally have been unavailable to minorities. In 2002, he left the private sector to found the organization he first envisioned in business school: Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT).

MLT started by working with college students, which grew into the Career Prep program. Eventually MLT expanded to MBA Prep, MBA Professional Development, and the Career Advancement Program in order to offer services throughout an individual’s career path. In 2014, MLT was selected to be one of five grantees of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, which is a three-year, $50 million commitment to connect 100,000 low-income youth to economic opportunities through mentoring, civic engagement, summer employment and entrepreneurship training. As part of this funding, the organization received $1.1 million to launch MLT Ascend. The program was designed to extend MLT’s services to first generation college students by drawing on the organization’s extensive youth employability training experiences and its community of over 5,000 alumni. MLT Ascend launched in 2014, and in its pilot year served 185 college students with 170 coaches in four regions. The following year the MLT Ascend program expanded to 270 students, and it will continue to grow through partnerships and strategic planning. Back to top.

Q: Speaking of growth, please share what plans MLT has for its future. What next steps and goals are you focused on?
A: 
MLT is beginning a five-year strategic growth plan, with plans for significant capital investment to address the following four goals:

(1) Scale core programs and build continuous career-long support to fill gaps between current programs.
(2) Establish career-long tracks to senior leadership for key sectors, including financial services.
(3) Ensure MLT Rising Leaders maximize their impact and harness the collective impact of the MLT community.
(4) Expand adoption of MLT’s insights, and apply playbook + coaching framework to earlier-stage initiatives.

Within MLT Ascend specifically, we are currently pursuing two key areas for growth. The first is developing a hybrid model within our program, where professional coaches would be hired to work as paid staff members each with a caseload of MLT Ascend Scholars, while our Rising Leaders continue to serve these Scholars as near peer mentors. This would allow us to serve greater numbers of college students while also maintaining the quality of our services. The second area for growth is to expand the number of regions we serve, which involves creating new or further developing existing partnerships (please see Partnerships for more information). Back to top.

Q: NPEA is committed to creating a culture of data with and for its members through NPEA Data Counts. In what ways does the MLT Ascend program currently use data to inform decisions and programming?
A: MLT Ascend collects data and input from program participants on an ongoing basis to evaluate progress against actions detailed in our scholar roadmap. We collect data on demographics, academic course load and performance, as well as frequency and quality of engagement with the MLT Ascend Coach. Scholars are asked to report on their progress towards achieving the metrics outlined on the Ascend Scholar Roadmap and S.M.A.R.T. goals developed with one’s coach. MLT is building a department of technology and analytics, and our MLT Ascend program is excited to work with that team as we evolve our comprehensive database and metrics. Back to top.

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Q: Speaking of partnerships and collaborations, how has MLT Ascend developed partnerships with schools, college access programs, organizations, universities, and others to further the organization’s work?
A: MLT partners with more than 100 leading corporations, entrepreneurships, social sector organizations and graduate business schools (please see MLT’s online list of Partners). For the MLT Ascend program specifically, we partner with the following types of organizations to identify and select MLT Ascend Scholars in four regions (New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, and Washington, DC):

(1) Community-based college advising programs;
(2) College preparatory high schools with existing or emerging alumni support programs; and
(3) Four-year colleges or universities, or departments within them.

Current MLT Ascend partners include the Cristo Rey Network, KIPP Through College, American University, Aspire Public Schools, Eagle Academy for Young Men, East Harlem Tutorial Program, Gary Comer Youth Center & College Prep, Georgetown University, Howard University, and Level Playing Field Institute.

Please email ascend@ml4t.org if you are interested in learning more about becoming a community partner. Back to top.

Q: What challenges, if any, has your organization encountered in doing college access work? What has your organization learned from these experiences?
A: The MLT Ascend program has faced challenges in developing and implementing the ideal comprehensive technology solution to capture data and assist coaches in delivering curriculum content and support to scholars. Existing platforms fail to meet both the front and back-end technology needs, so we are leveraging interim solutions while we explore a more customized and robust platform. Back to top.

Q: What, if any, professional development resources has your organization found to be helpful that you might encourage other NPEA members to consider? Why?

A: Staff members from our MLT Ascend program have attended NPEA, NACAC, and NCAN annual conferences, which each offer resources for education access professionals, especially for those working with college students. Many best practices we use in our roles at MLT Ascend come from the experiences and networks each of us brings from our previous work with other nonprofits. For example, my work with College Summit, Collegiate Directions, Inc., KIPP DC, and serving on the Board of Directors for Higher Achievement directly influence the leadership decisions I make and the people I continue to work with at MLT Ascend. Much of what this has taught me is that educational access work cannot be a relay race; we all need to approach professional development resources, networking, and partnerships with an eye to understanding where people can truly come together as a community to collectively directly impact and support scholars in their education and career trajectories. Back to top.

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Q: What are 3-5 pieces of advice or best practices from your experiences in the field that you think would be important to share with other NPEA members?
A: 
First, do not underestimate the time and care it takes to recruit and train the core volunteers that will work with your program. When you are launching a new program or initiative—or further developing an existing one—it is tempting to focus first and foremost on your staff and the population you are serving. Then, with the limited time and high demands of this work, your volunteers can become an afterthought. Whether your core volunteers contribute in a mentoring, coaching, academic tutoring, and/or other key capacity, you absolutely must remember that they are key to your organization’s investment and mission. Core volunteers directly contribute to the overall quality of a program, and they also form one of the most important communities connected to your organization. Volunteers are often the direct bridge between your scholars and the larger external community/ies, and their word of mouth contributes to your organization’s reputation, including the potential to significantly improve future recruiting and funding efforts.

Second, when you work across multiple geographic communities, it is wise to build and leverage virtual resources. We developed the Ascend Coaches Resource Center and Ascend Scholar Vault using Google Sites because we quickly realized this was the most efficient and accessible way to distribute curricula, resources, and communications to our various constituents.

Third, the only thing more valuable than using data collection to inform programming is using ongoing, formative assessment to continually improve your data collection efforts. For example, in our pilot year we distributed surveys to Ascend Scholars and Coaches to gather feedback about the program. While the responses were helpful in influencing our program development, we were dissatisfied with the response rates. Our staff set aside time to revisit these tools and ask key questions about our expectations and goals, as well as to examine the surveys’ timing, length, phrasing, balance of qualitative and quantitative questions, and what incentives we might be able to offer. When we distributed surveys the following year, they included modifications in all these areas. We set expectations earlier for Scholars and Coaches, thanked them in advance for completing this assignment with concise and clear messaging, used mobile-friendly surveys that emphasized easier-to-complete quantitative questions, and offered incentives, such as nominal gift cards or deposits to the student accounts of Scholars who completed the survey within two weeks. Our response rates drastically improved, as did the information we received through these tools. Back to top.

Q: How has your organization benefited from membership in NPEA?
A: We have benefited from being part of a network of organizations committed to broadening opportunities in higher education for a broader range of students. This fall we participated in the collective impact data project, NPEA Data Counts, and also worked with NPEA to help with the promotion and marketing of an MLT webinar series about standardized test preparation for graduate students. We received a fee waiver to attend the 8th annual NPEA conference for completing the 2015 NPEA Data Collection Tool, and are looking forward to joining over 350 educational access professionals for that event in Baltimore this April. Though MLT is a newer member of NPEA, we look forward to ongoing opportunities for engagement, interaction, and shared learning. Back to top.