Photo of the Executive Leadership Development Experience class of 2023.

A ripple effect: Leadership experience creates lasting impact among Black professionals

When Churyl Croone first learned about Weatherhead School of Management’s new Executive Leadership Development Experience (ELDE)—which aims to grow the leadership capabilities of participants, especially Black professionals—she knew she had to be involved. 

During her time in the cohort-based Executive Education program, which began in February and will come to a close later this month, Croone, senior director of business development and industry engagement at Case School of Engineering, said she’s felt a wide range of emotions.

“Typically when you are in mid-management [or] senior-level management, you look around the room and you are the only [Black or brown person] or one of [the only ones],” she explained. “To look at a room and see lawyers, doctors, [vice presidents], senior directors—it’s just so wonderful and reaffirming that we’re not the only ones in these spaces.”

Croone has especially appreciated the program’s networking receptions and aspects related to executive coaching and mentoring. Each member of the ELDE program is matched with both an executive coach from the Weatherhead School and a mentor in the Northeast Ohio community to provide them with support and advice. Croone’s mentor is Annette Blackwell, mayor of the City of Maple Heights. 

”We’re [going to be] able to take these tools back and utilize them and also share with our families, with our friends, our coworkers—it’s like that pebble you put in a pond and it ripples,” Croone said. “This is a good ripple. It’s not going to end in June.”

Building upon Executive Education’s expertise in developing bold and impactful leadership programs with lasting value, the five-month ELDE program has attracted countless experts to share their insights. Panelists at networking events have included:

  • Alan Nevel, senior vice president, chief equity officer, MetroHealth Systems
  • Yentil Rawlinson, vice president, inclusion, equity and diversity, The Sherwin-Williams Co.
  • Randell McShepard, vice president of public affairs, chief talent officer, RPM International
  • Elizabeth Voudouris, president and CEO, Business Volunteers Unlimited
  • Jakki Nance, CEO, Philanthropic Solutions
  • Arica Steed, president and CEO, MetroHealth Systems
  • Nancy Mendez, president and CEO, Starting Point
  • Kevin Martin, president and CEO, ideastream
  • Marsha Mockabee, president, The Urban League of Greater Cleveland
  • Wesley Gillespie, regional president, ErieBank

Melvin Smith, professor in the Department of Organizational Behavior and faculty director of Executive Education, said one of the program’s goals is to further build the pipeline of Black leadership in Northeast Ohio and to connect participants to senior Black leaders in the region, such as the panelists above.

“We wondered just how much of a need there really was for something like this, and we felt there was a need,” Smith noted. “But the most gratifying thing has been hearing the comments from participants about how meaningful this experience has been for them so far, how they’re so grateful we decided to do this and how much they’re taking away from it.”

For DJuan McCarthy, another participant in the inaugural cohort, the program encouraged him to be his most authentic self. 

“I look at this group of people similar to the group as I had growing up, my grade school friends—I still have [those] friends,” said McCarthy, who works in operations at RPM International Inc. “There’s conversations that I have that are similar to those—professional conversations, life conversations, all of those. I look at this group as that next phase, another circle that I can be in that’s supportive and that will drive me to further grow.” 

The program has also received support from corporate and community sponsors including, RPM International, Eaton Corporation, Progressive Insurance, The J.M. Smucker Co., The MetroHealth System, The George Gund Foundation, Case Western Reserve University Office of the Provost, Randell McShepard and Dr. Andre Mickel.

Learn more about the Executive Leadership Development Experience and request information about the next cohort, which will begin in February.