A Lot to Learn

Diversity in Learning

One of the leaders in minority executive education is the UCLA Leadership Suite, which began in 1982 as LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics). In 1998, the program expanded to include an African American program. The Leadership Suite now includes week-long courses for women, Latinos and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender students.

"We're the only university in the country doing this," contends Alissa Materman, marketing director for UCLA's executive education program. "The objective is a little different from our other programs. With these programs, you're going to learn how to present yourself and succeed in your organization and form a supportive network."

Most classes comprise 25 to 40 students from businesses of all sizes. The cost for each leadership institute is $5,000, and most companies pay for employees' attendance. Scholarships are available for small-business owners and women.

The classes share a common curriculum based on teamwork, entrepreneurship, empowerment, mentoring, management and presentation skills. They also address specific issues important to each minority group. The Latino program, for example, focuses on transforming power into action, while the women's program deals primarily with work/life balance.

According to Materman, the Leadership Institute is important because most business classes don't address minority issues. "In one of our African American programs, I heard somebody say, 'I've never been in a class with so many people who look like me and understand me,'" says Materman. "There's a level of comfort and [knowledge] about each other because even if they don't come from the same experiences, there's a common bond."

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This article was originally published in the September 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Lot to Learn.

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