What does inclusive leadership look like? And why does it matter? More than 200 undergraduate business students recently attended the first set of workshops for the Inclusive Leadership certificate program at the School of Business at Stevens Institute of Technology. This new program is designed to educate students on inclusion and its importance for both personal and business success. Participants who complete the program will earn a certificate in inclusive leadership.
The School of Business is among the first in the country to implement this type of certificate program for undergraduates with a strong focus on skill building. Its class of 2026 is the inaugural cohort for this certificate program.
Held on August 31, the workshops were attended by every first-year business student. The sessions focused on why inclusive leadership matters for individual and organizational success, especially in today’s dynamic business environment. An underlying theme was that the capacity to lead and collaborate inclusively is a skill all of us can develop. The important core principles of diversity and equity were also emphasized. In the workshops, students participated in activities that introduced topics in diversity and inclusion and explored ideas including power and privilege, social responsibility, and identity awareness.
Launching this program is timely as more industries have been acknowledging the economic and cultural value of inclusive leadership. “We are doing this not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it brings good business results, as so many studies have been showing,” said Dean Gregory Prastacos. “Everyone in the industry wants to hire student graduates who can be inclusive leaders, so this certificate program will be an additional credential on the students’ CVs.”
“Thankfully, international awareness and mobilization about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in business and society continues to increase,” said Professor Peter Dominick, who worked with a group of faculty members and staff to design the program, including management professor Wei Zheng, who holds the Richard R. Roscitt Endowed Chair in Leadership, Ron Silvis, director of the university’s Teaching & Learning Center, and Liliana Delman, the university’s director of DEI.
In a video that was recently made with Professor Zheng, she stated that when “people experience belongingness and authenticity, they are more engaged at work, more likely to help others, perform at a higher level, and experience higher job satisfaction and more wellbeing. At the same time, inclusive organizations outperform less-inclusive ones in terms of making better business decisions, having higher customer engagement, better capturing new markets, generating higher innovation, and enjoying higher profitability.”
Dominick added, “Business leaders have DEI on the top of their agenda, and companies are eager to hire students who have developed awareness and skills around inclusive leadership. So, this initiative not only helps us achieve our mission in developing better citizens and leaders, but it also promotes our students in their placement efforts.”
In one of the first exercises taught at the recent workshop, students introduced themselves by explaining the origin of their name. “My name is Julie. I was named after my mother, who was named after her mother,” said one student. This activity allowed students to share their family history and identity-based differences that make us unique.
Another exercise prompted students to write down what actions they planned to take to be more inclusive of others. One student wrote, "Surround myself with people with a variety of perspectives." Another student wrote, "Talk to kids I normally would not talk to with an open mind." A few students focused on the importance of body language and maintaining eye contact. Others wrote about trying to engage everyone in a group conversation to prevent anyone from feeling left out.
All undergraduate business students have the opportunity to sign up for the Inclusive Leadership certificate program. This program includes skill development workshops to strengthen competencies like working across differences, holding DEI conversations, and championing inclusive changes in the workplace. It also includes participating in talks and working sessions with industry professionals. To be certified, students will develop a portfolio reflecting on their own efforts, experiences, and experiments with inclusive leadership, as well as create a personal inclusive statement. In addition, students will engage in real-world contributions to inclusion through senior design projects, service-learning projects, and relevant course projects.
The Inclusive Leadership website lists upcoming workshops in the certificate program. Students should also feel free to contact Professor Peter Dominick and Professor Wei Zheng of the School of Business.