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Inside TFA

Finding the Next Generation of Organizational Leaders

See how the 26 participants in the Elevate Fellowship, a partnership between the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Teach For America Chicago-Northwest Indiana, are learning from one another and growing as leaders. 

Two fellows talking at a desk.

October 4, 2019

On a sunny Friday, a group of Teach For America alumni file out onto a grassy lawn in the heart of downtown Chicago. They’ve just left a session focused on how organizations and companies measure their impact, led by University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Christina Hachikian. Now, they’re debriefing the session. They talk about what their takeaways were and share how it relates to their own experiences as leaders at some of Chicago’s seminal nonprofits. They laugh, ask questions, and draw connections. They push one another to deepen their understanding of what it takes to lead.

This is Teach For America Chicago-Northwest Indiana’s Elevate Fellowship. Launched in partnership with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Elevate empowers aspiring leaders to take on senior- and executive-level leadership roles. Launched in March of 2019, Elevate’s first cohort is made up of 26 local alumni. They bring an array of experience and knowledge to the cohort, but all share the desire to pursue leadership within organizations committed to ending educational inequity. “Getting to learn from professors from Booth, one of the top ranked business schools, has been incredible,” says fellow Cristina Groff, Senior Director of Human Assets, Learning and Culture at OneGoal. I feel like I’m getting access to a world I didn’t have—and I can use those tools for justice.”

42%

Elevate Fellows identify as a person of color

62%

Elevate Fellows identify as women

So far, fellows have participated in sessions focused on strategy, accounting, and board relations. These are facilitated by Booth staff as well as experts in Teach For America’s network. In addition to this programming, each fellow is assigned a coach to help with their individual growth. “As leaders, we don’t get much time in the day to really focus on ourselves,” says fellow Bridget Lee, senior manager of strategic initiatives at Chicago Public Schools. “At Elevate, in the morning we’re given these theoretical frameworks and in the afternoon we’re applying it to our work. Then, the coaching allows you to take the content and filter it through your own individual lens.”

All programming is tied together with the common thread of “Leading with Integrity.” This theme builds on philosophies of intellectual, civic, and ethical character development. It’s centered around the belief that if you understand your values as a leader, you can make well-thought-out decisions in difficult situations, and are able to be confident in your choices as a leader. “You’re not solely focused on hard skills, but also on your leadership,” says Cristina.

A classroom full of fellows.

The fellowship will end this December, though fellows plan to stay in touch as they continue on their leadership journeys. “The cohort of Elevate Fellows and getting to learn from this amazing group of leaders has been my favorite part of the Elevate program,” says Chris Carlson, co-founder and vice president of partnerships at Fulcrum Education Solutions. “It makes me so grateful and humbled to have been a part of this group.” 

Are you a Chicago-Northwest Indiana based alum interested in applying to the next Elevate Fellowship? Click here for more information. Applications open on December 17th.