Throughout Dr. Lisa Rawlings’ life and career, her determination is evident in everything that she has accomplished. Her impact often touches the lives of those around her, especially those within The National Urban Fellows.

With an eye for implementing change and a heart for making a difference, Lisa is poised to be one of their most influential members. What is perhaps most astounding as that it appears she is only getting started.

The Early Years

Dr. Lisa Rawlings was born and raised in Washington, DC. Due to her father being from Saint Kitts (Saint Christopher Island), Lisa spent three years in the Caribbean during grades four through six.

Their plan was to live in Saint Kitts, but she and her family promptly moved back to Washington – just in time for Lisa to start junior high school. Lisa would eventually go on to graduate high school and then undergrad at Rutgers in New Jersey.

There, Lisa studied Public Health and African American Studies. Upon graduating, she took a job working with high school youths. It was then that Lisa decided she wanted even more training in order that she might better perform her work.

She would ultimately go back to Rutgers and earn her Master’s Degree in social work, as well as a PhD.

This has bode well for Lisa, as she has already impacted various areas in the public sector. With a heart for helping others become leaders in the public space, Lisa became the President and CEO of The National Urban Fellows.

Lisa’s Time at Haas

Lisa came to Haas for two very important reasons. She was looking for new tools to help her in her field, and she wanted to expand her thinking. By learning to encounter problems in a whole new light, she felt she would be better prepared to take on challenges in life.

Lisa credits Haas’ emphasis on strategy as being instrumental in deepening her interest in organizational culture and leadership. Haas provided Lisa with a structure for self-evaluating companies, which she found useful in helping businesses succeed.

This model creates a benchmark for businesses to evaluate themselves with other competing businesses. This helps each company see what kind of impact they are having on the environment.

But this benchmark extends far beyond just the environment. Through this model, companies can see how they are affecting their communities, employees, and even suppliers. It’s proven to be a great way for each brand to hold themselves accountable.

From here, a company can then work on their business model to ensure that it falls in line with their public and internal policy. This benchmark excites Lisa, as she believes it will help people think about new ways to be accountable.

It’s easy to see how this accountability has benefited Lisa and her work with The National Urban Fellows. As a 2011 alumni of The National Urban Fellows, Lisa has been active in her support for the organization ever since.

In fact, she is responsible for creating the program that sees new incoming fellows, the Research and Statistics Boot Camp.

And when The National Urban Fellows needed a new academic partner, Lisa is credited as the one who recommended Georgetown University, their current partner.

Lisa has effectively influenced The National Urban Fellows ever since becoming a student. Even today through this challenging but rewarding program, Lisa is helping shape the lives of new leaders and the impacts that they too will have on others.

The National Urban Fellows

As a public service leadership development program, The National Urban Fellows helps those entering to attain their Master’s Degree in either public administration or public policy. Those taking the 14-month program will often leave their professions and even their homes.

It is a full-time commitment that reaps great reward. The two main focuses of The National Urban Fellows is its academic enrichment and mentorship placement.

The mission-driven aspect of the mentorship placement program assigns students a senior leader. This leader helps direct the students in anything from philanthropy, non-profit, state government, or academia.

Students will learn the necessary skills to achieve whichever public sector they wish to focus on. They also gain an understanding of the politics related to leadership. The conclusion of the program sees students pivoting into leadership roles.

Once a student earns their Master’s Degree, they take a residency at a public organization for nine months. This gives them the final preparedness for their role as a leader.

The National Urban Fellows is an effective way to help others advance their public abilities, and their lives. This program has been around since 1968, brought about after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

At that point in history, the African American community realized the importance of having a public voice for which to represent them.

Lisa recognizes the way in which the public narrative is returning to this need for leadership, making the significance and need for The National Urban Fellows more necessary than ever.

As a public service leader, Lisa is currently holding a position with the federal government as a member of the Senior Executive Service.

The Current Struggle

Currently, Lisa recognizes the ongoing struggle with racism and how it affects the business around the world.

Lisa asks, “In this time where corporations are really struggling with how do they respond to the concerns around systemic racism and in the activation around the Black Lives Matter, what are they going to do?”

She continues, “And so, employees and the public have really taken these companies to task to say it’s nice to have a hashtag and it’s nice to make a statement, but how are you going to follow that up? How are you going to follow that through?”

Throughout all of it, she is always thinking about ways that The National Urban Fellows can play a role.

On this possible role, Lisa said, “An example of what that could possibly look like would be partnering with The National Urban Fellows and having a mentorship experience where a fellow would have a mentorship at a company.

“They could be specifically focused on developing strategies working within the employee resource groups or within the organization.”

It’s clear that Lisa is confident in The National Urban Fellows’ ability to positively impact the lives of those involved with the movement. She feels it would be a key element in helping others understand these challenges.

She would like to see strategies developed that can address concerns that are constantly being brought to light. The National Urban Fellows could help analyze these challenges for particular companies.

They could then work toward a unifying action plan to address their needs and concerns. Once again, Lisa’s leadership abilities shine through.

Lisa’s Vision for The National Urban Fellows

As President and CEO, Lisa wants to help The National Urban Fellows find the right candidates for public leadership.

She states, “The National Urban Fellows is really an accelerator for talent. And there’s often this misnomer that people can’t find diverse, qualified candidates.

“And so, one of the things I want to do is, one, disrupt that notion and, two, position The National Urban Fellows as a go-to place for diverse qualified talent for people who are interested in public service leadership and more broadly making social impact.”

With the right leaders in place, Lisa is confident that The National Urban Fellows can impact even more people, businesses, and public spaces.

She continues, “Having leaders that are courageous and committed to equity but that are also extremely competent, operate with integrity, perform excellently and are committed to service.”

These are the hallmarks of great leaders. And in a time when there is a current crisis for public leadership, Lisa feels that there needs to be a voice for courageous leaders to thrive.

“There’s also an under-representation crisis and so leadership at every level does not reflect the population in America.

“We also know that the challenges that we’re confronted with as a society, many of them are rooted in inequality. And the people who either are oblivious to it or benefit from it are responsible for leading us and there’s no avenue to be able to disrupt that.”

Obviously, The National Urban Fellows program would be a great benefit in light of the current racial divide in America. With Lisa’s passion for developing new leaders, there is little doubt that their involvement is much-needed.

A Call to Action

Dr. Lisa Rawlings is a fine example of a natural leader. Her heart for helping others become new leaders is evident throughout her body of work. Her vision for The National Urban Fellows makes it clear that she sees a great need for new, driven, courageous leaders. Listen to the podcast episode here.

What has Lisa’s journey through her life taught you? Have you learned anything new that makes you want to pursue a leadership role? Do you think The National Urban Fellows program might be a good fit for you?

Feel free to share any relatable experiences you have had. We would love to hear your feedback!

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