- Develop their personal and professional leadership skills;
- Learn about the issues affecting Greater Austin through open and balanced civic discussion; and,
- Build relationships with others who seek to grow as leaders and find solutions to the issues facing our region.
a place for leaders in our community to get educatedShuronda Robinson is the President and CEO of Adisa Communications, a marketing and communications firm she started in 1995. She is also the vice chair of the Austin Foundation for Architecture, a member of the KLRU board of directors, board member of the Black Austin Democrats and vice chair of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats. Robinson applied to Leadership Austin because she wanted to sharpen her leadership skills, and increase her network across the community. She was accepted into the 2001-2002 Essential class. She encourages more blacks to apply and participate in programming because Leadership Austin is “a place for leaders in our community to get educated and to develop relationships that will support them and the work that they’re doing.” She adds, “we need to share what’s important to us.”
a forward thinking and innovative groupBoard secretary Colette Pierce Burnette came to the capital city to be the President and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University after receiving her doctorate in education. In an interview, the former engineer called Leadership Austin “a forward thinking and innovative group.” She didn’t go through the Leadership Austin classes, but joined the board because their aims are so well aligned with her own. “Our mission is to further inclusion, further diversity and to enhance people’s skill set.” She encourages African Americans who want to build or hone their leadership skills, or who want to build their network in a meaningful way to research Leadership Austin as an option. Readers may know Courtney Santana for her vocal talents, but she is also the CEO of Survive 2 Thrive Foundation, a public charity that provides resources to survivors of domestic violence and abuse. Santana was recruited to the organization a couple of times before she finally decided to apply. It was her husband’s experience with the organization that finally convinced her. She was part of the 2017 Essential Class. The commitment to diversity was one of the things that impressed Santana. Her class included CEOs as well as the formerly incarcerated. She says Leadership Austin ”is where – truthfully – some social change is happening. In my mind it’s not good to segment ourselves or segregate ourselves out of this process, because a lot decisions are being made at these tables.” Tam Hawkins is also a member of the 2017 Essential Class. She’s only been in the city since 2012, but has made an impact in the business community first as the vice president of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce and now its president and CEO. She is also on the boards of Ronald McDonald House and Visit Austin. She applied to Leadership Austin because she “saw the long lasting impact and connection alumni had well after the program ended.” She felt the closeness most keenly after her husband Joseph Hawkins (Essential Class of 2009) died. The organization was very kind to him during his illness and continued to be kind to her after he died. His Leadership Austin cohort started a scholarship fund for their children. When asked why African Americans should consider Leadership Austin Hawkins said, “In a city that’s experienced challenges with growing a black population, lending your voice to an organization with such integrity and one that literally has alumni in almost all industries, is powerful.” If you are interested in learning more about Leadership Austin, you can consult the website or attend one of the recruiting events. The group plans to host at least one event in each of the city council districts, according to Bell. They also reach out to surrounding areas and diverse professional organizations such as the National Society of Black MBAs and the Hispanic and Asian Chambers.