By Irfan Shariff
Northwest Asian Weekly
“Take a look at the workforce of the future. In 2012, 75 percent of the workforce will be people of color and women,” said Starr Macdonald, executive director of the Executive Development Institute (EDI), referencing recent studies.
EDI is based in Bellevue. Founded in 1994 under the direction of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, EDI was developed in response to the lack of representation of Japanese Americans in leadership roles. Over the years, it has come to encompass all Asian and Latino communities.
“EDI has a no-discrimination policy, so anyone from any walk of life is welcome to attend,” said Macdonald. However, she notes that programs are culturally tailored for students from Asian and Latino backgrounds.
Although participants generally have a bachelor’s degree, having a degree is not a prerequisite, said Macdonald. “Gender is a mix as well as age, which ranges from late 20s to late 40s.”
EDI currently offers two leadership programs. Leadership Discovery is a program geared toward emerging leaders, and Leadership Navigation is a second-tier program focusing on individuals in management positions.
The Leadership Discovery program will offer three Asian Pacific-focused sessions, two in the Puget Sound region and one in Portland, as well as one Hispanic-focused session in the Puget Sound area.
According to EDI’s website, these programs place special emphasis on how an individual’s cultural values are perceived in the American business world, what it takes to become an executive, and how to understand company culture.
EDI also offers a second-level program for Asian Pacific individuals through the Leadership Navigation program. This program focuses on the “hows” of leadership, instead of the “whats.” Navigation participants are assigned certified personal coaches for the duration of the program.
“Our Discovery program is for emerging leaders. These are for professionals who have been in their employment for 5-plus years,” said Macdonald. “Leadership Navigation is for individuals who are professionals who have been in their employment for 10-plus years and have proven success in managing work teams.
All programs culminate in a graduation in November. EDI held its 17th annual graduation dinner at the Bellevue Hilton on Nov. 2.
Amber Waisanen, a recent Asian American graduate of the Discovery program believes that “EDI pushes you at the forefront of identifying what it means to be a great leader … but more importantly, EDI really makes you take a step back and assess who you are, what you want, and how to develop the path to get there.”
Funding for the programs is provided through tuition, $3,500 for Discovery, and $5,500 for Navigation. EDI also holds a major fundraising event each year, called “Inclusion Fusion.”
Some funding is provided by grants made possible by the KeyBank and Weyerhaeuser Foundations.
In 2011, EDI will enter its 18th year with a 550-strong alumni network. The majority of the alums come from Boeing, KeyBank, Microsoft, and Nike, said Macdonald.
Macdonald and EDI are seeking to enhance the nonprofit’s vision to become more “multi-tiered, multi-geographic, and multi-ethnic.” Macdonald hopes to begin a third-tier mastery program in the future. ♦
Irfan Shariff can be reached at email@example.com.