The Best of Us S1/E12: Helping Black and Brown Education Leaders Thrive, with Carmita Semaan

In this episode of The Best of Us, Surge Institute founder Carmita Semaan takes us through the ins and outs of investing in Black, Brown, and Asian talent across the education ecosystem.

Carmita draws a clear line between leadership investments and exponential growth in access and opportunities for young people. She also discusses the key differences between professional development and leadership acceleration, highlights the work of changemakers you may not know, and gives practical advice on creating conditions for underrepresented leaders to thrive.

Listen now:


Setting the Scene: Investing in Underrepresented Leaders [00:00:46] Jeremy Rogoff speaks with Carmita Semaan about the Surge Institute's mission to invest in underrepresented leaders in education to drive systems-level change.

The Problem of Underrepresentation in Education Leadership [00:02:36] Carmita discusses the problem of underrepresentation in education leadership and the implications of this disparity for students and communities.

Personal Journey that Led to Starting the Surge Institute [00:06:23] Carmita shares her personal journey that led her to start the Surge Institute and her recognition of the need to invest in and elevate leaders with shared experiences with students and families.

Investing in underrepresented people [00:14:12] Carmita talks about her belief in the brilliance of underrepresented people and Surge Institute's commitment to investing in and supporting them.

Ways Surge Institute invests in underrepresented leaders [00:15:25] Carmita explains the different ways Surge Institute invests in underrepresented leaders, including cohort-based programming, elevating and amplifying the work of alumni, and providing ongoing education opportunities.

Success stories of Surge Institute alumni [00:24:07] Carmita shares examples of the different roles Surge Institute alumni have moved into, including C-suite and executive director roles, as well as starting their own organizations.

Leadership Acceleration vs Professional Development [00:28:58] Carmita discusses the difference between leadership acceleration and professional development, and how Surge Institute identifies and supports leaders who are already doing amazing work.

Barriers to Leadership Representation [00:36:44] Carmita talks about the problem of underrepresentation in education leadership and how it creates barriers for aspiring leaders, and discusses how this trend can be reversed.

Equity in Leadership Preparation [00:37:51] Carmita mentions two organizations, 228 Accelerator and Urban Ed Academy, that are doing unique work in equity and leadership preparation and acceleration. She also talks about the importance of interweaving equity in everything that leaders do.

Great Leadership Acceleration Work [00:40:48] Carmita Semaan discusses innovative and thoughtful designs to support black and brown homeowners and early educators, and Sharif El-Mekki's model of leadership acceleration that starts with students.

Essential Principles and Values [00:45:14] Jeremy asks Carmita for advice for district leaders to further the mission of the Surge Institute, and she emphasizes the importance of starting from a place of unwavering belief in access and opportunity for young people and adults.

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