Milton Kuolt Professor of Business Andy Parks joins training taskforce for employees of color


Milton Kuolt Professor of Business Andy Parks Photo Courtesy of Andy Parks

Megan Rogers, News Editor

CWU’s Milton Kuolt Professor of Business Andy Parks was appointed the first co-chair for the Washington Employers for Racial Equity, Black Talent Development Task Force this year. Parks said his passion and role is making sure employees of color are prepared for positions with leadership training. 

“What I’m doing as part of that task force is training and development for BIPOC employees that are either one to five years into their position at their company, or one to five years in the company itself,” Parks said.

According to Parks, they are currently running a 12-week pilot training program, which is taking place from Jan. 12 through March 20. The companies involved are Microsoft, Delta Dental, Lease Crutcher Lewis, the State Board for Technical and Community Colleges and Vista. 

Each employee is also paired with someone from their company who is either a mentor or sponsor, Parks said. 

“What we’re doing is we’re teaching leadership skills to both the early-career professionals, you can also call them mentees and mentors,” Parks said. “After the program is over, the mentors will continue to work with their mentees, but also take the tools from this training program and spread them throughout their organization in a pay it forward type model.”

What is unique about this program, according to Parks, is that it is not just CWU doing the teaching. The program was able to partner with the University of Washington, Seattle University and Washington State University to bring together four faculty members. 

According to Parks, the 12 weeks of training were divided among the different universities:

  • There were two weeks of mindfulness training taught by Washington State University.
  • There were four weeks of emotional intelligence training taught by CWU.
  • There were two weeks of business development training (negotiation and inclusive leadership) taught by the University of Washington.
  • There were four weeks of mentorship, sponsorship and networking taught by Seattle University.

Parks said this training is important because it teaches leadership skills to employees to help them succeed and excel. 

“Two-thirds of Black employees don’t have access to their senior leadership,” Parks said. “The promotion rate from manager to executive is 4.9% for white managers, and 2.6% for Black managers.”

According to Park, companies are working to improve diversity, break down systemic barriers and create more openings for employees of color. 

Equitable hiring at CWU

Executive Director of Human Resources, Staci Sleigh-Layman, said for the 30 years she has been at CWU, they have always been having conversations about diversity in the workforce. 

“We understand that students are more successful when they feel like they belong,” Sleigh-Layman said. “Where they see people just like them teaching in the classroom and supporting them in their educational and personal journey.”

According to Sleigh-Layman, she also works in tandem with the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion to bring a diversity advocate to campus. 

“They work with each individual search committee to determine a selection process that is not biased,” Sleigh-Layman said. “That person also supports employees as they enter the workforce.”

Sleigh-Layman said there are two reasons why it is important that CWU looks at its equitable hiring practices: the first being legal reasons because there are laws that forbid discrimination, and the second being that students need to be able to envision themselves as part of the staff and faculty. 

“I always hate to use the legal part because that makes it feel like you’d have to,” Sleigh-Layman said. “I think CWU is in a position where we want to, we want to ensure that our students have the very best opportunity to be successful.”