Humanities Education Develops a Strategy for Better Leaders
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The Institute for Leadership in Technology at Virginia Tech is accepting applicants for its 2024-25 class through July.

Leadership is about more than just resumes and hard skills acquired in business school or software development programs. Marisa Ronan exemplifies this. Transitioning from academia to the corporate world, she now works for Microsoft in Dublin, Ireland, where she leads global leadership development for cloud business operations. Despite not having a technical background, Ronan excels in her role by developing programs to enhance leadership effectiveness, drawing on her deep understanding of human behavior, motivation, and culture. Humanities are central to her work.

Ronan is among 11 professionals, including some from major tech companies, who spent the past nine months with the Virginia Tech Institute for Leadership in Technology. They studied subjects like history, religion, philosophy, and creative writing to grow their leadership potential and purpose. The program, taught by Virginia Tech faculty and other humanities experts, offers liberal arts classes and aims to integrate the humanities into leadership training.

Graduating fellows receive an executive leadership certificate from Virginia Tech. This program, conducted both in person and virtually, is believed to be one of the first executive leadership credentials in the nation grounded in the liberal arts and humanities.

This spring, professionals, including executives from Boeing, Amazon, and other companies, graduated as members of the institute’s inaugural class. Among them, three Boeing employees are Hokie alumni. Since the institute’s launch in September, founder and professor of practice Rishi Jaitly has received global inquiries about the program’s concept and themes.

“The humanities are worth the hype,” said Jaitly, an entrepreneur with past executive roles at Google and Twitter and a senior advisor to OpenAI. “There’s a huge appetite for this mission. It shows that in this AI-ascendant era, the skills and sensibilities from the humanities are a superpower.”

Jaitly, who studied history at Princeton University and served as a trustee, is currently vice chairman of the National Humanities Center and a board director of Virginia Humanities.

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