Certification program helps Tiara Mack ’16 advance diversity, equity and inclusion

State senator and talent acquisition advisor returns to her alma mater to broaden her public service and professional skills.

image of Tiara MarckAnyone who questions Tiara Mack’s fitness for the rough-and-tumble world of Rhode Island politics isn’t familiar with her bona fides as an NCAA All-American rugby player, executive search advisor and passionate youth organizer.

After graduating from Brown University in 2016 with her bachelor’s degree in public health, Mack was prompted to get into politics following the election of Donald Trump. “I was a reproductive rights activist and had worked to codify abortion access in the Rhode Island State Constitution,” she says. “I challenged an incumbent who was anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ+ and had been in office for 30 years.”

In 2020, Mack became the first openly LGBTQ+, Black state senator elected to the Rhode Island general assembly. She says, “Since my election, I’ve played a non-traditional leadership role as one of the only young, Black and queer voices in the state house.” 

Sharpening DEI strategies and skills

In addition to her work as a state senator, Mack is an associate at the national executive search firm, Isaacson, Miller, where she advises nonprofit institutions on hiring their next leaders. The firm’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is reflected in its placements in 2022: 59% identified as women and 38% were people of color. “Whether it’s a CEO, president, executive director, or other C-level leader, we deal with DEI issues all the time. And it’s often with folks who have not been part of DEI conversations before,” Mack says. “I have to get my points across in a way that resonates with them and moves them to action.”

To sharpen her skills as both an elected official and talent acquisition advisor, Mack enrolled in the Applied DEI Strategies Certificate program offered by the School of Professional Studies at Brown. “I wanted to learn new strategies to deepen my conversations with constituents whose lived experiences are different from mine and to advance the work I am doing to guide organizations on their hiring practices,” she says.

“ I wanted to learn new strategies to deepen my conversations with constituents whose lived experiences are different from mine and to advance the work I am doing to guide organizations on their hiring practices. ”

Tiara Mack '16

Launched in fall 2023, the six-week online certificate program is designed for professionals across industries and at all career levels who want to increase their knowledge of DEI initiatives and implementation strategies. The faculty lead is Jarvis Sam, Professor of the Practice at Brown, founder of The Rainbow Disruption, and former Chief Diversity Officer at Nike. “Jarvis has all the tools to have conversations that many people consider to be difficult,” Mack says. “He has engaged in DEI discussions from many angles, with results at both Fortune 500 companies and smaller businesses.”

Learning at Brown

The Applied DEI Strategies Certificate program focuses on ways to put DEI theory into practice without it feeling like an afterthought, which Mack appreciated. “In many of our modules, there were real-life examples of how companies implemented DEI strategies,” she says. “The approach was, ‘Here’s how you do DEI every day in your job’ versus learning about it in the abstract. We saw how organizations navigated different DEI situations – the pitfalls they encountered and the successes they had.” 

Mack welcomed the mix of individuals in her cohort. “Some folks were DEI professionals, and some were taking a course like this for the first time,” she says. “Hearing people share their job experiences and their engagement with DEI was super helpful. Whether we were reading and contributing to discussion posts or participating in breakout sessions during our synchronous Zoom sessions, everyone had something to learn.”

What was it like for Mack to be a student at Brown again? “It was fun,” she says. “I applaud the University’s commitment to making DEI more accessible, which I enjoyed during my time as an undergraduate. And as an alum, it was great to engage with Brown as a professional and then take new skills to my workplace.”

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