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Inside the Intercultural Leadership Program at Tuck

A conversation with Tuck Associate Director Vincent Mack, a longtime professional leadership coach who recently launched a new series of programming for students focused on race, equity, and leadership in the workplace.

Vincent Mack’s door in Tuck Hall is quite literally always open.

A trusted adviser and leadership coach to students as they navigate challenges both personal and professional in nature, Mack prides himself on being an active listener but isn’t afraid to challenge a perspective when he hears an opportunity for change. “I try to create an environment where I’m not just hearing accolades,” says Mack. “I want to hear the fullness of who you are—what is your complete story, what are your goals, and why do they matter to you? And I want to be fully present and supportively challenging in that conversation so that I can help you reach your full potential.”

After spending five years at Dartmouth College’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, Vincent Mack joined Tuck in 2017 as the inaugural Associate Director of Intercultural Leadership in the MBA Program Office. In his role, Mack is focused on helping the Tuck community develop and strengthen their intercultural competency through hands-on leadership coaching and strategies.

We sat down with Mack to learn more about his vision for a new program focused on intercultural leadership, how he’s helping to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at Tuck, and what he loves most about what he does.

What are you primarily focused on in your role as the Associate Director of Intercultural Leadership?

Much of my work is spent with students, especially international students, listening to and advising them. I want to create a space for students where they can explore a cultural dimension of an interpersonal interaction, whether in the classroom, in a First-Year Project, or with a study group member. My leadership coaching often delves into the questions: What does it mean to be a leader in a diverse work environment? What does it mean for you as a leader to create more equitable practices? What does it mean to foster a more inclusive environment where people really feel like they belong? I want students to reflect on these questions and focus on creating meaningful change in the future businesses they will lead.

In spring 2021, you introduced a new program at Tuck focused on race, equity, and leadership in the workplace called the Tuck Intercultural Leadership Program. Tell me more.

This has been a passion project of mine and something of value I knew I could bring to the Tuck community. I consistently heard from students that they experienced cultural challenges in their workplace. They expressed a desire for a more robust skillset around intercultural competency and how to foster inclusive and dynamic work environments. I wanted to create a leadership program that addressed those specific needs.

I consistently heard from students that they experienced cultural challenges in their workplace. They expressed a desire for a more robust skillset around intercultural competency and how to foster inclusive and dynamic work environments. I wanted to create a leadership program that addressed those specific needs.

The objective of the Intercultural Leadership Program is two-fold: One, it gives students their own objective reality around their efficacy navigating cultural differences. So, how do you enter the conversation yourself, and where do you sit in this conversation around race, equity, and inclusion? Second, once you understand your positionality you have a better objective sense of your efficacy when coming across cultural differences. You can then look at how you relate to others, how you encourage and foster others’ growth, and how you can bring people along in terms of co-creating more equity.

The other piece is understanding where others sit on the continuum of cultural understanding, and creating a framework to understand how to approach these differences in a work environment. As you become part of a team, or as you build a team, ask yourself: What are the norms you can establish that really create more equity and a more inclusive environment? And then how does that scale throughout the organization? Where are the places of power that really can shift the trajectory of an organization to create more equity, to create more inclusivity? This is really where I want our students to thrive and be exemplary.

What can students expect when they attend the program?

One of the ways we kick off the program is to create a shared language. How do we even talk about race, equity, and inclusion? I use an assessment tool to show everyone where they sit on this continuum of learning and where they specifically have work to do to improve their efficacy across cultural differences. I offer one-on-one coaching sessions where I review their results and offer them very specific feedback. We also bring in phenomenal speakers and experts who bring their insights to different facets of DEI. At the end of each program, we all have dinner to continue dynamic conversations around equity and inclusion.

Uju Anya of Carnegie Mellon University delivers a lecture on “Language Identities in Intercultural Communication” as part of the Intercultural Leadership Program.

What do you love most about your work with students?

I think of myself as a very active listener. The part of my job I love the most is when a student walks into my office very unexpectedly and with a specific challenge. I think one of the skills that I bring is really being fully present with students in times of consequence—it’s one of the mantras I use for a higher approach to my work. I listen to what they are saying, what they’re not saying, hearing the values they espouse, and ask whether the decisions they're making with those values could grow with the vision they have for themselves. I really try to reflect back what I'm hearing in hopes that it helps them bring a different level of critical thinking to what is important to them.

It’s almost effortless to be inspired by students at Tuck, especially when you hear their stories, the sacrifices they made to be here, and what it costs both financially and socially to be in this space. This is an investment they're making not just in themselves, but for their future, for their families. I feel very fortunate to be able to have this time with them and hear their stories.

Thanks to you, Tuck has been partnering on local events with the Vermont-based JAG Productions, whose mission is to produce classic and contemporary Black theatre. What made you kick off this partnership?

I serve as the chair on the board of directors of JAG, so there was a natural opportunity to connect the two organizations. I never would have imagined that when I moved to the Upper Valley, a Broadway-caliber theater house producing the largest number of new Black theater productions would be right in my backyard. Jarvis Green, JAG’s founder and artistic director, is creating space for Black playwrights to tell Black stories in a way that catalyzes support, compassion, and love through the lens of the African American experience. I want our students to have exposure to the brilliant art Jarvis is bringing to the Upper Valley community.

What does it mean to be a leader in a diverse work environment? What does it mean for you as a leader to create more equitable practices? What does it mean for you to foster a more inclusive environment where people really feel like they belong? I want students to reflect on these questions and focus on creating meaningful change in the future businesses they will lead.

One example of how we’ve partnered is early in the fall with the launch of JAG’s Theatre on the Hill, a series of outdoor productions held on the grounds of King Arthur Flour, which is walking distance from Tuck. We were able to hold tickets for students who could literally walk across the bridge over to KAF to witness quality theater. It’s just a beautiful learning opportunity that we should be taking advantage of and I’m excited to see how this partnership grows.

What excites you about the future?

With all the great feedback I’ve received from T’21s, staff, and administration, I’m excited for the opportunity to expand the intercultural leadership program and scale it with a broader subset of students. Frankly, I think every student I’ve talked to has a real clear sense of what their personal responsibility is in creating more equitable practices. There's no real gray area here, so I'm excited about bringing this conversation to a broader swath of the community and listening to their voices as the endeavor moves forward. Beyond that, I’m excited as we continue to find more ways to connect in person. I think we've learned that Zoom is very functional, but nothing can replace that in-person connection. Finally, I’d like to challenge our students and entire community to move the conversation beyond just performative gestures to real action, real change. I think that's where I want to see our students primed for action.