The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Leadership Academy

Image of 2021 Leadership Academy

The Leadership Academy is an annual online summer and academic year program that is designed to help advance the success of undergraduate students who are traditionally under-represented in technology and engineering as they plan their transition from college and internships to career. The program consists of three components: a six-week synchronous online summer program, a professional development reunion, and an industry mentorship program during the academic year. It is free of cost for students. During the 6-week online program, students develop the professional skills including communication, building your own brand, negotiation skills, and leadership competencies. Students interact with and learn from experienced professionals in tech and engineering careers from diverse backgrounds, grow their own networks, and find internships and employment opportunities. Students who participate in the Leadership Academy during the summer have the opportunity to form mentorship relationships with one or more industry professionals during academic year. In 2020, the Leadership Academy welcomed students from 16 different institutions within Massachusetts. In 2021, we welcomed from 22 institutions nationwide. 

Watch a short video with testimonials from graduates of the inaugural academy in 2020:

Read a news piece about last year's Leadership Academy here.

The Organizers

The Academy is organized by a research-practitioner network of researchers, educators and outreach professionals, business leaders and students funded by the National Science Foundation and housed within the Institute of Diversity Sciences at UMass Amherst. The network is led by Dr. Nilanjana Buju Dasgupta and a core team from the University of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the larger Massachusetts community.

The Teaching Team

The Academy is conducted by Dr. Rati Thanawala, 2018 Advanced Leadership Fellow at Harvard. Dr. Thanawala spent 39 years in tech. She created and piloted this program with a grant from Pivotal Ventures, a Melinda Gates Company.

The negotiation component of the curriculum is led by Dr. Hannah Riley Bowles, who chairs the Management, Leadership, and Decision Sciences area at Harvard Kennedy School.

Program Details

The Summer Leadership Academy is a fast-paced 15 -20 hours/week online program that is an accelerator for you as you plan your journey to thrive in the tech and engineering sectors. It strengthens your capacity to lead by helping you understand:

  • What is fundamentally new when you start your journey in the tech and engineering industry?
  • What are the levers needed for thriving during college years, and later, in early careers?
  • How have “wise” women and men, from groups that are traditionally underrepresented at mid and senior levels in the tech and engineering industry, used these levers to succeed?

The Leadership Academy meets for 3 sessions per week. Classes meet in the afternoon online (synchronously) for a 3-hour block per session. The course requires a student commitment of 15-20 hours per week, including class time, class preparation, interactive exercises, and invited speakers.

Over the 6-week period:

  • You will learn to sharply identify your unique strengths, and understand how, with the right investment, they can grow into “superpowers.”
  • You will get to sharpen your personal story. Personal narrative is powerful and a critical enabler to impact. You will learn how to guide others to appreciate the value you bring.
  • You will learn solutions to limit the impact from stereotype threats such as micro-aggressions and isolation.
  • Through working in small groups with facilitation and coaching, you will see yourself improving in a key skill area – Negotiating -- and you will apply it to specific challenges in college, during internships, and in transitioning to the workplace.
  • You will engage with industry leaders in online chat sessions, specifically designed to answer your questions on leadership skills, how tech and engineering managers assess potential and performance of interns and new hires, and other questions that you generate through class discussions.


The program is free of cost for students.


    Eligible students are those who fall into one or more of the following categories:

    1. Undergraduate students who have declared (or intend to declare) majors in computer science, technology or engineering fields.
    2. Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), including those from Latinx communities, women and gender minorities, LGBTQIA, first-generation college students, students with disabilities, and other marginalized groups in STEM.
    3. Any student at a college or university in the U.S.

    Application Process

    Please complete this form if you are interested in learning more about the 2022 Leadership Academy! We will contact you when the application opens in Spring semester 2022.


    The 2021 Leadership Academy was made possible through corporate partnerships.

    Thank you to our sponsors:




    And a special thank you to our academic partners:

    The Leadership Academy also thanks our past sponsors for their generous support:



    Rati Thanawala

    Image of Rati Thanawala
    Email Address

    Hannah Riley Bowles

    Image of Hannah Riley Bowles

    Nilanjana (Buju) Dasgupta

    Image of Buju Dasgupta
    Email Address