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Carmen Foster, PhD

Virginia Institute of Government

Carmen Foster, PhD's Biography

Carmen has almost forty years of professional experience working in local, state, and federal sectors and in universities, providing her with deep insights into organizational leadership, team development, and facilitation as a guide and coach for senior executives, mid-level managers, and next-generation leaders.

Her approach promotes growth mindsets and multiple perspectives using adaptive leadership and group relations theory frameworks to guide those who seek authenticity and courage to lead with purpose amidst transformation and change.

She has served as faculty for the Federal Executive Institute’s signature program, “Leadership in a Democratic Society,” to provide leadership development training and executive coaching to senior executives across the federal sector. Her clients have included the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Intelligence Community, New York University’s Senior Leadership Team, and the National Institutes of Health.  She also co-leads an annual two-day executive seminar, “Mindfulness and the Practice of Adaptive Leadership,” at Case Western University’s Weatherhead School of Management.

Her career entry began in local government and included roles as Executive Assistant to two Richmond Mayors and as an Assistant to the City Manager.  Her career path has included roles as Director of Master’s Program in Public Policy at Harvard University, Executive Director of Grace Harris Leadership Institute at VCU, Executive Director at University of Richmond’s Jepson
School of Leadership Studies, and Community Affairs Director for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.  She has provided board leadership, facilitation, and strategic planning expertise to several local nonprofits. She was part of the founding team to develop LEAD Virginia and is a member of the 1983 class of Leadership Metro Richmond.

Dr. Foster earned her doctorate in education from the University of Virginia, where she gained expertise as a public historian. She also has earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications from VCU, a master’s degree in communication from Clarion University, and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University. She has traveled extensively across the globe as a W. K. Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Fellow to explore the nexus of leadership, spirituality, and healing for women and global communities of color.

She has used a variety of leadership assessments, inventories, and MBTI tools with clients to coach and facilitate their learning and growth as they grapple with challenges and opportunities to lead teams, organizations, and most importantly, lead themselves. Using a holistic approach toward coaching, Dr. Foster guides her clients to generate skills and confidence as authentic and reflective leaders.