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In honor of the work he did to develop and champion the Chicago Urban League’s IMPACT Leadership Development Program, Booth professor George Wu has been named the League’s 2020 Humanitarian of the Year. 

The IMPACT Leadership Development program, developed by the Chicago Urban League in partnership with Chicago Booth, connects up-and-coming professionals with senior African American leaders throughout Chicago—creating a pipeline of talented individuals who are reaching new heights in their careers, and making positive change throughout the city.

“It is humbling to be referred to as a humanitarian,” Wu said. “Of course, I am deeply honored to be recognized. At the same time, I view my involvement with the program as a great privilege.”

Wu was an early champion of the IMPACT program, which was launched in 2014. At the time, Andrea Zopp was CEO of the Urban League, and she wanted to develop a leadership program to build a strong pipeline of young African American talent in Chicago. “One unique aspect about the program is that, even though fellows were about 50-50 between the private sector and the government/non-profit sector, all the fellows had a commitment to making their communities better,” Wu said. “I saw immediately that this was a program that could transform Chicago, and it has.”

“I saw immediately that the IMPACT program was a program that could transform Chicago, and it has.”

— George Wu

An experienced leadership professor who was the inaugural faculty director of Booth’s Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership, Wu helped to develop the IMPACT program curriculum, and continues to work with the program to this day. The IMPACT program combines a civic education with practical leadership skills, all within a classroom setting at Booth where participants feel safe sharing their personal experiences as they work together to grow as leaders. 

“They come together, they trust each other, and they inspire each other to do bigger and better things,” Wu said in a recent article about the program, for which he still serves as Booth’s faculty director. “You need that inspiration to be more ambitious, and you need the knowledge and resources and the network to deliver on that ambition. I think we’re able to provide the fellows with all of those things.”

Wu will receive the award at the League’s 59th annual Golden Fellowship Dinner, happening virtually on Saturday, November 7. “It has been a great privilege to work with the Chicago Urban League and the fellows,” Wu said. “They are remarkable people who constantly inspire me with their talent, energy, and values.”


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