In 2007, not long after Alissa Carpenter began her career—advising and mentoring college students—she noticed many of them had created a “facade.” Publicly, they exuded optimism and confidence; but privately, they revealed angst over grades, finances and the future.
Carpenter (EDUC ’06G) noticed a similar facade among many colleagues, too. As a working mom, she also felt her share of stress. The combination led her to embrace the mantra, “Everything’s Not OK and That’s OK,” to cope with life’s ups and downs. In 2015, that mantra became the name of her new consulting business.
As her company grew, Carpenter says, she drew upon the teachings of Pitt Professor Michael Gunzenhauser—particularly on social justice and race consciousness—to develop expertise in diversity and inclusion. It enabled her to coach companies on how to cross generational, race and gender divides by, in part, encouraging the development of “safe” and “brave” spaces where vulnerable employees could feel heard and respected. The end result helped the employer and employees together to define ideas of loyalty and productivity.
Carpenter has chronicled her guidance in “How to Listen and How to Be Heard: Inclusive Conversations at Work” (Career Press; 2020), which was named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2020 by Cosmopolitan. She’s also given a TEDx Talk on humanizing the workplace, has a popular podcast and is a social media presenter.
She has no shortage of material. “Everybody goes through something, and in 2020 that resonated,” she says. “I want to help people, so we can all get up and keep moving.”
This article appears in the Spring 2021 edition of Pitt Magazine.