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Interview with Jackie Smith, VP of CareSource University at CSU

"Take time to reflect and intentionally build the kind of leader you want to be"


CareSource University (CSU) is ranked as one of the top training facilities in the country and is unlike most internal education institutions. It provides multiple education and training functions to harness the unique strengths of its talent base to boost workplace morale and performance. Jackie Smith, Vice President of CSU at CareSource explains in a Lean In Ohio interview, how she leaned into networking, which led to founding one of the most fundamental internal infrastructures at CareSource. 

Lean In Ohio: What led to your role at CareSource University (CSU) at CareSource?

Jackie Smith: Two key pieces that come to mind for me are networking and delivering on promises. This all came about a number of years ago when I was attending a professional meeting, and met CareSource’s human resource director. We were discussing training and leadership development and she stated that CareSource did not have a training function but could benefit from focused training. Consequently, I was brought on as a consultant doing part-time leadership development training, team building and performance management work. While working as a consultant, I demonstrated my skills, built relationships and delivered results. After about six months I thought it might beneficial for both parties to recommend a more in-depth relationship. On the same day that I was going to share a proposal for creating a part-time position with the HR director, she asked me, "Why don't you just work here? You are here a lot already!” I stated, “That’s interesting because I have a proposal on that very thought.”

I came in as part time for about 18 months, and upon demonstrating what I could do for the organization, CEO, Pam Morris, asked me a life-changing question. She explained that she always wanted to have an internal university to focus training resources specifically on what CareSource staff needed and asked if I would be interested in doing something like that. I said that I would absolutely be interested. After creating a vision for what this might look like we agreed to build the university.

Lean In Ohio: CareSource has one of the top training programs in the country according to Training Magazine. Why do you think CSU stands out?

Jackie Smith: CSU has been an actual function for about 12 years, and the thing that really makes us stand out is the breadth of services we offer. We don’t consider ourselves just a training function and we very purposefully do not use the word “training” in the title.
As we moved to a university approach we built four “schools” to address employee needs.

The School of Applications and Systems primarily covers our new hire onboarding and systems training.

The School of Business and Interpersonal Skills that covers things about our industry, interpersonal skills and other forms of communications such as emotional intelligence, feedback, navigating change and assessments such as the Myers-Briggs profile and  StrengthsFinder.

The School of Professional Development is a school that supports about half of our staff, our clinicians and project management team. It provides continuing education resources to employees who have clinical or professional licensure that they need to maintain.

The School of Coaching and Consulting is one of our largest schools. This school includes three full-time, ICF certified coaches that meet with every new leader in the organization for approximately nine months. They support our leaders in getting acclimated in their new leadership position as quickly as possible.

We have 29 staff members that support the work in our schools. This level of organizational commitment is almost unheard of, especially in a nonprofit. This team delivered over 200,000 hours of learning last year. CSU is a hybrid between a human resource function and learning function. We have course facilitators, course designers, eLearning specialists, coaches, performance management consultants, procedural writers, OD consultants and a virtual learning manager. All of these roles work together to provide services to our 2,900 employees.

Interviewed by Julene Allen

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Julene Allen