Since graduating from the Clinton School of Public Service in 2011, Patrick Banks has put his education and training to work promoting equity and inclusion at some of the nation’s largest and most respected corporations.
Now with Apple where he’s a Diversity Recruiting Business Partner, Banks’ career has also included similar roles with MasterCard and Caleres, an apparel company. At each stop, he designed strategies to make the workplace better than he found it, advocating for greater diversity of thought, experience, and background among employees.
It’s a career the St. Louis native finds as challenging as it is rewarding, one that likely never would have happened at all had it not been for a field trip.
“I was a trip leader with a St. Louis Cultural Leadership Program,” he said. “The last stop on the summer tour was the Clinton School.”
During that visit, Banks met former Dean Skip Rutherford who gave him an overview and encouraged him to apply. Which is exactly what he did, having worked to that point as a science teacher with a desire to do more to improve the realities of his students.
“Originally I studied biology, thinking I wanted to do medicine and pivoted my science education into teaching,” he said. “It led me to the Teach for America program, which I did out of undergrad. That put me in an under-resourced school district in really challenging situations. I taught biology, chemistry, and physical science, and it was tough to feel like you could make a greater impact because there were so many systemic issues negatively affecting the kids and holding them back.”
Banks’ desire to tackle issues fit right in with his Clinton School classmates, each looking to improve things in their community, state, and nation. He said one of the things the school does best is channel that drive for change into a feasible series of steps.
“It was refreshing to understand the bigger process,” Banks said. “You can come at things with spirited energy, starting with action to make change; or you can lead with questions and information gathering before deciding how to act. Both approaches have advantages, and the Clinton School had a very unique way of blending those things.
“What was really refreshing for me was how our school’s curriculum laid out a plan that allowed us to study the actions of one leader, then another, and another. Here’s the change they made and here’s how they did it. Then you start to see these patterns emerge.”
Banks applied his lessons to great effect in his Capstone, whereby he built a concept model for a charter school in his hometown. Through that, he worked closely with the St. Louis mayor’s office to figure out the best practices that make a charter school successful. His model contributed to several schools there. He also traveled to Africa for his International Public Service Project, partnering with the Kijana Educational Empowerment Initiative, where he advised school officials how to augment science curricula for rural schools in Kenya to help improve secondary school admission test scores.
Upon graduation, Banks started in the direction of nonprofit work, but circumstances led him to the business world. There he found the skills invested by the Clinton School to be just as effective and impactful in developing high-functioning workspaces as they were for classrooms. Among them, working to uncover implied or perceived bias, improving process barriers, and recruiting for specific skillsets that addressed such issues head-on.
“One of the most lasting things from the Clinton School was learning to engage with stakeholders,” Banks said. “One of our professors there, Dr. Arvind Singhal, taught us true change is adjusting the way people think about things in addition to the way people act on things. Solely telling someone why they should do something differently, or, only making them behave differently, leads to temporary compliance; but they’re not going to holistically buy into it. I can only cause real change by working to understand a person’s perspective.
“Getting into the mind of the stakeholders for every project I’m working on has been a running theme since my time at the Clinton School. When you learn those perspectives, you learn what pushes buttons, you learn what motivates actions, and then you cause more genuine, or authentic change.”
Patrick Banks, a 2011 graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service, has enjoyed a varied career across the nonprofit and business sectors, and is currently a Diversity Recruiting Business Partner for Apple.
Story written by Dwain Hebda.