When faced with setbacks, Charlotte says she does all she can to focus her energy and inner thoughts to clarify her purpose: What do you want to do? What you passionate about?
For Charlotte, the answer was teaching. As a result of that clarity, she had coffee with former associate dean of the Kelley School at IUPUI, Phil Cochran.
“He had an opportunity available for a visiting professor in business communications,” she said. “We had this course that was taught mostly by adjuncts called Negotiations, and he asked if I’d be interested. I jumped on that! Talk about transformation – that’s something you achieve through negotiations.”
Life at Kelley
In 2012 Charlotte began teaching team dynamics and leadership at Kelley at IUPUI. She revamped an undergraduate course in negotiations and later offered a workshop on the topic to the Kelley Indianapolis MBA Women’s Association. Following the workshop, the attendees requested that a negotiations course be offered in the MBA program.
“They contacted the associate dean and school to petition a negotiations class in the Evening MBA Program, which they decided to offer,” she said. “The first time they offered it, I was told 80 percent of the Evening MBA students wanted to take it.”
Charlotte currently teaches in the Evening MBA Program and plans to expand teaching team dynamics and negotiations to other programs at IUPUI. She continues to consult with businesses in Indiana and across the country in the areas of cultural competency, cultural intelligence, negotiations, grit and resilience and business communications.
The woman who once hesitated to enter law school recently received the 2018 Samuel S. Dargan Award from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA), which is awarded to distinguished graduates for continued involvement with the BLSA and law school communities.
Since 2006, Charlotte has served on the Indiana Board of Bar Examiners, which writes the bar exam and evaluates applicants, and she also serves on the Indiana State Bar Association Board of Governors to set policy for attorneys in the state. She provides workshops on negotiations and generational diversity for the Urban League Exchange Program, instructs charter school teachers in cultural intelligence and does a variety of work with student organizations, including helping agricultural students better grasp cultural competency as they work with more global companies.
Regardless of the topic on which she is instructing students, Charlotte looks for the cultural competency element: how does a person’s cultural context affect how they are receiving and interpreting a message?
“In negotiations, there’s a lot of talk about win-win and getting to ‘yes,’ and finding out why a person wants what they want,” she said. “But if you don’t understand the cultural context someone comes from, it won’t be successful. This is one area I plan to focus on in with the Centennial Professorship.”
Much like her work and research, Charlotte has grit. She has defied odds and heartache to pass along the value of education to her children.
Her son, Charles, attended the Naval Academy and serves as an aviator in the Navy. Her daughter, Chrystal, attended has degrees from Purdue and IU and is the principal of a local charter school. Charlotte is happily remarried to David Renfrow, and she’s a proud grandmother to seven.
In her appointment as an IU Bicentennial Professor, Charlotte plans to focus the outreach she will do throughout Indiana on understanding cultural competency.
“Negotiations tactics that are successful in attracting a 55-year-old female business owner in a small town of 450 people may not work the same for attracting a 28-year-old startup entrepreneur in the center of Indianapolis,” she explained. “This is why it’s critical to consider cultural competency."
Through all her education and instruction, Charlotte says teaching and learning create a symbiotic relationship that she values input from her students. When someone betters themselves through education, it’s the moment of teaching that makes it all worth it to her.