Anthropological Concept of Human Behavior Inspires Dawn Career Institute’s Leadership Team and Educational Philosophy

Dawn Career Institute President and CEO Cheryl Zapata is committed to the mission of career education, especially as it pertains to her school and the current political climate. At a time when private sector colleges and universities (PSCUs) are facing enormous scrutiny from the Department of Education, organizational leadership is becoming intensely important as schools must achieve stringent benchmarks in providing students pathways to jobs.

PSCUs are the only schools in the higher education realm held to accountability measures that require them to meet or surpass 59% retention and 70% job placement rates — figures that would be nearly impossible for most traditional colleges and universities to achieve. Zapata, who has served as CEO since May 2010, believes that investing in people first is a fundamental strategy to meeting universal goals. And it’s that belief that is helping her implement a human behavior based theory throughout the DCI organization to guide it during increasingly difficult circumstances.

In July, DCI partnered with Don Schmincke of SAGA Leadership Institute to host a two-day summer retreat in Baltimore, Md. Schmincke is an anthropologist turned management sage whose use of anthropology to remedy high failure rates of management theories has been chronicled by media organizations such as CNN and The Wall Street Journal. During the retreat, Zapata and Schmincke led a discussion about how to enhance leadership team agility by collectively seeking to understand human behavior affects in the professional environment.

The anthropology component involving human behavior is being weaved into DCI classrooms by staff and faculty through an education program facilitated by The Pacific Institute (TPI). TPI collaborates with top-performing companies worldwide supporting them in adapting organizational best practices and curricula proven to increase success factors. TPI’s Success Strategies and Thought Patterns for Successful Careers is a total institutional system employing the latest research in the cognitive sciences. DCI’s entire staff, faculty and student body are engaged with TPI.

“The scrutiny that the career college sector of higher education is facing is unprecedented, and I believe it’s going to take innovative leadership techniques to carry us through the tumultuous times,” Zapata said. “Our sector has always appreciated innovation, and our work as educators concentrates on people and changing lives. Don’s theories are something I feel very deeply about and I felt it was imperative that our whole organization understand and adapt to these concepts of human behavior.”

According to TPI research, “81% of corporate America rates performance skills far more important than ‘hard skills.’ However, most schools spend an overwhelming majority of time developing hard skills.” TPI supports DCI in filling the gap between what employers want and what schools traditionally teach. With an understanding that culture is a key to effectiveness and success, these habits, beliefs and unwritten behavior codes are purposefully being explored in the classrooms. It’s about results, increasing grades, teacher satisfaction and family involvement.

Incorporating excellence across the board, helping to create an environment to support all to reach personal successes, knowing their goals, and making the changes needed to reach them through behavior patterns are the basic premises of both partnerships with SAGA Leadership Institute and The Pacific Institute. Zapata is convinced DCI will meet its maximum potential, as well as continue to be a voice underscoring the value for PSCUs, by working on the alignment of DCI’s culture with these principles, driving employee performance by overcoming primal distractions, and implementing similar structure in the classrooms.

About Dawn Career Institute
Dawn Career Institute is a career education institution based in Wilmington, Del., with online program options also available. Dawn Career Institute offers programs in some of the nation’s fastest-growing career fields: healthcare, wellness and business. Dawn Career Institute is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). For more information, visit


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