Rutgers-Newark Provost Jeffrey Robinson Wins National Award for Book Co-Authored with Business Partner and Rutgers Alum Randal Pinkett


"Black Faces in High Places," a book co-authored by Rutgers University–Newark Provost Jeffrey Robinson and his long-time friend and fellow Rutgers alum, Randal Pinkett, has won an Axiom award, one of the most prestigious awards for books about business.

The book won a gold medal in the “Career, Job Search” category and joins 24 additional Axiom gold medalists, including those written by New York Times bestselling authors and Pulitzer Prize winners.

“It’s rewarding to see that there’s recognition. And this topic is important,’’ said Robinson, who will step into the role of Rutgers-Newark interim chancellor in July.

"Black Faces in High Places: 10 Strategic Actions for Black Professionals to Reach the Top and Stay There" is a guide for employees who are on the rise in their organizations and gives tips on how to ascend and maintain high-ranking positions. Published by HarperCollins Leadership imprint, it includes insights from President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Senator Cory Booker and others. 

“We wanted the book to speak to what are some very critical times for Black professional and we believed we had a voice to contribute,’’ said Pinkett, the Chairman and CEO of consulting firm BCT Partners, which he co-founded with Robinson and two Rutgers classmates, Lawrence Hibbert and Dallas Grundy more than 20 years ago.

The guide is a sequel to their 2010 book," Black Faces in White Places: 10 Game-Changing Strategies to Achieve Success and Find Greatness," which gives Black professionals advice on navigating work places where they are in the minority and helping future generations succeed. The book offered an examination of four dimensions of the contemporary Black experience: identity, society, meritocracy and opportunity.

It was written after Pinkett became the first Black contestant to win Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” reality series in 2005. He was asked to share his victory with a white contestant, becoming the only winner who was singled out this way, an offer he refused.

Robinson and Pinkett met at Rutgers’ New Brunswick campus when they were roommates during the mid-90s. They shared an interest in entrepreneurship and the experience of growing up in towns where there were few Black people. Robinson was raised in Parsippany and Pinkett is from East Windsor.

After graduation, they co-founded BCT Partners. The firm uses data, technology, research and organizational development to help clients work toward a more equitable society and create lasting change. It was named to Inc. Magazine’s 2023 5000 list from 2021 to 2024, which ranks the nation’s fastest-growing private companies, and also made the Forbes list of Best Consulting Firms in America from 2020 to 2024.

Pinkett’s book, Data-Driven DEI: The Tools and Metrics You Need to Measure, Analyze and Improve Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, also received an Axiom gold medal this year in the category of “Business / Human Resources / Employee Training.”

Robinson began teaching management and entrepreneurship at Rutgers Business School in 2008 and in 2021 was named the Prudential Chair in Business.

He has spent his career “connecting the dots,” as he puts it, between realms that might otherwise seem disparate: urban development, entrepreneurship, sustainability, governance, inclusivity and innovation. 

Much of his early work to advance social entrepreneurship as a driver for economic development was done through The Center for Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CUEED) at Rutgers Business School. As co-founding assistant director, he helped to create programs that have supported more than 500 entrepreneurs in the region. He currently serves as the center’s academic director.

For the past five years, Robinson has partnered with the federal government to develop programs and initiatives that are intended to make the tech sector more inclusive. His work is funded by the National Science Foundation.

One key concept of both "Black Faces in White Places" and "Black Faces in High Places" is “intrapreneurship,’’ which means cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset by innovating from within an organization, said Robinson.

He also emphasized the importance of developing networks.

“My favorite strategic action in the book has to do with building your network. You can’t get to the top without having other people in your life. Network and build power. if you’re not doing that, then other things don’t lead naturally or directly to success,’’ said Robinson.

Both Robinson and Pinkett have gotten feedback from many readers who say the book has helped them advance in careers that seemed stalled. 

“When we speak at conferences, there are people at corporations who realize they might have plateaued at some point and they need help. A lot of them are mid-career professionals in situations where they think, there’s something that got me here but it’s not getting me to that next step,’’ said Robinson.

Pinkett says maintaining self-knowledge and sense of purpose is crucial for Black professionals to succeed.

“As you traverse your career to these higher echelons, the winds of expectation and pressure, and challenges of racism blow only more violently,’’ he said. “Without an anchor to ground you or a compass to guide you, you’re like a leaf in the wind. You can be easily taken off course or uprooted.’’

Pinkett said one of his most rewarding moments as an author was when he and Robinson had just finished speaking at a conference in Newark. “A guy drove by and he recognized us and yelled out the window, ‘I love your book!’’’