Carnegie Mellon University
Joanna Lovering

Leading with Style

Joanna Lovering Champions Women at Work at Copper + Rise

written by
Cally Jamis Vennare

When Joanna Lovering (BHA 2004) enters a room, people sit up and take notice. She exudes confidence, dynamism and high energy. In addition, her vibrant personal style — grounded in her strong maternal roots, her flowing red hair and colorful eyewear — is dramatic and impactful.

As the founder of Copper + Rise, Lovering helps companies engage, develop and retain their pipeline of women leaders at every stage of their growth by serving as a leadership and presence consultant.

Carnegie Mellon had an “enormous” influence on the entrepreneur’s career trajectory. “I attribute my winding road of a career to the interdisciplinary programs that I was a part of,” said Lovering. “It was absolutely foundational.”

The BXA Intercollege Degree Programs — which operate at the intersection of disciplines, innovation and curiosity for undergraduate students — enabled Lovering to immediately fuse multiple passions into one by integrating her love of drama with psychology.

“I always knew that show business wasn’t for me. I love the art form but not the business aspect of show business. And at the same time, what always interested me about digging into a script was the human element … bringing the characters to life and thinking about their motivations, their decision making, who they would be in real life. There's a lot of psychology that goes into that thought process. And I have always been fascinated by the human condition — people and learning about how they think. For those reasons, I thought that I’d become a drama therapist.”

But the BXA programs changed that thinking. As did her three BXA advisors — a degree program advisor, drama directing advisor and psychology advisor — who taught Lovering important lessons about the confluence of drama and psychology and how these seemingly disparate disciplines could blend together.

“Looking back, CMU and the BXA programs taught me that the vertical-only route isn’t the sole process towards a career. Every day, our world is becoming more and more interdisciplinary. And so, this program and the processes that a student encounters — building your class schedule, creating a capstone project, managing the tactical or pragmatic pieces of the BXA programs — were essential to helping me realize the way that my brain works and the way that I could exist in the world.”

Lovering followed her BHA degree with an M.A. in social-organizational psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University, which put her on a track of leadership training and coaching at companies including JetBlue, Citi, L’Oréal USA, Tiffany & Co. and smaller startups like Daily Burn.

“But I didn’t leave all of that theater training in the dust. My familiarity with the stage lent itself to teaching corporate management courses in front of hundreds. Even now, as a consultant, I do in-person and virtual speaking events where I’m on a literal stage. Thank goodness for that training!”

But, in addition to all of that stage work, Lovering’s newest creative outlet is fashion styling. And yet again, as her BXA degree program taught her, she’s been able to seamlessly integrate her love for wardrobe into an essential part of her business.

What started as shopping excursions for friends who needed suits for their post-graduate interviews eventually evolved into Copper + Rise, Lovering’s executive presence firm that teaches transformational leadership skills like confidence and self-advocacy that most people think are unteachable. The business has two strategic arms: consulting with companies who are investing in their pipeline of women leaders and working with ambitious women through 1:1 coaching.

Over the years, Lovering has realized that leveling up in your career isn’t just about what you know. You also have to look, speak and act like a leader — and that’s where executive presence comes in. She defines executive presence as “the style and substance of who you are.” Lovering’s background in psychology, leadership development and fashion styling is the trifecta she brings to this work.

“What I’m really passionate about is the person I'm dressing, more so than the clothes themselves. I ask questions like, ‘How do you want to present yourself to the world? How do you want people to feel when they just look at you?’ Many of my clients are on television and speak in front of thousands of people. Like it or not, their audience is making a judgment about them just by what they see. So, why not optimize those data points for them so that they’re received and heard? And the real work is developing their sense of style that feels authentic and influences their audiences positively.”

Whether it’s style, stage presence or leading teams more effectively, Lovering has helped thousands of ambitious professionals navigate their world of work. Her ultimate goal is to encourage more gender diversity in C-Suites and boardrooms through authentically differentiating oneself to make the greatest impact.

Lovering was actively involved in resident and student life at CMU where she honed her leadership skills as a resident assistant (RA) and community advisor (CA), participated in Booth and Buggy for Fringe, played intramural sports, and performed in a rock cover band named Idiot Boyfriend and CMU’s production of "The Vagina Monologues," to name only a few highlights. She is excited to once again offer her time and talent as the incoming president of the Carnegie Mellon Alumni Association Board in 2024.

As she is in life and work, Lovering is passionate about this newest leadership role and about staying connected with CMU’s inspiring and accomplished alumni community.

“Carnegie Mellon students are beautiful humans in so many ways, but mainly because the majority of them are people who are very, very smart in multiple disciplines. That may seem scary to many people … it did to me! Truthfully, there were times I felt like some sort of alien amongst brilliant people who seemed to know exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up. But I’m here to say, ‘use me as an example.’ My career and my life are a patchwork quilt of lots of different strengths, passions and energizers. I somehow have been able to cultivate the majority of those things to build a career and now a business out of it. And it truly started with my BXA degree program.”