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Looking for a Career Change? Look at the Detroit Revitalization Fellows

It can be near to impossible to change careers midstream, especially with the high costs of going back to school or starting over as a newbie. But a Detroit-based fellowship is giving mid-career professionals a chance to sharpen their skills and give back at the same time.

D 1The program is called the Detroit Revitalization Fellows. Not only is this a unique program in terms of giving young (and young at heart) professionals an opportunity to grow alongside Detroit, it also is a practical way to attack some of the city’s most sizable issues with substance.

In its third cohort of this program, a group of 23 individuals and companies will examine big-picture projects ranging from transit to technology to homelessness to neighborhood development. These aren’t people who are afraid of challenge. Rather, they embrace it, they study it, they slay it.

On Monday, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows, Wayne State University, the Kresge Foundation and Mayor Mike Duggan’s office announced a new twist to the program. This year, three alums will return to the Fellowship and take on special tasks within the Mayor’s office. These “Kresge Mayor’s Fellows” will add new muscle to Duggan’s workforce, putting three well-known and well-respected professionals in front of three mighty challenges.

This is about momentum, said WSU President M. Roy Wilson. It is about energy, talent and commitment to Detroit, said Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson. It is about accelerating Detroit’s growth, said Mayor Duggan. It is about civic, community and economic development, said Graig Donnelly, Detroit Revitalization Fellows Director.

D2Donnelly said this year’s group has a great mix of people who have both personal and professional life experience. Nearly 75 percent are female. About 42 percent are between the ages of 25 and 34. About 47 percent are African American. That means they’re young, they’re smart and they’re ready to take everything they’ve learned so far as well as the career development they’ll gain as Fellows and apply it to Detroit.

“Our value proposition is that long game; we’re building our next leaders for our city and our region,” Donnelly said. “The people who are (Detroit Revitalization Fellows) are at the forefront but they’re also behind the scenes, making the important things happen that affect all of our quality of life. That’s why we’re making this investment – so they’re equipped to lead us well into the future.”

Some background. The 2015-2017 Detroit Revitalization Fellows will serve two-year appointments in both public and nonprofit organizations in and around Detroit. These groups have one thing in common: They all are focused on Detroit’s rebirth and the region. Each one will take one a project with his or her employer in hopes of pounding out solutions to local and regional issues.

The 23 fellows come from as near as, well, Detroit to as far as San Francisco. This year, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows had its highest applicant pool in its four-year history; more than 650 people wrote up their best qualities in hopes of securing a spot in the prestigious fellowship.

D3The program was inspired by the Rockefeller Foundation’s CUREx Fellowships, started in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina to attract urbanists from across the country to help rebuild the city. Fifty-one Fellows from across the United States, including native Detroiters and Michiganders, have participated in two successive cohorts since the program began; 23 Fellows in the third cohort began their service this month.

Detroit Revitalization Fellows is a program of Wayne State University’s Office of Economic Development and has been supported by The Kresge Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Hudson-Webber Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the DTE Energy Foundation, the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, PwC Charitable Foundation, Inc. and Wayne State University.

The 2015-17 Kresge Mayor’s Fellows and their assignments are: Diana Flora (2013-15 Fellow at Data Driven Detroit): Director of Strategy Development, Detroit Police Department; Jeanet Kulcsar (2011-13 Fellow at Invest Detroit): Director of Resident Opportunity Initiatives, Jobs and Economy Team; and Jerrell Harris (2013-15 Fellow at Focus: HOPE): Director of Restructuring & Transformation, Mayor’s Office.

The 2015 Detroit Revitalization Fellows and their assignments are:  Aja Bonner, program associate, Hudson-Webber Foundation; Kalisha Davis, director of community outreach and engagement, Detroit Historical Society; Susan Dundon, business innovation director – Youth Energy Squad, EcoWorks; Aaron Goodman, community engagement manager, Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD); Samira Guyot, manager of legal education, Michigan Community Resources; Terryn Hall, manager of strategic partnerships, Teen HYPE; Ritchie Harrison, community development planner, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy; Joel Howrani Heeres, director, Open Data & Analysis, City of Detroit Department of Innovation and Technology; Melvin Henley, project manager, Council of Creative Industries, Detroit, Detroit Creative Corridor Center; Debra Houghtaling, urban planner,  Henry Ford Health System; Ouida Jones, owner’s representative – Vernor Crossing Development, Southwest Detroit Business Association; Jeffrey Nolish, transportation program manager, MetroMatters; Martha Potere, economic development program manager, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation; Aneetha Ramadas, social impact researcher, Data Driven Detroit; Brittany Sanders, community engagement manager, Belle Isle Conservancy; Charla Sanders, employment district program manager, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC); Delphia Simmons, director, Passport to Self-Sufficiency, Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS); Michael Smith, director of neighborhood strategies, Invest Detroit; Jeri Stroupe, senior project administrator, Office of Economic Development, Wayne State University; Leslie Tom, chief sustainability officer, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History; Patricia White, development director, Eight Mile Business Improvement District, Eight Mile Boulevard Association; Shari Williams, neighborhoods and operations program manager, Detroit Future City; Gracieuse Xavier, director of corporate & economic development strategy, Global Detroit.

For more information about the Detroit Revitalization Fellows, visit detroitfellows.wayne.edu.

Karen Dybis

Karen is an editor and writer for Corp! Magazine. She graduated from the University of Michigan and has worked at The Mackinac Island Town Crier, The Kalamazoo Gazette, The (Adrian) Daily Telegram and The Oakland Press. Karen spent five years at The Detroit News as a business writer with stints in retail, workplace issues and personal finance. Dybis also was a blogger on Time magazine's "Assignment: Detroit" project.

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