Representing education and the non-profit sector, Summit speaker Dr. Darienne Driver exemplifies authenticity and service in her leadership style. She started her career as a Detroit Public Schools teacher and most recently was superintendent of Milwaukee Public Schools.

Here, she talks about her new role as CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

Q.What attracted you to the leadership role at United Way?

A. As an educator for more than 20 years, I know firsthand how students can be directly impacted by inadequate support services. While working in Milwaukee I experienced United Way’s significant impact because they were part of nearly every program implemented for students. I saw United Way’s value in bringing anchor institutions like corporations, schools, churches and nonprofits together around a common cause.

Q. How does your life of service as an educator and superintendent influence your role as president and CEO of a non-profit?

A. I was taught about the importance of giving back in my home as a child. Both of my parents led busy lives as managers in health care, yet they were very active in the church as were my grandparents. They taught me that for every gift given you must give something in return. The core values and lessons that my parents taught me remain part of my personal constitution and guide my professional leadership style.

Throughout my educational career in Detroit, and while working in Clayton County in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, I realized that my educational experiences were very different from those of my students. That is why I am on a mission to make sure that every child with whom I come in contact has access to every opportunity, and education is the key. It is the great equalizer.

Q. What are some of your goals for your organization?

A. I’d like to see United Way for Southeastern Michigan have more of a presence in the community with satellite centers throughout the tri-counties in conjunction with our partners. They would serve as one-stop-shops offering volunteer opportunities as well as a variety of services addressing basic needs around clothing, food, housing, and skills development and education. The centers would also help build bridges, enhance the communities’ understanding of our work and deepen relationships with our partner agencies in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Q. How will communications be part of your plan?

A. We tend to primarily speak to donors as well as members of our affinity groups, which offer tremendous opportunities for enhancement though diversity. However, we could broaden efforts to engage recipients of our services by hosting town halls in the neighborhoods and inviting the voices of those we serve to the table to help inform our decision making.

Q. What is some of the best advice you’ve received?

A. I have benefited from many people from various walks of life who instilled knowledge, wisdom and criticism to help me grow. My mentor often reminds me that leadership is a privilege, and true leadership occurs only when others follow.

Q. Who has had the biggest influence on your life?

A. My grandmothers, they taught me the importance of family, faith, hard work and education.

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For more about Dr. Driver’s career, see her profile on the United Way for Southeastern Michigan website.

For information about the 2018 Leadership Summit, click here.