Giving Tuesday: A practice in leadership

February 19, 2024

Last fall’s Giving Tuesday campaign raised over $4,500 from 29 donors for the Leadership Initiative (LI). Support for the Leadership Initiative enables students to have access to assessments, workshops, and coaching to increase their self-awareness, understand their unique strengths and gifts, and appreciate the differing and diverse strengths in others—all insights that are foundational to effective leadership.

“The Ford School is tremendously appreciative of all of the donors for modeling the way and enabling the next generation of leaders through their giving,”  says Jennifer Niggemeier, managing director of the Leadership Initiative. “The donors to this one-day campaign included parents of our students, past participants of LI programming, our coaches, alumni board members, and other alumni and friends of the Ford School.”

Curious why such a diverse group of donors gave to the initiative, Niggemeier asked them. “What struck me in their responses, was that even though their motivations are as varied as their backgrounds, all of them exemplify leadership practices in one of the leadership frameworks we use at the school. Exemplary leaders model the way, inspire a vision, challenge the process, enable others to act, and encourage the heart.”

Read some of their motivations below. For more information on ways to support the Leadership Initiative, contact Jennifer Niggemeier at [email protected].

“I think it’s essential for higher education, and particularly professional education, to recognize the importance of complimenting technical knowledge and ability with “soft skills” like leadership, resilience, and conflict resolution. I applaud, and am delighted to support, the Ford School’s efforts to cultivate these critical (and teachable) skills in its students.” 

-Michael Cahill (MPP/JD ‘99), Ford School alumni board member, law professor and former dean of Brooklyn Law School

“The Ford School's Leadership Initiative is not just another leadership program – it is a catalyst for positive change and an investment in the future we strive to build. When the opportunity to support this program arose, I knew I had to be a part of it. The program's mission resonates deeply with my passion: to equip students with the tools to make a real, lasting impact on the world.  I am proud to empower the next generation of policy professionals to tackle complex challenges and create a better world for all.”

-Sandra P. Buteau, LL.M., PCC - Ford School leadership coach, L2T Global Consulting


Starting my internship during the pandemic was certainly a challenge. There was such a sense of urgency about the work, and I had to find a way to quickly add value to a team who I had never met in person. The coaching and mentorship provided through the leadership initiative helped me to reflect on and process my experiences, and to set a plan for what leadership meant for me in this new context. This was more valuable than I could have imagined, and I hope that leadership coaching will continue to be a core component of the Ford School experience.

-Kevin Naud (MPP ‘21), workforce strategy analyst, Detroit at Work 


“As someone who has spent my career in public policy and a parent of a recent Ford School graduate, I support the Ford School because I understand the importance of providing students the opportunity to appreciate and talk across difference. In truly listening to what the other side is saying, and setting aside preconceived biases, students will have the skills to go into a discussion or negotiation prepared to achieve the best possible outcome."

-Shellie Bressler, Senior Professional Staff Member, House Foreign Affairs Committee (2015-2018), Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2007-2012)