Dexter Mason, head of social impact and DEI strategy at Buzzer, shares his experience working at the Kresge Foundation, RISE, and the Obama White House. January, 2022.
0:00:03.8 Cindy Bank: Hi everyone. I'm Cindy Bank, I'm the Associate Director of the program in Practical Policy Engagement, and we're gonna get started, even though I know that we'll have additional students who will be joining us as they transfer from their last classes onto another Zoom. But I wanna welcome everybody today and I wanna thank my colleague, Miriam, who is in the background helping us with all the tech, and later Crystal, who is just up down as our SAC chair will be moderating the Q&As, so thank you. And just as a reminder, this is being recorded and we're really hoping that when we get to the Q&As, that everyone will... Who's able to, will turn on their screens and ask their questions, or if not, you can put them in chat and Crystal will ask them. I am not gonna do an introduction because Dexter is gonna talk about himself, but I really wanna welcome him.
0:01:03.6 CB: I have to put this up front, Dexter is basically my son from another mother. And I met him when he was still an undergrad, it's quite a few years ago, but not that long ago. And I remembered the first phone call I had with him. I was standing in the Rayburn cafeteria, and he called me and just asked so many really delving questions into what life and work was like in DC, 'cause that's where he was coming. He's really become a close friend, a mentor to my son, and has had an incredible career so far at a very young age in truly serving the public, and even though he's working for a for-profit company now, it's really... What he's doing is really focused on the public good, and he continues even in his private life to continue in public service. Dexter, please take it away.
0:01:57.8 Dexter Mason: No, thank you Cindy for the kind introduction. And I remember that conversation via phone and in-person so as I kind of go through the arc of my early career... It was not that long ago, but still some time, but I would definitely go through that moment as well, I think it's relevant for today's conversation about service. But thank you all for having, it's definitely an honor and privilege to be here and speak to you all. I'm Dexter Mason, I am a proud U of M alum as well, even though I was not in the Ford School, I definitely used to walk by the school all the time, especially going up that hill on State Street, so definitely a beautiful building, beautiful space. But just a little bit more about me, I am a native of Metro, Detroit, I grew up in Grosse Pointe, right outside Detroit.
0:02:39.6 DM: I'm calling in from Detroit now, so I'm a proud Detroit resident for the last five and a half years, but grew up in Grosse Pointe Public Schools, K through 12, and then entered the University of Michigan in fall of 2009. I was in the School of Kinesiology, Sports Manager major, so that major focused really on the business side of sports. And so growing up, I really had aspirations of going to the NBA, wanted to play professional basketball, had hoop dreams as a lot of folks call it. And for me, my height and my weight allowed me not to become an NBA player. I was cut from my seventh grade basketball team in middle school, and my parents told me, "Hey, you will not be the next Michael Jordan, and that's okay, but you can own a team, you can run a team, you can work for a team". And so for me, that opened up my career outlook that I can still work in sports but without being an athlete. And so for me, as I kinda matriculated to University of Michigan, that's why I picked U of M for the athletics, obviously the academics, but the fact that the School of Kinesiology offered a Sports Manager program.
0:03:45.6 DM: But during that time too... Kinda going back to right before Michigan, my senior year in high school coincided with President Obama's historical election in 2008, and then for me being a black male and seeing the first black president being elected really had a profound effect on me for the rest of my life and to this day today. And as I went to Michigan, I wanted to work in sports, on the back of my mind, because of President Obama's historical election, I really wanted to find a way to intersect sports and politics. At my time on campus, I was mostly active in the Sport Business community, I was president of the Sport Business Association on campus, I also was a student manager for the men's basketball team all my four years when I was on campus. My senior year in college in 2013 coincided with our Final Four run for the men's basketball program where ultimately we lost a national championship game. And for me, it was a heartbreaking loss, but once again really profound impact in my life. But during that time as I'm thinking about graduation, of what I wanna do after graduation, I wanted to find a way to really still work in sports, but also at the same time, my senior year in college was President Obama's re-election in 2012. During my four years at U of M, I think President Obama came to campus three times as a commencement speaker and also during his campaign.
0:05:13.5 DM: And so for me, once again, "How can I intersect my passion for sports and politics?" For me, I didn't believe those two worlds really collided, and at that time I took no... I did not take any forward classes, any classes in LSNA within a political science room. So for me I was very, very lost. And as President Obama was elected for the second time, that's where I knew I wanna find a way to get to DC, I did not know how, I didn't have a road map, I did not have any guidance, and that's where Cindy Bank came in, as a lot of folks on Michigan's campus really told me, "You need to reach out to Cindy, you need to reach out to Cindy." And so I called her as she mentioned in the intro. She was walking in the Rayburn Building on Capitol Hill, and I was a lost college student and trying to figure out how to get to DC post-graduation.
0:06:04.1 DM: And I was very fortunate to attend the second inauguration for President Obama in 2013 in January, and that's where I actually got a chance to meet Cindy, and kind of taught me the road map on how to enter politics, how especially to leverage of the University of Michigan network to get there, there's a lot of alum that are there as well that we all know. And as I was graduating college, I actually applied for a one year masters program at Georgetown, it was a Masters in Sports Management, so very similar to my academics here at U of M for undergrad, but the program allowed me to get to DC, the program also allowed me to work or intern during the day, and all my classes were in the evening. So for me, wow, I can finally...
0:06:45.8 DM: Hopefully find a way to intersect both my passion and interest in service and in sports. And so as I moved into... Got into the Georgetown program, graduated U of M, moved to DC in fall of 2013 and ended up having an unpaid internship on Capital Hill for my congressman at the time, Gary Peters. And so as I went through my 18-month program at Georgetown, I was very fortunate to intern for Congressman Peters at the time. I interned at the NCAA in their government relations office. That was also the same time that student athletes at Northwestern University were trying to unionize to be paid. So having that conversation in 2014, it's definitely very interesting. Now college athletes are able to make money off their likeness. Obviously, that's a very contentious conversation that I was part of back in 2014 working for the NCAA. After that experience, I ended up interning for the NFL Players Association in their public policy department. That NFL Players Association was actually the union for the NFL players and they were actually supporting the student athletes at Northwestern at that time. So for me, I was actually able to get kind of a 180 or 360 perspective of both sides of the issue there.
0:08:04.7 DM: My last semester of graduate school at Georgetown coincided with... I was able to get the White House internship. And so this internship with President Obama... I applied... I think this was my fourth time applying and fourth time getting in. I applied a handful of times when I was an undergrad at Michigan, applied for a couple times in graduate school, so my fourth and final time I was able to maybe do this internship. I had the privilege to actually be accepted into the program and ended up interning for the Obama Administration in fall of 2014. During that time, I was interning at the Office of Public Engagement. The person who ran that office was Valerie Jarrett, who was a University of Michigan law alum.
0:08:49.8 DM: And so it was a really great experience where I worked on the private sector engagement team and I was able really to understand how President Obama's Administration really partnered with the private sectors whether it was Silicon Valley, CEOs, small businesses, with the Treasury Department, etcetera, in order to spur economic opportunity competitiveness and also expand President Obama's agenda whether it was raising the minimum wage, decrease in the gender pay gap, and expanding family leave. And so those are issues that I know we're still fighting for in our society, but it was really great to kinda see the... There's different ways to solve problems. There's the government and also the private sector in order to work hand-in hand, hopefully, to solve some of these societal issues.
0:09:33.8 DM: As I graduated from Georgetown that fall and ended my internship at the White House, I was looking for a job. I was looking for an opportunity. I was really glad I was in DC, but really trying to figure out what my next steps were. During that time, my congressman ended up being elected to the US Senate, Gary Peters, and just maintained relations with their chief of staff who was a U of M alum and other staff members on his staff. I was able to become one of his first staff assistants in DC, so I ended up working there for about 9, 10 months on the Hill. I got to see Cindy all the time and that experience also was really profound. That was also... I was there at the same time and only a few blocks over when the Supreme Court had the historical ruling of gay marriage being the law of the land and having that great moment of running from our Senate offices to the Supreme Court and celebrating that historical ruling and landmark case.
0:10:33.8 DM: After 9, 10 months of me working for Senator Peters, I ended up actually working back at the White House in White House operations working on large events that happen on the White House complex as a staff assistant and that meant events such as Pope Francis coming to visit the White House to sports teams that won championships visiting, Easter Egg Roll. So my responsibilities were very, very generalist, but really a great experience of really work with the... Having the public come to the People's House, which was the White House and really engaging with everyday Americans and just seeing their faces when they come to the White House on different levels of engagement.
0:11:13.8 DM: Obviously my time was... I was a political appointee for President Obama at that time and so I was going to be out of a job regardless who won in the 2016 election. And so as I really loved my experience in the public sector and public service, I really missed working in sports. And so once again, kinda going back to the Michigan difference in our strong alumni base throughout the whole campus and whole university, I was able to tap back into my sport management alumni base and get connected to an organization that was just starting at that time. It was Rise, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. It was an organization that partnered with the sports community to use the power of sports to improve race relations. It was started by Stephen Ross, as we all know, the building right around the corner from the Ford School. And so he founded this organization using the power of sports for good and every single league commissioner, the head of e-sports league was on the board of directors.
0:12:12.8 DM: And so I joined that organization in July 2016 and then about a month later, Colin Kaepernick started kneeling. And so we all kinda saw the intersection of athletes using their platform for change, sports organizations using their platform for change. And then kind of seeing that intersection and being in the middle of that was really a dream job for me as we kinda talked about the beginning of my career and what I wanted to do post-graduation. Of course, we all know a few months after Colin Kaepernick started kneeling, President Trump was elected. And so once again, we saw the intersection, the rise of athlete activism or the resurgence or renaissance of athlete activism and me being in the middle of those conversations and events and all those engagements for three years. That included...
0:13:03.5 DM: Making sure student athletes at U of M were registered to vote, partnering with the Chicago Cubs on events, working with the NFL and the NBA and all these leagues and athletes on Community Police Reform, etcetera, after three... My three years there, I actually transitioned out of RISE and joined the Kresge Foundation. I know one of your alum, Eshie is now my successor, Christopher LeFleur and so strong Ford school ties there, but at the Kresge foundation, Kresge is a national foundation based in Detroit, Michigan. So about an hour or so from Ann Arbor's campus is an organization that I think gives about almost like $300 million per year in grants in order to support American cities and the work in American cities, since 80% of the US population lives in or near a US city. And so my role at Kresge, I reported to the presidency of Rip Rapson in managing special projects for him for about two years, obviously during that time, we saw the historical 2020 election, we saw the historical 2020 with the horrific murder of George Floyd, and I was really privileged and fortunate enough to really help with Kresge designing what our racial justice package was, where we gave about over...
0:14:15.8 DM: We designed and architect, about $30 million going out to different grassroots organizations and organizers on racial justice on the front lines throughout American cities and a lot in Detroit as well. So for me to lead that project from A to Z during that time was definitely a privilege and something that I'm still tracking to this day when talking to my former colleagues there. And so now my last destination where I am today, and I definitely want to open up the questions, and I'm currently now working for my first for-profit entity, Buzzer Media Company, so the first time I ever worked in my career full-time for a in for-profit. Buzzer is a technology start-up. It's a sports media app that allows fans to sign in, put their... Indicate their favorite sports teams and leagues to watch, and athletes to watch, and you actually get a notification to your phone when amazing things are gonna happen in sports, when it's five minutes left, tied game, tune in now, bottom of the ninth inning, tune in now.
0:15:13.8 DM: And you actually get the notification, click on it, and you're able to kinda see that moment live in real time. A lot of times you notice sports highlights is usually after a moment happens, we're trying to get the moment before, and so for me, it kinda goes back to my ethos of working in sports and politics and social change in public good, and so my role is actually leading the social impact work and D&I work for Buzzard.
0:15:39.1 DM: In that role, I've actually designed what is called our impact model at Buzzer. We committed 1% of our company's equity, our net sales, our consumer user engagement, and also our employee volunteer time for social justice and economic justice. So we wanna make sure that this work is in the core of the business, along with the D&I efforts that we have internally, we have a mentorship program that pairs over 500 mentees with mentors, majority from HBCUs and a lot of other suites of the engagement that we're doing. So even though I am working for a for-profit, I'm definitely learning a lot. It's definitely very fast-paced, we're in year two of the company, so very early, but I'm excited that I'm here at the ground level and really building up how startups really can... We are the blueprint for startups, you can make money and you also can do good at the same time, it's not mutually exclusive, and that's what I'm learning every day in this role, so I will pause there at introduction. I know that was very long, but wanted to make sure hopefully that it provides a good context for our discussion today, so thank you once again for allowing me to be here.
0:16:44.5 CB: Hey, thanks Dexter. Before I turn this over to Crystal, I just wanna make a point of as you're going through your career, and I think for students, you often hear about the Michigan difference and using your Michigan contacts. So Dexter mentioned he worked for Congressman Peters, who's chief of staff was a U of M alum. At the NFL Players Association, there was a U of M alum. At the NCAA DC office, the assistant director there was a U of M alum. The Office of Public Engagement at the White House was run by a U of M alum. So never underestimate the contacts or never... You should always reach out. Use your Michigan contacts. They're really incredible.
0:17:33.8 DM: Now thank you, Cindy.
0:17:34.6 CB: Yeah.
0:17:35.2 DM: And I've gotta give you credit, you were... You were the foundation for that, so a lot of the folks you connected me with, so do not underestimate Cindy Bank as well, so thank you.
0:17:45.2 Crystal: Thanks, Dexter for sharing your story, I know it was really great just hearing all of the different factors that led to you pursuing different activities and how it really impacted your journey. I know, especially with my generation, our generation, right? There's this idea of constantly looking for the next thing and not being afraid to try new things, and so wondering if you could speak a little bit more to that, of like what was that process like of having to decide to sort of pivot and any recommendations that you have for us as we're seeking either internships that may be in a different field than where we came from, or pursuing jobs that are different from what our background is.
0:18:31.0 DM: Yeah, that's a really good question. For me, I didn't, I could not have... If I would have predicted even a year or two ago, I would not have been at Buzzer, I never thought it was a company, it was not a company at that time, two years ago, essentially. And so for me, I always take opportunities that allow me to grow personally and professionally, what am I looking for in my next chapter? I know that the times where I can speak for my grandparents and even some of my aunts and uncles where they graduated high school here in Detroit, worked at whether Ford or Chrysler, General Motors in the plant, and they worked for 40 years and they retired and had a pension. I know those days, unfortunately, are not there, in terms of having a steady middle class lifestyle. And so for me, I just knew that I always wanted to find things that allowed me to grow personally and professionally, as I had mentioned, I knew I was not gonna be at an organization for the rest of my life, and so...
0:19:20.9 DM: But also how can I grow in those aspects, whether it's leadership growth, whether it's can I... Maybe a salary increase. Whatever those challenges. I've never worked in technology before, I was interested in it, I did not know about it, but this was a great opportunity for me to explore it and do something I had never done before. I'm now leading a social impact arm, I developed the budget, I developed a three-year strategic plan, I designed it. I've never done these types of things before. And so for me, I knew this opportunity was gonna stretch me to places that were gonna flex any muscles, discover muscles I did not have. It really challenged me every single day, and so as long as there are opportunities, there's definitely the growth as I mentioned personally, and professionally. But also every role I've taken, I always wanna make sure it was like, I'm always serving in that role. The company or what role I'm doing is always giving back to the communities that look like me, or they don't look like me. Who's not in the room, who's not at the table. So for me, whatever role I've ever taken has always been about how to use that platform, use that entity, using that role for a larger societal good, and that has was always been the common theme regardless I was in the public or private sector.
0:20:27.0 Crystal: Yeah. I think dropping off of that last point of the role of the public sector, and even with this new role you're in, of driving partnerships and social impact, which I think is also sort of a new field that a lot of companies are trying to expand and really bring to the forefront because this is a really important topic that I think a lot of new employees are really paying attention to, and so... I know you were speaking earlier of how when you were joining RISE and then you know the activism was coming from athletes, and so now you're at Buzzer, and there's also sort of this growing field of social impact, and so what is that like of sort of being at the forefront of all that and what do you think your role is in terms of also helping others pursue that similar field?
0:21:19.9 DM: Yeah, no. I think there needs to be more of us, I think that... One thing I always looked at whether you're in private or public sector, there's just so many ways to serve. I think that there is... When you look at societal issues, whether it is the student loan crisis, whether it is climate change, whether it is racial injustice and inequity, policing, and all these topics that we've been advocating for centuries and decades. I think there's not a silver bullet solution 'cause if there was hopefully there already would have been one. So I just noticed that it takes multiple players in order to... And sectors that come together to solve these very complex issues. I was very fortunate to have the experience in government and in foundation. Working at Kresge really opened a whole another way the role that foundations major, private foundations play in this, and then also now for the for-profit. And so for me, I'd ask how it feels, for me I'm learning every single day, but I really wanna get more of us into this space in terms of folks who come from more, I guess non-profit government space.
0:22:23.8 DM: I think that we all have a role in here, and so my goal as I build out my team and hire more people, I want to be able to bring folks that come from more grassroots mobilizing that understand what community needs are, and be hopeful to bring that kind of that spirit into a company. Especially where I am now, we're very early, we have 60 full-time people, every person we bring really affects the culture of the organization. And so for me, if I bring in more folks like that, I think it might help just shape the work that we're doing every single day. Secondly too, I think a lot of these, especially big tech you look at, they have a lot of these charity arms, whether it's Google, Twitter, Facebook, I think it's Meta now, they're called.
0:23:03.5 DM: But they definitely have all these charity arms, which is doing great work, but if you look at their board of directors, you look at their senior C-suite, you see their engineers, is not... There's not a lot of women, not a lot of women of color, people of color in these roles. So for me, yeah, there is the impact side where we're donating, drawing awareness for a lot of these great work and non-profits, but internally we could say Black lives matter, but if our board and our leadership and our team does not look like that, then it's... You lose instant credibility, so that's why I'm grateful I'm serving the external-facing social impact work, but also internally leading D&I as well, 'cause I wanna make sure we're walking the talk as well, and looking in examining, examining not just our team but also we have investors, we have these [0:23:51.4] ____ investors.
0:23:52.8 DM: I'm worried about that process, the whole VC getting millions of dollars, how can we get that capital to minority owned businesses? I'm looking... How can we get more of minorities to be investors at Buzzer so we can create generational wealth when the company hopefully becomes big, whether it's going public or whatever that looks like in the future, with the fact that outcome looks like, hopefully can we create generational wealth there? Then we look at our board of directors as well, making sure that's reflective. And also even honestly, the sports that we're offering on their app, we're making sure we're highlighting women's sports, we have the NBA, and the WNBA on their app now, how can we get more other sports on there? Maybe highlighting more HBCU's as well in terms of getting more exposure to them and other women's sports, so those are equity issues. So there's a lot of things where, yes, there's the social impact arm, but I think we could do a lot of things internally as well, and I'm really grateful I have a great CEO in Bo Han at Buzzer, who is very passionate about justice. He's really led by his spirituality in that regard, and he really feels like we at Buzzer could be a blueprint on how startups should be created, and not just having charity in this D&I work 10 years after the company has been founded.
0:25:00.6 Crystal: Yeah. I appreciate you naming the importance of the internal work. I think that's definitely... I think something that probably we have all experienced in some shape or form, or seeing how it can really to your point sometimes not match what is being said. And so it's exciting to hear that there's somebody like you in that position to really drive that work forward and so that's really exciting. And I also know that the work is not easy, especially for people who identify sometimes as part of those communities. And so I know on a previous role, I was the only woman of color as well. And so, it is definitely a challenging at times. One of the questions that was submitted was, "Do you have feelings of burnout related to D&I work, especially with such a large non-POC audience, and so how do you... How do you reconcile that in terms of driving the work forward and taking care of yourself, also trying to be urgent, because to your point, where we are sort of in this pivotal moment?
0:26:06.0 DM: Yeah, it's actually a really good question. I'm glad you asked or whoever who submitted that question. It's a really good question. I think it's something... Everybody is in these roles. I think, especially in 2020, if you kind of go back to that, in the horrific murder of George Floyd, I had so many black and brown friends who were working in corporate spaces or any entity where they're not in a D&I team, they're not on the people operation, the HR team, they're working in their traditional corporate roles, and then they're getting tasked to, "Hey, we need a response to this. What should we do?" They're going to the black employee resource group or whatever groups they have internally, and they were... There was a lot of burden and a lot of burnout. A lot of my friends who are in these structures did not even get compensated for the additional work. It's not their day-to-day responsibility. So we saw a lot of that in 2020 and even well before that, but I think that was definitely heightened because of the events in society.
0:26:55.5 DM: And yeah, it's definitely a balance. One thing... And my girlfriend's on the call as well, we talk about self-care often, and really what I look in this role is, honestly, it's a blessing and not a burden. I think I have a responsibility. I'm in this role for a reason. I feel like... I do try to find quiet time to take care of myself, whether it's meditating and getting physical activity and drinking wine, I love wine. Sometimes there's [0:27:19.3] ____ to self-care there.
0:27:19.3 DM: But no, it definitely could be burning out. And one thing I'm really fortunate, once again, having a great CEO and founder and leader is... I tell him he's the chief diversity officer. Yeah, I lead strategy and some execution, but this is a shared responsibility, is not shimmy on one person, one team, this is shared responsibility. I wanna make sure... The strategy I laid out is that every single person at Buzzer has a responsibility in driving this culture and this work forward, from our engineers to our product team, to our senior level, to entry level people, that's something that we are advocating. That's not... Every company is not like that, unfortunately, but I really think that if you are... My advice would be, if anybody is having that burden put on them, hopefully they're getting compensated for that, that additional responsibility. If not, hopefully finding these spaces, whether it's within your company or outside of your company, to take care of yourself, 'cause this work is hard and is ever... It's every day, and it's not gonna end, but how can we... Dr. King said famously, "How can we kind of move the arc of justice forward and bending it forward toward justice?" And so that's what... When I look back at my... Reflecting on my life, as long as I know I did my best, that's what I... I'm happy about that.
0:28:33.4 Crystal: Thank you for that response and highlighting the importance of self-care. Definitely, I think that's been a lesson for all of us during this global pandemic, especially, so I appreciate your...
0:28:43.8 DM: Yeah, that we're still in, that we're still in. [chuckle]
0:28:45.0 Crystal: Yeah, yeah, that we're still navigating. [chuckle] Yeah. I see Maya put a question in the chat, and so, "As someone whose career has spanned sectors, what insights do you have about the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in each sector as it relate to advancing goals of D&I and social justice? And based on your experience, how can these sectors best collaborate?
0:29:11.5 DM: Yeah, that's a really good question. I really appreciate that question, Maya. I guess... I'll start with the second question first. As I mentioned, I've worked in government, now, private and also a foundation. I think everybody plays a different role. Obviously, I think... We think that you're all being forced, 'cause we all know that government is the strongest investment, most effective way to make change, an effective change and impact the most people. So that's always gonna be the most powerful lever in the toolkit that we should be using, but addition to that, I think private sector plays a role in terms of like job creation, obviously, providing more opportunities, hopefully investing back in the communities that they're in, and hopefully being, you know, with climate change and all these things, and hopefully, most companies are trying to be net zero now. And I think there's a responsibility since so many companies pump out so much carbon and everything, emission into the world, so I do think there's responsibility there. And even you're seeing a lot of car companies, a lot of emphasis on electrical vehicles too, especially here in Michigan too. So hopefully that provides a little more. So there's a role in that. We're using products every day, we are getting a paycheck every day, so hopefully these private sector plays a more responsible role in that effort.
0:30:21.9 DM: And then foundations, what I learned at the Kresge Foundation, which is so interesting, and I did not know candidly, I'd never worked for a private foundation before that and didn't understand how it worked, what Kresge... At least, I guess it'd be for Kresge Foundation. Kresge Foundation was a... What we did, we also... We planted a lot of seeds, like, "Hey, what's... " This is an innovative way of looking at reinvesting in neighborhoods or looking at supporting small businesses in X city or whatever. I really thought that was a very unique, where like, "Hey, let's kind of like use a start-up mentality. Let's pump investment money in this, see if it works, get the learnings. Hopefully from there, it will be enough for maybe the government to implement on a larger level."
0:31:03.5 DM: So I started noticing different roles where foundation maybe can... I think government sometimes can't be as innovative as they want for many reasons, but I think one of it is because of lack of resources being allocated to other places, where I think private foundations and private sectors can help maybe spur some of these really interesting ideas where I think are needed, for example, a universal income, and that's been such a trend through a lot of American cities. Now a lot of foundations and corporations are exploring that, pumping into foundations that are really working cities to study what universal income looks like, and I really think... Hopefully based on these findings, I think we all know the impact of it and the positive impact, that hopefully now we have some solid base on this can work, let's scale it, and that's when the government comes in, "Let's make it, instead of citywide, let's make it statewide or countywide or countrywide," and so that's where I kinda see all the different sectors kind of work hand-in-hand concretely.
0:32:00.2 DM: But I guess... And then challenge and opportunities, really kind of answer your first question, Maya. I mean, yeah, there's definitely challenges and opportunities. I look at opportunities more than anything, just like, once again, how can we problem-solve? Once again, I don't think solving a complex problem has one solution only, so therefore I just really I'm grateful that the wealth of diverse experience I've had hopefully allows me to kind of understand a little bit what the other sector is doing, what the right hand is doing, what the left hand is doing, and really provide some solutions for that work.
0:32:35.6 Crystal: Yeah, it's exciting to hear a little bit more about the role of foundations, 'cause I know that's also, I think, something that not all of us really know about, so thank you for sharing that piece of them being part of the conversation and hopefully planting seeds for new work or innovative work, that's really exciting to hear. And so in terms of the multitude of experiences you've had, I'm wondering if you can share maybe some of the challenges or lessons learned that you've encountered so that we can hear about your journey as we're beginning our careers or continuing our careers, and so that we can take your lessons with us.
0:33:17.4 DM: I think the challenge is, we all know this, change takes time. I think change takes time, sometimes you don't see the fruits of your labor, you might see the fruits of your labor but after you leave. And so that's the hardest thing, but I do believe that if you can continue to push it forward and plant the seeds, I think you'll see fruits of your labor in time. So, I think one thing is just being patient, I think we all wanna see... We're a society cultured out, instant gratification, we wanna see the work that we're doing, make an immediate impact, we wanna see the communities that have been suffering for decades and centuries to be better and be more empowered and having the more resources. So I think that's the biggest challenge, 'cause you know every day people are struggling to find transportation or get to school, get to work safely, having that, so like we see it every single day.
0:34:06.0 DM: And it's hard where we're seeing these day-to-day things, but it doesn't... The problem solving is not as quick as that. And so I think that's the biggest challenge, to everyday have that mentality. For example, when I was working in philanthropy, we did grants on a monthly basis, which is great, we gave a lot of money, but a lot of times I never got to see the work, like, "What did we do with the grant money?" I never got a chance really us to see that many grantees and the impact of our investment and just seeing what they're doing, 'cause we're really so far removed from that work.
0:34:36.8 DM: But I worked at the White House here on Capitol Hill, you're kind of in an ivory tower, in a sense you're on the hill when you think the whole world revolves around DC, which is not true. One kind of quick thing, from a perspective base, I remember when I did move back from DC to Detroit, and that was summer of 2016, so obviously it was the heat of a historical election between Senator Clinton, and at that time, Donald Trump. And to be candid with you, living in DC, I lived in New York for a little bit, I lived in Ann Harbour, and so for me, I was in a bubble, I thought it was a... I know this is a safe space, and audience, I thought it was a joke that Trump was running, I never realized it was a real thing, in DC we all laughed about it, and went to happy hour, played bingo games about it.
0:35:28.9 DM: And I didn't realize how real it was until I moved back to Michigan, saw abundance of Trump signs all over where I grew up in Grosse Pointe to different communities in the metro Detroit area, and I did not realize that. And so for me, I think that's the number one thing, what I learned the most is that like perspective... Yeah, I lived in a lot of bubbles and was in an ivory tower in a sense, and that's one thing I wanna learn more and continue to do in my career is making sure that with the communities that I'm trying to serve and help and uplift, not just by myself, but just in the roles I'm in, I'm trying to really understand and hear and learn what their needs are, what's going on, and not live in this elite bubble that I was on at Michigan on campus, to being in DC and in even being at Kresge and even Buzzer now, so [0:36:15.6] ____ I kinda get myself out of that bubble and have a better perspective.
0:36:21.8 Crystal: Thank you for sharing that and for also highlighting how impactful, I think that election was for so many of us, and I definitely agree that you're not alone, and how that candidacy played out and the result of that election. I know hearing from classmates, that was also a big factor for why they came back to graduate school, like, "Okay, I wanna join the fight, now I wanna be part of serving the public." I know you were serving and then now you're not with the foundations, and now you're in the for profit sector, and so any advice or words of wisdom for students who are considering joining the public sector, to going in, going for office? Because we know that we are in a reckoning moment right now, of how important it is to your point of diversifying also the elected positions.
0:37:21.0 DM: Yeah. You're saying advice for going to the public sector, is that it?
0:37:24.6 Crystal: Yeah, I know you interned at the White House for a couple of years, and so speaking more to that experience.
0:37:29.8 DM: Yeah, I know, I definitely advice. I mean, I think just being patient. I do think government experience and... I know Cindy really taught me that when our first phone call, almost 2012, so about 10 years ago now, to almost to the day exactly, which is crazy, 10 years ago but that conversation... I think public sector experience is the best experience, I think it helps in terms of like, problem solving and being complex and serving others. I really believe like, anybody... I always... Like, when people do... When I talk to students, undergrad students that are, "I'm thinking about DC, should I make the jump?" Or working in Lansing, or whatever your state capital is, or even your cities, like working locally here in Detroit, the mayor's office, or city council, I'm like, yes, yes, yes, and yes.
0:38:09.4 DM: I always believe government work is probably the most challenging yet rewarding experience. Yes, is it tough? But I really feel like, I always take a lot of lessons from my time as an intern on the Hill, to working full-time on the Hill, to entering the White House and working full-time at the White House. I take a lot of those experiences to this day, and also relationships I built. You're in an environment where everybody there is part of the fight, we're all kind of in the struggle together, but I really think it's a powerful experience. Those are some of the best friends I've made working in the public sector where I still... I talk to every single day, even if I have not been in the government in about five years.
0:38:47.6 DM: So yes, anybody wants to make the jump, please do at some point in your life. [chuckle] That's a huge endorsement. And last thing, yeah, we'd definitely be more public official... Better elected officials, obviously, I think we all know that as well. The importance on all levels of government.
0:39:03.3 CB: Dexter...
0:39:04.3 DM: Yeah.
0:39:04.7 CB: Speaking about getting... Like, being in public, can you share a little bit about the experience you've had with the [0:39:09.4] ____ Exec program? You were part of the bipartisan leadership program, so in case, we have students who are gonna stay in Michigan, about that program and what you took away from that, so, go ahead, I'll let you talk.
0:39:22.3 DM: Oh, yeah. No, yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. I was gonna think about public... Yeah, about running for office. But yeah, so through Michigan State... I know it unfortunately it's the other school, now Michigan State does have a great program called the Michigan political leadership program, MPLP, I think I'm not sure Gaby through... The first speaker. But I know that a lot of friends and a lot of civic leaders here in Detroit have gone to this program. It's this fall month program, as Cindy talked about, it's bipartisan. So it's 24 people in the cohort; I think it's 12. It's 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, it might be a mix of independents as well, but they do group in from all over the state of Michigan, say of folks that are kind of representing Metro Detroit and more of the urban areas to folks that are more rural Michigan as well.
0:40:05.1 DM: So they put you in this program, where once a month, you go to different parts of Michigan, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo Valley up north to places I've never been to before. And you go through to kind of like this leadership development and they [0:40:17.1] ____ also train us to run for public office in the future. So you learn about how to, you know, do media training, how you build out your own campaign, your campaign plan, messaging, fundraising. So it was a really great experience where, and then also, like, they're putting people together that really you would never think, you know, would be hopefully the goal. The whole point is trying to really promote more bipartisanship.
0:40:39.5 DM: And I actually made some really great friends from the program like that, or maybe not, you know, I agree with on every political ideology, but some really great people who have been elected are since then, in their hometowns, where I also... That program actually gave me more hope about our future and our country and leaders when there's programs like that, where yeah, they might not be identify as identified, but I know that they're working as hard as they can to make the country better in their own way. So I'm definitely very encouraged. I definitely encourage people who are staying in Michigan to apply for Michigan political leadership program and MPLP. Like I said, you meet once a month. And I was I was in 2019. That was the last class before the pandemic. I think they did virtual last year this year they're trying to do like a hybrid. So I'm not sure but really great program. Definitely, a lot of Michigan alum have gone through that. And it's okay you're not on Michigan State campus that much. So you're definitely different parts, but it a was really, really great experience and highly recommended.
0:41:39.7 Crystal: That's great. I hadn't even heard about the program so yeah, thanks, Cindy. [laughter] So I know right now there's a lot of activity happening even in sports, and I know that's sort of, you know, your area of expertise. And so are there like any topics or certain movements that you think are gonna be become really relevant? I know, there's like some talk with, you know, the Beijing Olympics and, you know, the World Cup and so like, any themes there or any topics that maybe we should begin thinking about as we're thinking more about this, the role to your point, right, like DI and social impact and corporate responsibility.
0:42:26.7 DM: Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up. I mean, historically, it's always so funny, when people say 'shut up and dribble' that was a famous quote, you know, I forgot her name, the journalist's name on Fox News who said that in relation to LeBron James during his advocacy over the last several years, but I always think sports and politics are intertwined, they're always going to be. I mean, we say... People always say the national anthem before games so right... Already right that is political in itself in terms of allegiance but you go back to even back in the early 20th century with Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympics, and kind of, you know, protesting against Hitler at that time. And we saw the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City with John Carlos and, you know, kind of the raising the fist. You always are gonna have that intersection. Sports are very powerful thing for change and also for leveling or putting more issues on the forefront through that platform. For example, as you mentioned also the Beijing Olympics, the fact that we're... The US has protested against the government.
0:43:27.4 DM: We're not bringing any... Anybody from the US delegation are not gonna attend these games so that they even shows there another kind of level, like that's our kind of protest in using sports for that. So long story short, I always feel like there's always gonna be from the international level to a local level to statewide, nationwide; sports are always gonna be kind of that pillar whether it to show economic and political power and dominance, to advocate for change. For example, kind of going back to the Beijing Olympics 2008, when they hosted the Summer Olympics, that was a big deal for China. They were using the Olympics to show that, "Hey, we are a world power as well. We're a world economic power, political power, and we're gonna show the world that." And so that was one of the major things where... That's why a lot of these countries that are emerging or countries like Brazil, etcetera, a lot of these countries, BRIC countries in particular, India, Brazil, China, etcetera are hosting these games to show certain power that they're trying to exert, doesn't... I'm not sure if it's true behind the curtains as we all know but it shows there.
0:44:28.4 DM: One thing I'm kind of looking forward to, moving forward is like... As these conversations always happen, I really just hope there's more diversity in terms of ownership and leadership in sports. For example, right now in the National Football League, they had a [0:44:42.1] ____ suite of firing of coaches close to the end of the season and now there's only one black coach in NFL out of all 32 teams, the NFL is 70% Black in terms of players but only one black head coach. There's only one black team president; there are zero black owners. And so those were, I think, where the real change needs to happen. It kind of goes back to my ethos at Buzzer. Yes, you can do a lot of this great social impact work giving money to the communities but look at your ownership, look at your leadership. Your house is not in order in-house then for me, it's just lip service. It is just another charity arm. If you want to make real change. Hopefully, there's more leadership in terms of diversity, especially in women's sports, etcetera too. So it's just... Yeah, so I do hopefully see the trend where there's just more ownership there but now what I'd love seeing, too, from the college athletes side now that college athletes are now able to make money off their image and likeness and name, so they're getting more...
0:45:35.9 DM: Finally some equity and some standpoint there where a lot of these universities are making billions of dollars off the bodies of black and brown athletes, and so I'm glad that there's some empowerment there. And then also professional athletes like LeBron James and a lot of our great women athletes are now really becoming part owners of teams. They're making a lot of millions of dollars and owning their own content, owning their own companies, investing in companies, taking equity instead of just endorsing saying, "Hey, no, I want ownership of this company too. I do not just want to just be in a commercial and get paid X amount for it. No, I want to grow as this company grows and I wanna create generational wealth too." So for example, at Buzzer, we do have handful of... We have Naomi Osaka as an investor of ours, we have Michael Jordan as an investor of ours. So we definitely have a lot of folks who are big names, big household names that are invested in our company and we wanna bring more of that diversity into the fold.
0:46:31.5 Crystal: That's super exciting to hear that you have those big name investors and yeah that piece of generational wealth really strikes me as well, and I know how important that is, especially given the high income inequality that we have in this country, unfortunately so it's... I think you're totally right that there is this bigger trend and movement of individuals knowing that... Pushing for what they're worth and the work that they're creating, right? Like to your point, student athletes [0:47:00.6] ____ having so much attention and money to their campuses, and so... I think you're totally right and... Oh, I'm losing my train of thought. I was curious about the role, I guess, of the consumer when it comes to sports, I know there was also sort of a lot of pressure that led to changing the NFL or some of the NFL names or like... And so how do you think our role is within that and what can we do to better maybe organize or place pressure where there needs to be?
0:47:36.0 DM: Yeah, that's... I'm glad you bought that up too. It's something I didn't think about or forgot to mention, but yeah, you see now, there's the baseball team in Cleveland now and the football team in Washington, and it's about about that time. It has been time and it's about time and why those names are no longer there, but no, I think a lot of it, to be fully candid with you, in a day, the purchasing power, a lot of is driven by economics. I think people forget at the end of day, I think, when I was following more of the Washington football team, their name now, a lot of it was... A lot of their corporate partners were saying, "You need to change the name." It was their corporate partners like, "Were gonna stop... We're not gonna be... Sponsor of the company if you don't change your name."
0:48:14.3 DM: So at the end of the day, yes. So whether from the consumer side, or the corporate side, so there's a roles, once again that can... Us as consumers with our purchasing power, we know from Latinx and the black community, how many... How much purchasing power we have, billions and billions, there are so many studies on that already. And then also our corporate society that there's a role we all can play to put pressure on these issues, we have the power to not show up. So I think a lot of it and we can... That's the conversation the other day about the impact of capitalism in our society, but right now, we do live in a capitalist society, and so therefore we do know that money and power... That drives a lot of decision making.
0:48:51.7 DM: So therefore, as a result, we saw the name change. Right before, really quickly, before I joined this conversation, I was listening to a podcast with Bob Iger, who is a former CEO and Chairman of Disney, and he talked about a little bit of that decision-making, and candidly it's good business to make sure you have a more diverse voices and even find more diverse voices to the forefront. He talked about the heightening... Their most successful film still was Black Panther. And so just talking about... They almost, so they... Yeah, based on data, we probably should have green lighted that but no, we knew that there was power for that more diversity in terms of representation and all those things and it provided more economic opportunities. So my point is that, yeah, there's definitely a role there too, so thank you for bringing that up.
0:49:42.5 Crystal: Yeah, I know I've really enjoyed hearing all of your answers, and so I think that my last question was really similar to your answer just now, I was wondering if you had any book or podcast or recommendations for us so that we can continue being informed about all of this important issues, and so that would be my last question, and then I'll pass it on to Cindy.
0:50:03.9 DM: No, perfect, no, I guess in terms of books or anything... I guess for this topic, there's so many books, I think, coming from this topic. One book I read, my parents gave me, I think when I was almost in middle school, so really young, it was called Million Dollar Slaves. It was by former New York Times columnist Bill Rhoden, but he talks about... Candidly how the dynamics between owners and players and how it's a modern day plantation, but for me, that kind of... People can disagree or agree how that is 'cause the athletes are making millions of dollars but there is a lot of similarities.
0:50:34.7 DM: And for me, it just opened my eyes more and I was 13 when I read it so Million Dollar Slaves that came out in, I think, in 2003. The book is a little outdated but I would love for him to write like a 2.0 version based on the recent efforts of Naomi Osaka and Colin Kaepernick, kinda seeing where those are. But so those are probably... That's like the major thing. I just finished reading Will Smith's memoir actually called Will, so totally not sports-related but a very, very, very good read. I'm a big Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Will Smith fan so it's a very vulnerable book about his life and relationships and it's really powerful, so I heard it's a good audio book too 'cause it's in his voice, so for another kind of light-hearted, just a random book, I just finished that earlier this week, so really powerful.
0:51:17.6 Crystal: Thanks so much for those recommendations. I'll for sure check those out. And thanks again for just engaging in this conversation.
0:51:24.5 DM: Well, thank You. You...
0:51:24.8 Crystal: I'll pass this over to Cindy.
0:51:28.5 DM: Well, thank you Crystal.
0:51:29.2 CB: Thank you, Crystal, you did a great job moderating the questions and asking questions and Dexter, thank you.
0:51:34.5 DM: Thank you.
0:51:35.8 CB: I think one of the things that really comes out clearly, and I would encourage all students as you're looking for a job is to follow your passion.
0:51:42.1 DM: Yes.
0:51:42.4 CB: You spend a lot of time at work so follow something you're passionate about and you may find those passions in places you never thought, or being able to work on the issues you care about at places that you never thought were working on them, so Dexter again, thank you.
0:52:00.7 DM: Thank you all, I really appreciate it.
0:52:04.4 CB: Yeah, our next Young Leaders in Public Service is scheduled for February 23rd. We may do one before that, but it's gonna be with Eugene King, who also was a former Obama White House special assistant but he's now working for an advisory company, and the thing that's interesting is that there's actually... He's mentioned in a story in this week's Michigan Daily. When he was an undergrad, he actually ran for city council.
0:52:28.9 DM: Oh, wow.
0:52:30.9 CB: Yeah. And he only lost by 95 votes.
0:52:33.8 DM: Oh, I do know that story, I've definitely heard of that. That's right. That's right. Yeah.
0:52:37.5 CB: Right, and I know Eugene's really excited, to come talk to students...
0:52:40.3 DM: I will tune in for that. But thank you all for having me. Even I'm not a 40, I think you all call it. I have always been a big advocate, so thank you all for having me. It's a privilege and honor and go blue. So thank you.
0:52:52.4 CB: You're a Wolverine, I have tell you... So you were the coach or you were a student coach when John Beilein was coach, and when he spoke here one time, he told us the story that he'd always bring recruits and they'd ride up on golf carts and come up and he would point to the Ford building and say, "Hey, do you know who that Ford School's named after?" He was sort of testing them.
0:53:13.7 DM: He's a big history guy too, he's a big...
0:53:15.9 CB: Yeah, big history. Unfortunately, many of them said Henry Ford but then he had to make sure that they knew what it was Gerald Ford.
0:53:21.9 DM: And I was talking to Andy Belein the other day as well, I know he's a 40 as well, so I... We talked the other day actually, so yeah.
0:53:31.3 CB: Great, well, thank you.
0:53:32.8 DM: Thank you all. Have a good one. Take care. Thank you.
0:53:35.3 CB: Bye-Bye. Thank you.