Director, Center for Innovation in Detroit

University of Michigan Center for Innovation in Detroit

Director, Position Description


The University of Michigan (U-M) seeks an entrepreneurial, partnership-focused leader with a business and community engagement mindset to lead its new University of Michigan Center for Innovation in Detroit (UMCI). The director of the UMCI, reporting to the provost, will be a critical voice in the university’s continued collaborations with a wide variety of Detroit stakeholders and encourage further workforce and economic development in the city.

With the creation of the University of Michigan Center for Innovation in Detroit, Michigan will launch a bold new platform for interdisciplinary and engaged graduate education and workforce development focused on the skills and habits of mind that the information economy requires. The UMCI will provide the University with a downtown Detroit venue that will support innovative educational programming, collaboration with established companies and bold entrepreneurs, and thoughtful societally-just community engagement. It will deploy the power of the Michigan brand to recruit talent and companies to the Detroit region from all around the world and provide opportunities for Detroit residents and industry partners to thrive, all while enabling and accelerating economic growth in the city and forming an innovation corridor across southeast Michigan from Ann Arbor to Detroit.

The director will have an exceptional opportunity to shape and lead a brand new enterprise that pairs the university’s traditional areas of excellence with agile, cutting-edge models of learning that support inventive workforce development, innovative master’s programs, and new public-private partnerships tailored to the opportunities and needs of the Detroit community. The director will serve as a nexus between the academic and research activities of the university, the workforce development efforts of the Detroit city government, new and established entrepreneurs, industry leading companies, and community-based organizations focused on economic development and equity. This role will critically evaluate stakeholder needs, the changing requirements and skill gaps of the future of work, and opportunities to stimulate economic growth through UMCI’s partnerships, programs, and advanced facilities.

The successful candidate will be a leader comfortable in a fast-scaling, start-up environment. They will have the opportunity to work with deans from the Ann Arbor campus to optimize innovative educational approaches and programs and should have a track record of entrepreneurship, fostering partnerships and leading innovation. They will need well-honed communication and organizational skills, and a strong ability to lead through collaboration and consensus-building. They should have a strong passion for education and its positive impact on communities, broad knowledge of and passion for workforce development issues, a love of Detroit and a vision for how UMCI can be a bridge between Detroit and the University of Michigan.

The University

Founded in 1817, the University of Michigan is one of the premier institutions of higher education in the nation and world. It has a total budget of just under $11 billion and an endowment of $17.3 billion. Broad and balanced excellence, a sense of social mission befitting a public institution, and widespread crossdisciplinary interactions distinguish the University. The University has world-renowned faculty, rigorous academic programs, and diverse cultural and social opportunities in a stimulating intellectual environment. The various undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs on the Ann Arbor campus are offered within a framework of 19 schools and colleges. The schools and colleges operate in a decentralized fashion. Under the University’s budget model, deans and directors are entrusted with revenue and cost authority in order to manage their budgets in ways that best meet the needs of their units.

Over the next five years, the University plans to commit $50 million to the UMCI to fund its operations and provide incentives for other academic units to participate in its growth and enterprise. In addition,  U-M has several resources upon which the director can draw to help stand up the programs and priorities of the UMCI, including the Center for Academic Innovation, Michigan Ross Executive Education, and NEXUS at Michigan Engineering. These three enterprises bring U-M faculty expertise together with capabilities in instructional design, market analysis, project management and production services, student recruitment and retention to provide an array of leading-edge educational opportunities.

Qualifications and Characteristics

The inaugural director must thrive in an start-up environment, have substantial experience in urban settings, and bring deft leadership skills together with a highly collaborative mindset. The director must:

  • Be able to lead the center with vision and creativity, excited about and committed to the entrepreneurial nature of UMCI, and able to recognize and promote innovative ideas and collaborative activities.
  • Possess exceptional skills in diplomacy, visioning, collaboration and strategic thinking, strong ability to cultivate and nurture relationships, effective communication skills tailored to different constituencies including government representatives, entrepreneurs, industry leadership, deans and faculty, and community-based organizations, and demonstrated success in bringing groups of diverse stakeholders towards shared consensus.
  • Understand the broad issues facing workforce development and graduate education broadly, especially within higher education institutions, as well as the specific opportunities and challenges present in the city of Detroit.
  • Have experience managing an innovative organization; strong administrative and organizational skills; successful management of significant budget resources; a commitment to staff advancement.
  • Bring a deep and demonstrated commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion and how those principles can be woven into UMCI’s fabric.
  • A terminal degree is preferred with experience that meets the qualifications for membership on the faculty as either a practitioner or a scholar. 

The Search

Inquiries, nominations, and applications are invited. Although the search will remain open until the position is filled, review of candidate materials will begin immediately. Candidates should provide a curriculum vitae, a letter of application that addresses the responsibilities and requirements described herein, and the names and contact information of five references. References will not be contacted without prior knowledge and approval of the candidates.  

Materials should be sent electronically via e-mail to the university’s consultant, Dr. Jonathan Fortescue of Park Square Executive Search, at Documents that must be mailed may be sent to Jonathan Fortescue, Ph.D., Managing Partner, or Michelle Burger, Associate, Park Square Executive Search, LLC, 225 Franklin Street, 17th Floor, Boston, MA 02110. Phone: 617-977-4502.

The University of Michigan, as an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action. The University of Michigan is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, disability, religion, height, weight or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities and admissions.