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Cheryl Donohoe named Business & Foundation Engagement executive director, Business Engagement Center director

January 29, 2018

Donohoe plans to maximize the impact of the department, making connections and encouraging collaborations between the university and the foundation and business worlds.

When Cheryl Donohoe started at UM-Dearborn in January, she inherited a mouthful of a title: executive director of Business and Foundation Engagement (B&FE) and director of the Business Engagement Center (BEC). Donohoe said she doesn’t mind if faculty and staff get tripped up on that one. (A few weeks in, she still does.) But one thing she wants there to be less confusion about is how the BEC can be a real difference maker for faculty, staff and students.

It’s a quickly evolving department, where the core mission is a kind of creative matchmaking between the university and the foundation and business world. “I think there’s been a real evolution from looking at corporate partners for transactional philanthropy to an understanding that we, as a university, have a lot to offer,” Donohoe said.

For example, one of her team’s current priorities is helping Detroit companies connect with soon-to-be graduates in STEM fields—an emerging workforce coveted both because of shortages in engineering fields and because UM-Dearborn alumni overwhelming stay in the metro area.

Other days, her team is guiding faculty on how to cultivate business partnerships that can give their research real traction. “For instance, a partner may express a desire to get more involved in artificial intelligence or cyber security,” she said. “That’s a great opportunity for collaboration because we have university researchers who are experts in these fields.”

Donohoe said developing these kinds of small, meaningful, win-win collaborations also is a proven way to build partnerships that yield big philanthropic results down the road.

That’s the vision on the macro level. But Donohoe also has her focus trained on some short-term goals—none bigger at the moment than helping bring in gifts to support the new Engineering Lab Building, which is scheduled for an April 20th groundbreaking.

“I would love to make an impact in a big way around that project,” she said. “It’s a compressed timeline, but to be honest, that’s incredibly exciting to me.”

Many of the skills Donohoe brings to her new post are ones she cultivated at the American Cancer Society. She worked there for a total of 15 years in six different roles, holding the distinction of being one of the few employees who worked in every single department at the organization. She’s also a doubly proud Michigan alumna: Donohoe earned her undergraduate degree in psychology and women's studies at UM-Ann Arbor, before completing her master’s in public administration at UM-Dearborn.

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