FEATURE // SPRING 2014
Helping Make History in Detroit
As chief of staff for Detroit Mayor
Mike Duggan, Lisa Howze, BBA ’95,
is boldly moving the Motor City
toward a brighter future.
While the city faces massive
challenges, including being
the largest American city ever
to declare bankruptcy, Howze
stays focused on the future.
Driven by the desire to be an
example of what is possible, she
lives life with a passion to help
people — and her hometown —
reach their greatest potential.
Though Howze has always been
inspired by the commitment,
perseverance, and resilience of her
native Detroit and its residents,
she didn’t set out to become
a public servant. After earning
her BBA at Ross, followed by a
master’s in finance from Walsh
College, she started her career
in public accounting. But as time
went on, her priorities changed.
"I asked myself, ‘What is my
purpose? What am I doing to
help others?’ It was less about
what’s good for me, and instead
what’s good for a greater cause,"
she says. From there, her career
evolved into public speaking,
and then public service.
In her role at the mayor’s office,
Howze works with Duggan to
further his message of hope,
equality, and opportunity, as well
as his mission to improve Detroit
residents’ quality of life. Some of
her many responsibilities include
speaking on the mayor’s behalf,
overseeing day-to-day operations, engaging with department
heads to get them what they
need, and helping to resolve
issues so that all hands are on
deck to turn Detroit around.
A former Michigan state
representative, Howze also draws
on her experiences in Lansing as
she takes on new government
affairs duties. She meets weekly
with state legislators, as well as
caucuses with members of the
Obama administration working
on federal initiatives to help
Detroit, like securing funds to
purchase 50 new city buses.
As a BBA student, her classes
laid a foundation that inform
her work as a public servant. "I
was able to use that background
in the work that I did in the
community around financial
literacy and financial education,"
she says. "Often times, I'm able
to share my story with young
people so that they can prepare
for college and a life beyond
college, whether it's in starting
your career, helping to understand
the importance of saving and
investments, or preparing for
a financially sound future."
And, of course, there are plenty
of opportunities for growth and
entrepreneurship in Detroit. "If
you want to own a home or open
a business, this is where you get
in at a very low price compared
to other major metropolitan
cities. You can actually acquire
land or a home and start your
own business at a low cost." One
of her favorite examples of this
revitalization is the Avenue of
Fashion, a historic neighborhood
in northwest Detroit dotted with
retail shops, dining establishments,
entertainment venues, and salons.
The catalyst for this kind of
development is the same thing
that inspires Howze to be a
public servant: the spirit of the
city. "Detroiters have a certain
kind of drive that resonates with
my personality. There’s a desire
to show the world that you can
succeed and be the pinnacle of
success," Howze explains. And
while Detroit’s hardships have
made international headlines, she
points out the big story that rarely
makes the news: "Hardworking
people are going to work every
day to take care of their families.
Students are achieving at a level
of excellence, collectively earning
millions of dollars in scholarships."
When Howze is older, what will
stick with her most about this
historical time in her life and
career? "I think I’ll thank God
for the courage to proceed
unabashedly, to go after what I
knew in my heart was the right
thing to do, and to recognize
that the motivation for doing
it was to positively impact
the lives of other people."
Slideshow: See Detroit through Lisa Howze's eyes
Let Lisa know that Ross supports her
efforts to help revitalize the Motor City:
Tweet her @LisaHowze and use the
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