Wheelhouse Talks series to feature Detroit CEO

By Drew Schertzer | 10/11/17 11:16pm

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GVL / Courtesy - michiganradio.org

Each year, the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies at Grand Valley State University brings in leaders from different fields to share their philosophies and explain their paths to success as part of the Wheelhouse Talks series.

The next edition of the Wheelhouse Talks series will take place Friday, Oct. 13, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Richard M. DeVos Center Loosemore Auditorium on the Pew Campus. Dan Varner, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, will be featured with his lecture, “Committed Leadership in Detroit.” 

The Hauenstein Center staff is looking forward to Varner’s talk and strives to improve the mindsets of students.

“We are committed to building a community of ethical, effective leaders,” said Scott St. Louis, program manager for the Hauenstein Center's Common Ground Initiative. “The Wheelhouse Talks often evoke personal stories of challenges met and overcome.”

St. Louis believes in improving students' abilities. He said a central challenge in helping students become better leaders is connecting them with examples of good leadership in areas that interest them. Strong leadership is at the center of the Wheelhouse Talks. Students can listen to the speakers present on topics that interest them, and they can learn from that experience, according to St. Louis. 

Some GVSU students share this mindset as well.

“To be a good leader, you’ve got to learn how to follow,” said Joey Digiacomo, a junior and member of GVSU club lacrosse. “It helps seeing the journey someone else has already made.” 

Varner has spent years being invested in the city of Detroit. He initially worked as an attorney but quit to become the co-founder of "Think Detroit Inc.," a nonprofit organization designed to improve youth development and recreation. Afterward, Varner moved on to the nonprofit "Excellent Schools Detroit." As the CEO, he tried to increase the opportunities that young people in Detroit have access to. 

Varner's current venture, Goodwill Industries, is focused on trying to provide jobs to people who are struggling to obtain them. They work with non-profit organizations, government agencies and other businesses to give jobs to people in the Metro Detroit area. Last year, 9,269 people received services from Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, and they employed 1,279 people. Digiacomo said he is very excited to hear from a man who has done so much for Michigan and Detroit. 

The Wheelhouse Talks take place throughout the year and include many speakers from different backgrounds. St. Louis believes talks like these help students to think critically and to learn broadly and sympathetically. 

After Varner’s talk, the next Wheelhouse Talk will take place Friday, Nov. 3, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Loosemore Auditorium. Jim Keane, Steelcase CEO and president, will be the featured presenter. 

For more information on Wheelhouse Talks' speakers and event details, visit http://hauensteincenter.org/wheelhouse/. 

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