Alumni Profile: Michele Hunt '77
Sociology graduate is an influential catalyst for corporations and communities
Michele Hunt '77 (M.S. in Sociology), has had an incredibly diverse career that has always focused on empowering people and connecting with others to make great things happen. The path was unconventional— she sees opportunities where others might see only a daunting challenge.
While earning her master's degree at University of Detroit, Hunt worked full time as the manager of a halfway house for female inmates. The faculty gave her flexibility, so she could accomplish her degree while keeping her job. In return, she helped the faculty and graduate students gain access to prison officials to conduct research about the educational impact on recidivism.
After nearly a decade of working in challenging roles in the Michigan Department of Corrections, Hunt sought out a private sector job that fit her values. She was hired at Herman Miller, an office furniture company. Within two years, she was promoted to vice president for people. As a member of the senior leadership team, she was mentored by CEO Max De Pree. Hunt helped the company create a high-performance culture that earned the distinction of "Fortune's Most Admired Company."
De Pree loaned out Hunt for an advisory role in President Bill Clinton's administration. President Clinton appointed her to serve as director of the Federal Quality Institute. Under the leadership of Vice President Al Gore, she and her team of Malcolm Baldridge examiners helped improve leadership and management practices in cabinet agencies. That responsibility brought a lot of powerful connections, including (the late) management guru Peter Drucker, another of her mentors.
Hunt is now a "transformation catalyst," bringing her ideas, processes and perspectives to leaders and organizations around the world. She achieves this as an author, strategic adviser to CEOs and their teams and inspirational public speaker. She founded her company, Dreammakers.org, in 1995.
Her central message revolves around "leading with shared vision and shared values." This approach creates a culture of conscious capitalism—doing well by doing good. Whether she is speaking to a group of 10,000 professionals, consulting with CEOs, or working with individuals, she helps them cut through the mist to realize their goals.
"If you align your actions with your vision, amazing things can be accomplished," she said.
Her newest endeavor involves being a catalyst to the Center for Digital Inclusion (CDI) in Brazil as the group works to improve the education levels and business skills of people who live in "favelas" (shantytowns). She spends about 30 days a year in Brazil meeting with business and community leaders to help CDI advance its goals through self-empowerment and shared responsibility.
To date, the CDI has improved the opportunities of 1.4 million low-income people in South America and Central America. Another challenge is to help favela residents develop their entrepreneurial and technology skills so they can tap into the growth opportunities created as the country builds new structures for the World Cup in 2012 and the summer Olympics in 2016.
"The people of Brazil have a phenomenal spirit," said Hunt. "It's highly creative and flowing. When they make a business deal, they don't shake hands, they hug."
Dynamic, connected and inspirational, Hunt has helped people around the world. She is a blogger for Huffington Post, reporting on business and social issues, and is the author of the book, "DreamMakers: Putting Vision and Values to Work," which details the bold dreams of CEOs. Two other DreamMaker books focus on leaders and activists who've succeeded in local and global initiatives.
"Being able to make an impact on a large scale is all about building a network," she said. "Being successful as an entrepreneur today requires that you develop the art and science of community building."
Her advice to students is to follow their passion. "If you're just out to make money, you'll never be happy. If you're committed to doing something that matters (to society), you will be helped along."
Hunt sits on the dean's advisory board at the College of Liberal Arts & Education, where she brings a global perspective to help students succeed. She also is an adviser to the Fowler Center at Case Western University. There, a committee is working on a high-profile award for businesses that demonstrates conscious capitalism. Hunt and thought leader David Cooperrider presented this initiative at a TEDx San Francisco talk on Nov. 8, 2012.
Hunt raised her daughter Nicole Levey, now 31, as a single mother while living in Washington, D.C.