Christakis: What History Has Taught Us About the Future and COVID-19

Key Takeaways 

  • Wisest course of action is to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect our society, people, and economy.
  • Our ancestors have been experiencing these for thousands of years and have actually tried to warn us.
  • From the moment it emerged, COVID-19 was slated to cause $16 trillion of economic and health damage – an amount of money that exceeds the Great Depression.
  • Things like fear, lies, denial, and blame are close companions of plagues.
  • The virus will eventually become endemic, meaning it still circulates among us, but not with the potency it had at the onset before better levels of immunity were developed.

“We happen to be alive at a once-in-a-century event.”

Nicholas A. Christakis, social scientist, and physician; director of the Human Nature Lab at Yale University; and co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science, reflected on what the history of pandemics and plagues can tell us about the physical and economic impacts of disease and how it informs our future with COVID-19 – the second deadliest pandemic in the last 100 years.

As we experience the COVID-19 pandemic as a country there is much to consider beyond immediate impacts like death and polarizing opinions of how to eradicate it. Though case numbers and death tolls tend to be top-of-mind metrics, what Americans fail to properly understand are the potential long-term effects of this disease. Those who contract COVID-19 and survive may sustain enduring or permanent disabilities or side effects that will require special care and take a toll on the health care system.

“By my judgement, we’re not yet at the beginning of the end of this pandemic. But I do think we’re at the end of the beginning,” Christakis said.

What History Has Tried to Teach Us: Plagues Aren’t New, Just New to Us 

Christakis acknowledged that, “Plagues are not new to our species. They’re just new to us.”

Our ancestors have been experiencing these for thousands of years and have actually tried to warn us. Plagues are part of the human experience. People are misunderstanding the impact of this pandemic – thinking that our response to it is what’s collapsing the economy. The virus is the problem, not our response to it, Christakis said.

From the moment it emerged, COVID-19 was slated to cause $16 trillion of economic and health damage – an amount of money that exceeds the Great Depression. Physical distancing, economic collapse, and slowing down are all characteristic features of plagues. Economies require human interaction, and these interactions stop when people are dying, which means collapse.

Another element of this pandemic consistent with thousands of years of historical experiences, plagues bring on “dark tendencies.” Things like fear, lies, denial, and blame are close companions of plagues.

The Three Phases of COVID-19 


Christakis forecasts that the acute phase – what we’re in now – will last into 2022. This is when we experience the biological and epidemiological shock of the virus as it spreads. This will last until every person has either been infected or has been vaccinated, when we reach the herd immunity threshold.


This phase, which Christakis expects to last until 2023-2024, entails coping with the clinical, psychological, social, and economic aftershocks of the virus. These impacts have been evidenced in student learning loss, unemployment, future debts, and the like.


In times of plague, people don’t spend their money as a result of unemployment, fear, or in anticipation for the future. This will eventually reverse and allow people to escape from their seclusion to avoid contracting the virus.  People will actively be seeking release from these confinements.

Biological and Social Outcomes 

COVID-19 will have a biological and social end with a few potential outcomes. The virus will eventually become endemic, meaning it still circulates among us, but not with the potency it had at the onset before better levels of immunity were developed. The worst-case scenario is that we could see the emergence of a vaccine-evading strain of the virus, which would set us back to the beginning. The most likely outcome, however, would be that the virus will mutate to become more benign. Finally, over many centuries, we’ll evolve to develop stronger defenses against it.

Socially, “plagues end when everyone believes they have ended or when everyone is simply willing to tolerate more risk,” Christakis said.

He noted our society has seemed to do just that and put our head in the sand on a variety of troubling epidemics – mass shootings, young adult suicide, the opioid epidemic – which has proven much deadlier than COVID-19. Christakis warns we may do the same with the coronavirus. There’s a debate among our society about whether or not it’s too soon to declare victory on the pandemic. Christakis says that is a foolish approach at this point and that a wise course of action is to vaccinate as many people as possible to protect our society, people, and economy.

History points to more woe ahead.

What’s Next with Vaccines: Let’s Lead the World 

“What kind of civilization are we if we cannot somehow find a way to help our fellow citizens even if they are failing to take a safe and free vaccine,” Christakis said.

There are two kinds of boosters on the horizon. One is getting another shot of an existing shot to bring up antibody levels. Christakis noted, however, that the medical community was not relying on antibody immunity, but rather cellular immunity. The second kind entails the development of new vaccines to protect against new, emergent variants of the virus.

“We profess to lead the world. Well let’s lead. Let’s vaccinate the world. Let’s do the right thing.”

This session was sponsored by Consumers Energy.  

Mayor Duggan: City Focus Pivots from Removing Blight to ‘Building Beauty’

By Crain’s Content Studio

Key Takeaways

  • New director of city’s planning and development department will approach his job with a community engagement lens.
  • 22 new African American-owned businesses have opened up along Livernois and it is now one of the most vibrant neighborhoods, which the city is working to replicate in other neighborhoods.
  • Mayor Duggan: If you think you are going to open a new business or a new branch, make sure your first call is to us. Let us pitch you first.

When Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan took office eight years ago, his main focus was removing blight. Detroit was, in essence, a blight story: people flew in from around the world to take pictures of abandoned buildings, Mayor Duggan recalled. Today, the city has a different story to tell. “We don’t have to talk about removing blight; now, we are talking about building beauty,” he said.

Mayor Duggan shared his vision of rebuilding and beautification on stage at the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference on Tuesday, Sept. 21, alongside Antoine Bryant, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department. The conversation was moderated by Lloyd Jackson, senior news analyst of WJR NewsTalk 760 AM. The session was introduced by Arn Tellem, vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons.

Bryant has been on the job eight weeks; he came to the city from Houston, where he served as business development and project manager. Bryant said he will approach his job with a community engagement lens; so far, he has spent his time traveling around the city and listening to its residents. He said one thing that attracted him to Detroit was that he considered the job an “opportunity for Detroiters to own and decide how Detroit shall move forward. For a city where 80 percent of the residents look like myself, that’s an opportunity that exists nowhere else in country.”

One component of that opportunity is the revitalization of neighborhoods. Mayor Duggan used the Livernois corridor as an example.

“When we redesigned that Livernois stretch we didn’t just pave it; we put in streetscapes and widened the sidewalks,” Mayor Duggan said. “In the last two years, 22 new African American-owned businesses have opened up on that stretch and it is now one of the most vibrant neighborhoods.”

Mayor Duggan and Bryant said they are working on replicating that success story on McNichols, Kercheval, and Grand River, among other neighborhood corridors.

The conversation with Mayor Duggan and Bryant touched on green space revitalization, workforce efforts and public safety. An audience member asked Mayor Duggan what his “ask” was of the Detroit business leaders in the room.

“In the moment, we don’t have an immediate crisis,” he said, recalling a moment in 1999 where he stood on the stage at the Mackinac Policy Conference and asked businesses to adopt a school building in the city. From that request, he got 250 volunteers. Today, Mayor Duggan asked them to consider Detroit when expanding or relocating. “If you think you are going to open a new business or a new branch, make sure your first call is to us. Let us pitch you first,” he said.

Additional Sound bites:

  • Duggan predicts, after years of population loss, that results of the most recent U.S. Census results will show population growth in the city.
  • There are over 200 neighborhoods in Detroit, and the city’s Planning and Development Department, under the new leadership of Bryant, is “going to go to every single one of them so they know they know they are being seen heard and engaged with.”
  • Regarding infrastructure improvements, Mayor Duggan hinted at “an effective plan to deal with water infrastructure in the coming months.”
  • When asked if he was concerned about a loss of commuters working downtown, he said he had accepted it as a reality. He said there is an opportunity, however, for office spaces in cities like Detroit to be converted to housing.
  • City leaders are putting a focus on bringing Detroit expats home. Bryant mentioned a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the National Organization of Minority Architects, which was founded in Detroit, will have a “Detroit Homecoming” theme.

This session was sponsored by DTE Energy.

A Discussion with Douglas Brinkley: The Shift in American Politics from the 1930s to Now

The Nation’s Changed a Lot Since the FDR Era:
Here’s What Historian Douglas Brinkley Thinks You Should Know

Key Takeaways

  • America’s political landscape can be partially attributed to the lack of military experience among our most recent leaders.
  • In the 1980s to 2016, Americans were taught that the government is not your friend.
  • More people of color should get engaged in the political process to help Americans regain trust in democracy and the government.
  • Conspiracy history is really reigning strong right now and, unfortunately, we all have appetites for it.
  • Getting Americans back on the same page is ridding the level of misinformation occurring.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot around the United States over the past year and a half. But, according to Douglas Brinkley, historian and best-selling author, that’s not all that’s changed.

During A Discussion with Douglas Brinkley during the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference on Tuesday, Sept. 21, the historian shared how politics has also changed. While its shift began before the pandemic, the pandemic seems to have only exacerbated it.

Brinkley said the shift in America’s political landscape can be partially attributed to the lack of military experience among our most recent leaders.

“One of the two things in presidential history that we used to be able to judge people on was military service. We used to screen leadership, the military…that’s gone now. I mean, Bill Clinton didn’t serve in the military. George W. Bush didn’t. Donald Trump didn’t. Barack Obama didn’t. So, where are we finding our leaders from? The part I am most worried about is we’re picking who has the most Twitter followers or Instagram. We’re looking for celebrities,” Brinkley said.

Another reason Brinkley said politics have changed is that from the 1980s during Ronald Reagan’s presidency to 2016 during Donald Trump’s presidency, Americans were taught that the government is not your friend.

“One reason we’re in the wild west of politics right now is that in 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt won all the way to 1980s, we believed that the federal government is your friend and is here to help you. Since 1980, it became the age of Reagan…saying government is not your friend. There’s corruption, they’re charging you too much, tax cuts, tax cuts, government is the problem. Too much government is the issue,” Brinkley said.

Now, we’re in an era of distrust and are trying to figure out how to move into a better political environment. When Zoe Clark, program director at Michigan Radio and moderator of Brinkley’s session, asked Brinkley how we can get Americans back on the same page, he so aptly said, “By now we need an Earth shot,” which is in reference to his book “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Rate.”

Brinkley also believes more people of color should get engaged in the political process to help Americans regain trust in democracy and the government.

“There’s a backlash that, unfortunately, is taking place where a lot of white America’s fearful that they’re losing their privilege or that they’re losing their monopoly on the political order. And so, I think encouraging more and more people of color to get engaged in politics far and wide is going to be important,” Brinkley said.

Also, important to getting Americans back on the same page is ridding the level of misinformation occurring. Brinkley cited his time spent as Civil Rights leader Rosa Parks’ autobiographer about how bad misinformation is getting. During that time, Parks frequently expressed her concern about misinformation to young people when they’re around 12 to 14-years-old.

Misinformation has continued to spread over the years, particularly during the pandemic about the COVID-19 vaccine. Without mediation, Brinkley warns the “vax or anti-vax war” is going to dominate the documentation of this historic time.

“Conspiracy history is really reigning strong right now and, unfortunately, we all have appetites for it,” Brinkley said.

To Contribute to Economic Growth, ‘You’ve Got to Invest Deeply in Your Culture,’ Panel Says

By Crain’s Content Studio

Key Takeaways: 

  • Since the pandemic, limiting employee attrition is key and to do so, companies must recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t going to work. 
  • Some companies, like the New York Stock Exchange, are opting for vaccine mandates 
  • Diversity and sustainability are priorities in today’s economy. However, challenges still remain when it comes to diversity in companies – as of last year, an overwhelming 82.5 percent of directors among Fortune 500 companies were found to be white. 
  • The panel had differing views on inflation rates in the next year: Tuttle said he thinks interest rates will normalize at some point, Ford predicted they will remain the same, and Farner expressed that he’s concerned. 

There’s no question that the last 18 months have been a learning process for even the most successful companies nationwide. During a live session on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at the Mackinac Policy Conference, Suzanne Shank, president and CEO of Siebert Williams Shank & Co., LLC spoke with Jay Farner of Rocket Companies, Harold Ford Jr. of PNC and John Tuttle of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on how they’ve adapted during this period of economic ups-and-downs. 

“A lot of companies have seen themselves grow in ways they never thought they could and frankly may not have had it not been for the pandemic,” Ford said.

The three panelists shared how their companies abruptly shifted from primarily in-office work to work-from-home. As vaccines have become more accessible and in order to retain employees, they’ve added flexible, hybrid schedules.

“We can’t have a one-size-fits-all approach to managing our workforce,” said Tuttle, the New York Stock Exchange’s chief impact officer. “We’re going to bring it down to the manager level and say, ‘what is the best mix of in-the-office, out-of-the office for you to be successful to not only attract and retain the top talent, but deliver the performance that our clients expect?’”

During the pandemic, cryptocurrency came to the forefront of fin-tech conversations. Both Farner and Tuttle echoed Ford’s statement that financial institutions need to find a way to get comfortable with cryptocurrency, because it’s likely here to stay.

“If you would have told me five years ago that we’d be talking about cryptocurrency on Mackinac Island, I wouldn’t have believed you,” said Farner, the vice chairman and chief executive officer of Rocket Companies. “But here we are, and exactly to Harold’s point, it’s not going away.”

Fulfilling pledges to diversity was also a major part of the conversation. Ford discussed how PNC is paving the way in this area by launching a purpose-driven SPAC focused on empowerment and inclusion, while Rocket Companies’ board of directors includes three women and two people of color.

Shank also mentioned that the leadership on the New York Stock Exchange is more female-driven; it has come a long way since 1967 when the first woman was given a seat on the exchange.

“I love what Harold and his team are doing … they’re identifying a challenge or an opportunity, and saying, ‘you know, we’re going to put our money where our mouth is, we’re going to find people, we’re going to find companies and people that believe in what we’re doing,’” Tuttle said.

This session is sponsored by PNC.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Mark Reuss: Pandemic Forces Warp Speed Changes at GM

By Crain’s Content Studio

Key Takeaways

  • The global auto industry is looking at a global transformation that won’t happen again in our lifetime.
  • GM’s heavy concentration of production in the American Midwest is a competitive advantage, Reuss said, citing new high models being made in Orion Township, and plants in Ohio and Spring Hill, Tenn.
  • To ease dependence on China for some critical components, GM is looking at a ranging of sourcing options, including harvesting rare earth materials out of U.S. lakebeds.
  • Don’t expect internal combustion engines to die off right away: a lot of working people still like their heavy-duty trucks

As the son of a former General Motors president who rose to the same title as his father, Lloyd, Mark Reuss never imagined he’d be directing the production of artificial breathing devices in Kokomo, Ind. Or masks and hand sanitizer in other plants – and be proud of that pivot.

Reuss took attendees of the Mackinac Policy Conference on a whirlwind tour Tuesday of the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic just as GM was launching a massive $35 billion shift to focus on electrification of its cars and trucks by 2025.

In a discussion with questions posed by Joe White, global auto industry editor of Reuters,

Reuss said GM has “hired more people in the second half of 2021 than in all of 2020,” due to rapid changes in the software and other changes driving the automaker’s effort “to make things people don’t even know they want yet.”

While GM is wrestling with global challenges such as chip shortages and low vaccination rates for workers at plants in Malaysia and Vietnam, the company’s latest pandemic response in its hometown of Detroit has been $50 million in grants announced this week to boost education and employment opportunities for Detroit residents.

He also noted that that throughout the pandemic, he and CEO Mary Barra and other GM executives have been visiting company plants far and wide to show employees that safety protocols have its plants safe. “We don’t want fear in our workplaces,” Reuss said.

General Motors sponsored the session.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Investing in Health Equity: The Impact of Mobilizing and Policy by Blue Cross Blue Shield, Henry Ford Health System, and PwC

Minorities have suffered more during the COVID-19 pandemic than white Americans, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ 2020 Health Equity report.
Early in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, 31% of COVID-19 cases and 40% of COVID-19 deaths were among Black Michigan residents, who make up 14% of the state’s population. By December 2020, 26% of deaths were of Black Michiganders. Their mortality rate was 221 per 100,000 people, almost double that of white Michiganders, whose mortality rate was 112 per 100,000.

“These pandemic era health disparities are not a surprise given our country’s longstanding health disparities due to inequities,” Claudia Douglass, the principal of Health Services Providers for PwC, said. “This is a justice issue, [but] it’s not just a justice issue. It’s a business issue.”

Douglass moderated Investing in Health Equity during the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference on Tuesday, Sept. 21. The panel consisted of Carladenise Edwards, executive vice president and chief strategy officer at Henry Ford Health System; Bridget Hurd, vice president of inclusion and diversity at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM); and Trine Tsouderos, director of the Health Leadership Institute at PwC.

Edwards, Hurd, and Tsouderos agreed with Douglass that the impact of the pandemic was not a surprise and not unique to the COVID-19 experience.

“When the information started coming in about the disparities we were seeing about the morbidity and mortality due to COVID, we had to reflect on that. This is not new. These disparities that we’ve seen among people of color, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic, Latino, even among people of disability and the LGBTQ+ community — what COVID did was shine a light on the disparity and put into place an urgency to now address that,” Hurd said.

BCBSM addressed the disparity quickly by looking at the data and the stories it told and taking the time to understand the stories of real people to understand their actual needs. From there, BCBS established a COVID-19 workflow that focused on addressing healthcare disparities, such as waiving the cost of healthcare treatment and working with community healthcare institutions and partners to get mobile testing clinics.

Henry Ford also mobilized and addressed the disparity. It worked with city and state officials to develop solutions, from getting mobile units to hard-to-reach communities to addressing work and supply shortages.

“We mobilized around a common enemy, and that was COVID,” Edwards said. “This is a policy conference, and people want to know what we can do to make change. One thing is to take the silver linings and the lessons we learned, apply them, and make them sticky, or standard, work. That’s coming together to solve a complex problem and doing it fast…Henry Ford was a leader in that.”

Hurd cautioned about rushing into making decisions, though, especially when developing policies. It’s essential to make sure people’s experiences that the policies aim to help are being addressed.

“If you take the enormous flood of policy that comes out daily of CMS and DFDA and you start putting a lens on the policies, you come out with a lot of improvements that can be made on a grand scale that can really move the needle,” Tsouderos said.

Tsouderos cited a recent policy that added vaccines to retail pharmacies as an example. The intent of the policy was to increase accessibility, but most retail pharmacies are located in suburban areas around white communities, so it was not as effective as intended.

“When thinking about policy and implementing new policy, is taking the opportunity to make sure we’re not just reflecting the privilege of those of us in society, that we’re not just using our own frame of reference to develop policy, but we’re taking the opportunity to consider everyone. That, at the start of the process, we’re asking those questions that will help us understand how the working class will be affected or benefit from this policy,” Hurd said.

This session was sponsored by PwC.

2021 Mackinac Policy Conference Focuses on Reimagining a Healthy Michigan

While the pandemic is far from over, charting a path to recover, heal, and thrive as a state is critical – and the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference serves as a platform to hear from national thought-leaders on the significant issues that Michigan and the nation is facing at this critical time in history. This year’s theme “Reimagining a Healthy Michigan” highlights what should be a top priority for the state in 2022.

The Conference conversations are focused around three pillars that will be vital in accomplishing that goal:

  1. Accelerating our COVID-19 economic recovery and sustainability.
  2. Advancing racial justice and equity for all.
  3. Investing in the health of our people and our communities.

Lassiter: Charting a Path for Michigan’s Recovery Requires Authentic Foundational Change

“Reimagining a Healthy Michigan” highlights what should be a top priority for the state in 2022, according to Conference Chairman, Wright L. Lassiter III, president and chief executive officer of Henry Ford Health System who kicked off the event challenging attendees to see themselves as part of the solution to the major problems the state is facing.

He also said that we need to think broadly about what health means and begin to focus on the role that social and economic conditions play in the health of our communities. Opportunity is key for communities to thrive – opportunities to access healthy food, clean water, safe neighborhoods, equal employment, affordable housing, reliable transportation, and voting.

“We need to move beyond band-aid solutions and toward authentic foundational, scalable change. It has to be an intentional strategy and requires a long-term commitment,” Lassiter said.

With communities at the heart, people will be key to improving the health of Michigan as everyone plays a role in improving the lives of others. This year’s Conference lineup features speakers that share the common mission of uplifting all communities, with uniquely diverse viewpoints.

Added Lassiter, “When we ignore basic challenges faced by people who have been historically left behind, we all experience negative and lasting effects on economic growth, prosperity, and health. And the reverse is true: when we lift up the underserved, we all can experience that success.”

In closing, Lassiter said that as we continue to live through the impact of COVID-19 for years to come, we can use our experiences to create a more resilient society with a focus on equity and quality of life for all.

Baruah: America’s Continuum of ‘We the People’ and ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ Making Collective Action Difficult

As the Detroit Regional Chamber planned this year’s Conference experience, there was a strong focus on retaining and regaining economic and social normality, while prioritizing health, safety, and increased vaccination rates. The Conference returns as Michigan faces critical challenges during a pandemic where polarization has made collective action more difficult.

“This is the first large event in Michigan that has this level of safety protocols and we really feel we are setting an example for others in terms of how to do this right,” said Sandy K. Baruah, president and chief executive officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We were either going to do this event right or not at all.”

Today’s political dynamic and society’s current state were key drivers for the Chamber to proceed with this year’s Conference. America consists on a continuum of two ideas: ‘We the People’ and ‘Don’t Tread on Me.’ And while both elements are key to the success of our nation, collective action becomes difficult when our society leans more to the individualistic side.

As always, civility is key for compromise and comprise is a driving factor in getting anything done in America. With that in mind, the Conference has and continues to serve as a place where civility thrives.

“Let’s face it our political system is not working as well as it needs to be, and it’s up to those of us who influence the political system to step up to help the political system make some of these big decisions that we need to make as Americans,” said Baruah.

Conference Remembers Champion of Civility: U.S. Senator Carl Levin

Few lawmakers championed civility and the art of compromise quite like former U.S. Senator Carl Levin. It was only fitting for the Conference to open with a tribute to the late senator on Michigan’s Center Stage.

Paul W. Smith, host of WJR NewsTalk 760 AM sat down with Dennis W. Archer Sr., chairman of Emeritus, Dickinson Wright PLLC, and former mayor of Detroit, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, to discuss the life and career of Michigan’s longest serving senator.

Sen. Levin had a love for learning and a strong passion for knowledge, truth, and facts. While she currently serves as Secretary of State, Benson didn’t meet Sen. Levin through politics, instead through academia, when she served as dean of Wayne State University Law School, where she co-taught a class with Senator Levin.

“Every day, he gave every moment his best. It was such a privilege to work alongside him in that role and that capacity because he pushed us all as leaders to be better, to do better, and even in the academic world he pushed me every day to read more, to prepare more, to study more, and to always think more on how we can do better as leaders,” Benson said.

Former Mayor Archer retold a story about former President Bill Clinton calling him to implore Sen. Levin to run for another a term because the country needed his leadership in Congress as an example of how special he was.

“[As a senator] Carl Levin took it a step above. Because of his belief in civility and how he respected people and the issues of the state of Michigan, he bent over backwards to make sure that everyone understood his position and he listened to others,” said friend and colleague, Archer Sr. “You always learned from Carl Levin, you learned how to treat people and he encouraged all of us to be respectful of each other.”

The Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School was created to preserve the legacy of Carl Levin in Michigan and train another generation of leaders to exhibit the same thoughtful bipartisan oversight that Levin exemplified throughout his career.

Added Smith, “I may be the only person on stage who may have had disagreements with Carl Levin. But he knew how to disagree without being disagreeable. I never felt that he didn’t respect me…we need more of that in politics today, we don’t have it at all.”

Sen. Levin would always acknowledge the complexity of problems and the fact that there aren’t always easy answers, explained Benson. “And that is a real humility and honesty in leadership that we don’t see too often today,” Benson said.

Added Noland, “He always told the truth, he knew what he believed and if he said he was going to do something or support it, he did.”

Automotive Roundtable: Forging Pathways to Developing Michigan’s Robust, Diverse Talent Pool

More than 100 automotive professionals gathered for MICHauto’s annual Automotive Roundtable at MICHauto on the Island during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference. Kristine Coogan of KPMG set the stage with thought leadership on investing in the talent pipeline process. Brief “Talent Talks” from HELLA’s Madison Weston, OpTech LLC’s Ronia Kruse, Ford Motor Company’s Marjace Miles, and Global Strategic Supply Solution’s Lisa Lunsford, chair of the MICHauto Board of Directors, addressed the need for a pathway to developing a robust and diverse talent pool here in Michigan.

Coogan highlighted that automotive and mobility companies are now competing with tech giants for talent as product innovation moves toward electric vehicles and enablers of autonomous driving. Citing a 2021 KPMG Survey of Automotive HR Executives, Coogan stated that 76% of human resource executives say they are competing for talent with technology companies. With increased competition for talent, automotive and mobility organizations need to tout compelling employment experiences that combine recognition of employee efforts and skills with the connection to making an impact.

HELLA’s Weston, a featured emerging young professional in the Discover Auto: You Drive the Future campaign, talked about the importance of showing young people what the automotive and mobility industry looks like today.

“I grew up in Plymouth, Michigan, 20 minutes from Dearborn, and automotive never crossed my mind. I never learned about what the automotive industry is today, only the 20th century version,” Weston said.

She also said we need to teach kids about the automotive and mobility industry as it is today because it is all about the technology that goes into a vehicle.

Kruse stated that the demand for talent continues to grow, with over 9 million open jobs in the U.S., a record high as of April 2021. By 2030, there could be as many as 85 million jobs that go unfilled because there aren’t enough skilled people to take them. This is an opportunity for more collaboration between industry, academia, and government to fill the high-tech talent pipeline. Programs like ReturnPro can help fill the high-tech gap, Kruse says, but we also need to retain more Michigan students.

Miles agreed sharing that only 5% of his graduating college class stayed in Southeast Michigan. Miles believes that we must control the narrative to solve this problem, and we can do that by focusing on community, culture, and careers. As a Let’s Detroit Ambassador, Miles connects with people considering opportunities in Detroit and talks to them about the multitude of opportunities to live, work, and play in Michigan.

Lunsford wrapped up the talent talks by discussing the importance of taking an approach to diverse talent through open and candid conversation. A member of the CEO Coalition for Change, Lunsford says there is a clear relationship between workforce development and social justice. Sharing a recent, personal example on why it is important to keep the dialogue open, Lunsford calls for change in a push for industry collaboration.

After the panel discussion, Steven Kiefer, founder of the Kiefer Foundation and president of General Motors International, took the stage to talk about the importance of legislating a hands-free Michigan to save lives. Sharing an impactful video of an accident resulting from driving while distracted, Kiefer shared his own personal story about losing his son Mitchell five years ago to a distracted driver. Statistically, 94% of drivers admittedly know that driving while distracted is highly dangerous. Yet 84% of those surveyed still drive distracted. Passing House Bills 4277, 4278, and 4279 to protect Michigan drivers is the next step in saving lives. Kiefer closed with a call to action for everyone to reach out to their legislators to press for a floor vote, and to tell friends and loved ones to put down the phone and Just Drive.

New book by Walsh IT faculty provides cyber risk mitigation strategy for organizations

TROY, Mich., Sept. 21, 2021 — Walsh College has announced the publication of “The Force of Technology,” a book co-authored by information technology/decision sciences (ITDS) faculty Dave Schippers, DSc, CISSP, Michael Simko, DSc, CISSP and Terri Richards, Ph.D. and edited by Jennifer O’Meara, Ph.D., associate professor, business communication. “The Force of Technology” examines the importance of understanding technology operations and protections in business and offers attainable strategies for designing, leading and managing cyber risk mitigation in any organization up to the enterprise level. Published by Iron Dog LLC, “The Force of Technology” is available for purchase on Amazon and is being used in Walsh’s Master of Business Administration (MBA), Cyber MBA and Master of Science in Information Technology Leadership curriculum.

“We live in a connected age and those interconnections, while convenient, can pose serious threats to organizations’ security, data and our way of life. ‘The Force of Technology’ is a playbook for business leaders, whether they have a technical background or not, to level up their understanding of technology and learn to lead critical cyber risk mitigation in their organizations,” said Schippers.

Schippers serves as chair of Walsh’s ITDS department and has decades of experience in IT, cybersecurity and project management. He also holds a professional investigator license in Michigan. Simko has experience as a cybersecurity architect and manager and currently works as a deputy director of IT in addition to teaching at Walsh. Richards has more than 20 years of IT industry experience in a range of roles including leading teams of developers in Michigan and India.

All proceeds from the “The Force of Technology” will be donated to the Lesia Mahon Scholarship Fund, named for the late Walsh IT professor.

For more information about Walsh, visit

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Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, data analytics, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (

Poverty to Prosperity: Investing in People Over Place

Key Takeaways:

  • To move from poverty to prosperity, we must enable people to have power and make decisions as they relate to their lives.
  • Poverty must be prevented in the first place and the damage that has been done over the course of history has to be repaired.
  • The focus must be beyond poverty, it must also include improving the middle class. In Detroit, we must identify opportunities to grow the middle class that is already there.
  • Nothing grows without investment. Investing in people over place is essential to reparative work. Putting the focus on investing in places over people will raise value but push people out. We have to emphasize human capabilities and invest in that.
  • To move forward and create change, we must have a government that empowers its people. A government that recognizes the role of economic rights, and promotes quality housing, quality health care, and access to resources for all.
  • Housing policies and pay must be examined. There are things that can be done on the housing front in terms of pay that could restore value quickly.
  • Capital is the most direct way to address the racial wealth gap.

There are multidimensional causes that have shaped and continue to contribute to the racial wealth gap, including historic policy decisions and discriminatory practices. Day two of the 2021 Conference opened with a discussion on the impact of race and economic inequity, and the role that public and private sectors can play to create an equitable economic future for Michigan.

“The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare the racial wealth and employment disparities forcing long overdue conversations about the need for governmental intervention to address them,” said Kim Trent, deputy director of prosperity for the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

Trent was joined onstage by Anika Goss, chief executive officer of Detroit Future City, Darrick Hamilton, Henry Cohen Professor of Economics and Urban Policy and founding director of the Institute on Race and Political Economy for the New School Milano, and Andre M. Perry, senior fellow at Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program.

Moving from Poverty to Prosperity: What Does it Mean?

“When I think of moving from poverty to prosperity one of the things that comes to mind immediately is the idea that 54% of middle-class African Americans live outside of Detroit, which means that right now Detroit is not a place that is cultivating prosperity,” noted Goss.

Currently in Detroit, to grow your own wealth and generate opportunities you must move outside of the city. And while this is not unique to Detroit, it’s problematic since Detroit is 78% African American. By creating concentrated areas of Detroit with such deep poverty, educational attainment is impacted, which then hinders the path to achieving prosperity.

Added Hamilton, “From poverty to prosperity, I guess we would know it when someone’s race, gender, or ethnicity no longer has transactional value. When you can go into the marketplace, and you’re not diminished because you’re Black. When you can go into the marketplace and not be diminished because you’re a woman.”

An important aspect of moving from poverty to prosperity is power. If you are devoid of essential resources or don’t have power within a transaction, you become subject to exploitation.

“We have to acknowledge that poverty is a manmade disaster, and that racism is a primary tool of that disaster,” noted Perry. “When things go wrong in Black communities, we blame Black people. There is nothing wrong with Black people that ending racism can’t solve.”

Addressing the racial wealth gap requires addressing policy and investing in underappreciated assets.

Reparative Lens: What Must Be Done

“You invest in people because if you invest in place over people, you essentially will raise values and folks will be pushed out. You have to provide direct capital to people,” said Perry.

Continued Perry, it is also essential that we divest in racism which promotes practices that prevent growth from happening.

In addition, we need a government that promotes anti-racism economic rights, and provides equal access to quality housing, health care, and education.

“If we value education, then should provide it without debt for all our people. We can provide this, poverty is a political choice,” said Hamilton.

Continued Hamilton, “We need a government that empowers it’s people…human rights is incomplete if we think only about political and civil rights and don’t recognize the role of economic rights.”

The session was hosted by The Kresge Foundation.