Mary Jo Callan, director of the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, will be stepping down from her position on May 5 and taking on a new role beginning May 17 as the Stark Family executive director at Brown University’s Swearer Center for Public Service. Callan will also be accepting a position as an associate dean of the College for Engaged Scholarship at Brown. 

Associate Directors Dave Waterhouse and Neeraja Aravamudan will be serving as interim co-directors while a committee searches for a new full-time director.

When asked about leaving the Ann Arbor community and the University of Michigan, Callan said she will miss not only the school but also the students in it.

“I’m going to miss being part of a really important institution … I’ll miss the students that I have gotten a chance to work with,” Callan said. “I really created a lot of relationships and partnerships. But I’ll also be excited to see what the center does next and what some of the students I’ve gotten to know do next. This is my home, I’ll miss it.”

A 1993 graduate of the University of Michigan, Callan majored in general studies with focuses on political science, history and sociology. She also earned a master’s degree in the School of Social Work in 1997, concentrating on community organizing and administration. Callan obtained her doctorate in educational policy and leadership from the College of William and Mary. 

While also earning her secondary teaching certificate at the University, Callan started her teaching career at the high school level. From there, she worked at the non-profit Ozone House, helping children and families struggling with homelessness. 

Callan also served as the director of the city of Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County Office of Community Development, where she helped economically disadvantaged residents find quality housing and have access to human services and resources. Later, as the founding director of the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development, Callan was able to lead the first-ever county-wide Affordable Needs and Equity Analysis that engaged more than 600 community members to create 20-year community and economic goals for Washtenaw County. 

Along with being the director of the Ginsberg Center, Callan also served as a lecturer for the Social Work School at the University and most recently was the strategic advisor on Student Life-Academic partnerships. Since assuming the directorship of the Ginsberg Center in 2015, Callan said she has worked to strengthen the level of civic engagement on campus by leading divisional and institutional efforts to bolster excitement about voting and knowledgeable voting patterns among undergraduate and graduate students, including voting, dialogue and service. 

Nick Tobier, the Edward R. Ginsberg senior counsel to the provost on civic engagement, spoke very highly of Callan as a person and friend. He discussed her ability to bridge the gap between the University and the surrounding community.

“She is someone I look forward to seeing every day,” Tobier said. “She helped us all understand better what we looked like to the outside world and help reorient a lot of the priorities and civic engagement in community-identified needs. … She brought with her a certain degree of trust where there might not have always been that level of trust between community partners and the University.” 

Cecilia Morales, engaged scholarship manager at the Ginsberg Center, previously worked with Callan as a graduate student and appreciated how valued she felt while working there.

“My first job as a graduate student I had a supervisor who was really taking my contributions seriously,” Morales said. “The Ginsberg Center does a great job of having graduate students who are making really important contributions to our mission … Mary Jo was so appreciative of the insight that I was able to offer.”

Collaboration between students, faculty and staff and the community is a main focus for the Ginsberg Center. Waterhouse said community-wide collaboration is important to Callan personally. 

“She’s pathologically collaborative,” Waterhouse said. “That’s how she works. She thinks in terms of partnerships and collaborations.” 

The collaborations between the University and the broader community that Callan has helped institute were based a lot on civic engagement even when she first arrived, Waterhouse said. 

“She recognized very early in her tenure here that there wasn’t really a central spot on campus that was concentrating on voter registration and education,” Waterhouse said. “She said, ‘Let’s double down. Let’s find some partners on campus and let’s push this word forward.’ … Those collaborations were responsible for the on-campus clerk’s office, for example, the use of TurboVote and even the launch of the Big Ten Voting Challenge.” 

When asked about losing Callan as not only a director but also a friend, Waterhouse shared how impactful working together with her was for him. 

“Working with her over the last five years has been probably the best stretch of my career,” Waterhouse said. “She’s very passionate. She is incredibly smart. And she’s very funny. I’m going to miss all three of those elements.” 

Callan shared some hopes she has for both the Ginsberg Center and the students at the University before leaving for Brown. 

“I hope the Ginsberg Center continues to provide leadership and partnership around civic engagement,” Callan said. “I hope that you and your student colleagues continue to push the University to ensure that it’s working for justice and taking actions that are consistent with the values that we espouse.” 

Daily Contributor Brendan Ulanch can be reached at rulanch@umich.edu

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