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The Michigan Daily sat down with Corie Pauling, the new president and CEO of the Alumni Association (AAUM) and 1993 alum of the University of Michigan, to discuss her priorities for the role. Pauling began her tenure on Wednesday, after being unanimously approved by the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors last month. Pauling currently serves as senior vice president of the alumni association and she previously worked as the chief inclusion and diversity officer at TIAA, a financial services institution focused on higher education and public service employees.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
TMD: What are your most memorable moments from your time at the University of Michigan?
CP: I remember being dropped off at Mosher-Jordan, or MoJo. My room was 397 Jordan and the ride from the east side of Detroit — where I grew up — to MoJo was one that is imprinted in my mind. A very beloved aunt and my mother drove me and moved me into the dorm. We had this harrowing experience getting there because no one knew how to really drive a stick shift, yet we were driving a stick shift and got caught in all of this traffic, with people moving in for the first day of school. My aunt, frustrated and anxious as we started to stall on the hill leading up to the dorm, was having a hard time with a stick shift on these hills. There was a point where she just looked at me and she said, “I will get you there, Coco.” She said it with such earnestness and such love and devotion, really trying to support me as I was beginning college.
TMD: Why did you decide to step into the role of president and CEO of the Alumni Association?
CP: I am now approaching 30 years out of Michigan. I graduated in December of 1993. My career journey has been one of tremendous opportunity, reward, impact and leadership. I have been a civil rights lawyer. I’ve been a management-side employment litigator and an in-house lawyer for a wonderful company. I’ve had the pleasure of leading and really taking to the next level a best-in-class inclusion, diversity and equity program, along with a corporate social responsibility function. As I was approached about this opportunity, it seemed and, in fact, is just the right thing for me just at the right time in my career.
TMD: What are your top priorities as you take on this new role with the Alumni Association?
CP: The process of priority setting is one that we will be doing over the next several months, including an upcoming announcement that we’ll be doing at the start of the year to give people a sense of what to look forward to. I want to be inclusive and thoughtful in how we do that. But I will say this: The concept of homecoming or “come home,” is, I think, a powerfully simple message to alumni, and I think it also resonates with current students to say that Michigan is going to be a place that is a home away from home.
TMD: Considering that you will be the first woman and first Black president and CEO of the Alumni Association at the University of Michigan, do you think that your identity will impact your perspective on working in a role that has primarily been given to white men? If so, how?
CP: Inclusion, diversity and equity is a profound way to connect with communities authentically and broadly. I’ve been doing that work now for four years in a leadership capacity at my prior organization and for several years even before that. The promise of strategies that are premised on inclusion, diversity and equity is that you will serve your stakeholders and your constituents in a way that is simply powerful because you’re not doing a “one size fits all.” You’re thinking about the unique and lived experiences and perspectives of different groups, and you’re trying to meet them where they are.
My lived experience as a Black woman does shape how I think about serving my fellow alumni and also connecting with current students who will be future alumni. My experience at the University, having been in the minority when I was in school here, certainly shapes how I think about ways in which students can be supported and ways in which graduates can be supported as they go off into their lives and careers.
TMD: How has your prior role at TIAA as senior director to the associate general counsel and as senior vice president of the Alumni Association prepared you for this role?
CP: At TIAA, I was there for almost 17 years and had a wonderful experience as an in-house corporate lawyer doing labor and employment work, advising the organization on all sorts of workforce and workplace issues. That role also involved helping launch the inclusion, diversity and equity platform for the organization. We were able to show the proof of the power of DEI in shaping business and developing talent. The connection to the AAUM is simply that alumni engagement is saying: How do we look at our population of wonderful alumni and serve them in ways that will matter for them? How do we let them know that the University and the Association is here for them? How do we create a space where they want to come home and they think of the University and the Association as a home away from home? The way that you do that is by thinking inclusively about the needs of alumni.
TMD: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
CP: I would want students to know that it’s going to be a priority of mine to get to know them. I’m a big outdoorsy person. I love adventure and fitness and all things outdoors. So, look out for things that I’ll be doing, like hosting runs, 5Ks and community service efforts. I really want to get to know students while they are here because I am invested in their success, both now and in the years to come. I want students to think of the AAUM as their future home away from home. It starts now with us getting to know them meaningfully and supporting them as best we can.
Correction 10/25: Corie Pauling was previously employed at TIAA, she is no longer working there.
Daily News Reporter Rachel Mintz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.