Melanca Clark is president and CEO of Hudson-Webber Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving quality of life in Detroit. The core pillars of the foundation’s funding mission areas focus on physical revitalization, economic development, arts and culture, and safe communities.
As president and CEO, Clark oversees the overall operations, grant making and administration of the foundation. Prior to joining Hudson-Webber Foundation, she served in leadership roles in the Obama administration, including as chief of staff of the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, senior counsel with the Access to Justice Initiative, both at the U.S. Department of Justice, and as a senior policy advisor with the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Clark also served as counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, was a John J. Gibbons Fellow in Public Interest and Constitutional Law at the Gibbons Law Firm, and was a Skadden Fellow and assistant counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Clark earned her law degree from Harvard Law School, and her undergraduate degree from Brown University.
Ryan Friedrichs serves as Chief Development Officer for the City of Detroit, responsible for the development of public private partnerships between all key Mayoral initiatives and philanthropy. Friedrichs has served as chief executive of several national organizations, most recently leading the civic technology organization State Voices and opening its offices in sixteen states. In 2016 he was named to the Chronicle of Philanthropy's national class of 40 under 40 leaders “solving the problems of today – and tomorrow.”
Friedrichs has a BA from the University of Michigan and an MPP from Harvard University, focused on urban planning and civic engagement. His master’s thesis was one of the first published field studies of the efficacy of youth civic engagement techniques in the United States. Friedrichs is an Afghanistan combat veteran who served as a paratrooper and intelligence and infantry Team Leader in the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He also served in 2014 as a Squad Leader in northern Poland with the first US unit deployed in response to the crisis in the Ukraine. Friedrichs lives in Detroit with his wife Jocelyn Benson and one-year old son Aiden.
Jens Ludwig is the McCormick Foundation Professor at the University of Chicago and director of the University of Chicago Crime Lab. In 2008, Ludwig helped found the Crime Lab to partner with policymakers in Chicago and around the country to carry out large-scale policy experiments to identify more effective (and humane) ways to prevent crime and violence, and reduce the harms associated with the criminal justice system. Crime Lab studies have led to new policy initiatives in a number of cities, have been published in leading peer-reviewed scientific journals, and have received coverage in major news outlets such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The Crime Lab is a past recipient of a $1 million MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. In 2012 he was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.
As President and CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation (DESC), Nicole Sherard-Freeman is responsible for leading the strategy and day-to-day operations of the agency, in support of the city’s vision for talent readiness and employment demand for Detroit residents.
Sherard-Freeman brings nearly 30 years combined experience in corporate, non-profit, and entrepreneurial sectors, and the proven ability to develop and manage complex, cross-sector partnerships. From external relationships with community-based organizations and philanthropic investors to direct, daily management of initiatives for government partners, Nicole’s unique skill set integrates significant experience managing relationships with employers and the close examination and analysis of those who provide direct service to Detroit job-seekers.
As the former Director for Corporation for a Skilled Workforce’s Detroit Portfolio, Sherard Freeman was a lead researcher and co-author of two significant reports about Detroit’s talent pool and job market: Detroit’s Untapped Talent – Jobs and On-ramps Needed; and, Detroit’s Untapped Talent – Pathways and Partnerships for Success. Nicole’s corporate background includes more than 20 years of experience in Operations, Sales and HR leadership for Fortune 500 companies. Born and raised in Detroit, Sherard-Freeman is a graduate of Renaissance High School. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration, and has completed graduate studies in Organizational Management and Development at Fielding Graduate University. She holds a micro-credential in Global Human Capital Trends from Columbia University School of Professional Studies. Nicole serves on the Board of Governors for Schoolcraft College Foundation, and was an inaugural cohort member of Metro Detroit’s National SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) Project, a flagship program of Wellesley College.
Amanda Van Dusen
Amanda Van Dusen is a principal at the Detroit-based law firm of Miller Canfield. She has decades of experience in public policy and local government law and her areas of expertise include: public finance, education finance, higher education, K-12 education, infrastructure, elections and campaign finance compliance, intergovernmental cooperation agreements, and local government restructuring. She is a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, National Association of Bond Lawyers and Michigan Women in Finance, and is a fellow in the American College of Bond Counsel and the American Bar Foundation.
Van Dusen has served the public good as a member of many civic, philanthropic and non-profit boards, including the boards of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, the Hudson-Webber Foundation, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program and the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. She is a frequent speaker and author of articles and bulletins on public law topics.
Dan Varner is the President and Chief Executive Officer at Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, which works to provide economic security, independence, and greater dignity and self-esteem to vulnerable members of the Detroit community. Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit operates Goodwill Automotive (a Tier 1 automotive supplier), Goodwill’s Green Works (an industrial recycling operation) and retail locations throughout the Detroit area to provide funding, training opportunities and educational resources for the organization’s major programs and service initiatives, including workforce training programs for people who are returning from incarceration, developmentally disabled, mentally ill, underemployed, unemployed, and veterans.
Prior to joining Goodwill, Dan served as the CEO at Excellent Schools Detroit, a coalition of Detroit’s leading organizations working to improve Detroit’s public education systems; worked as a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation where he co-led the foundation’s redevelopment of a local giving strategy for Detroit; and he is also the cofounder and former CEO of a nationally-recognized, award-winning youth development organization called Think Detroit, which Dan led through a merger with Detroit PAL to create the largest provider of award-winning youth development sports programs in Detroit, now serving 13,000 participants annually.
Dan has received numerous awards, and his work has been recognized by two Presidential administrations. He is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and serves on numerous boards of directors, including the ACLU of Michigan, ConnectEd, Capital Impact Partners, and Detroit PAL, and served on Michigan’s State Board of Education for four years. He is an attorney by training, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Michigan Law School.