Dara Munson Alumni Spotlight

EMU Foundation Board Chair Dara Munson’s Journey from EMU to President and CEO of a Major Chicago Non-Profit

Dara MunsonDetroit native Dara Munson is passionate about her education. “Cass Tech gave me a strong foundation,” she reports, “and Eastern allowed me to benefit from great professors, amazing relationships, leadership experience through my membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and an internship that literally changed my life.”

That internship brought the Criminal Justice major to the Wayne County Department of Community Justice, where she worked with inmates qualified for day release. It was a challenging role for a young undergrad, especially a young African American woman, and seeing the high rate of recidivism underscored the fact that intervening with a population already incarcerated wasn’t nearly as effective as interventions with children living in under-resourced communities and their families. That realization prompted Munson to commit to a lifetime of work in the human services arena – as a volunteer with Big Brothers and Sisters of Metro Detroit, where she eventually became President and CEO; as the COO of Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan; as Senior Director of United Way of Southeastern Michigan; and ultimately to her current role as President and CEO of Family Focus in Chicago.

Family Focus serves 19,000 people throughout 4 counties in the Chicago area and epitomizes Dara’s belief that personal and professional satisfaction often derives from “making a commitment to something you really care about.” For her, that was working in the human services sector, and especially with children and their families. “I wanted my life’s work to have wide-reaching impact,” Dara said, “but without my EMU experience and great mentors and supporters, that wouldn’t have happened.”

Having benefited from outstanding EMU faculty and “amazing, supportive campus programming,” Dara has chosen to give back through her service as a trustee of the EMU Foundation and her new role as Chair of the Foundation Board of Trustees.

“I love serving on the Foundation Board because we share a commitment to student support – especially first-generation students, students from Detroit, and students of color – we want to create a pipeline of sustainable funding, and we’re also committed to providing donors with powerful reasons to make the kinds of gifts most appropriate for them. And because relationships are so important to me, the Board is also a wonderful way for me to retain a connection with students.”

Dara’s service on behalf of the University has been recognized with both EMU’s Alumni Achievement Award and Black Alumni Award. Her commitment has also been recognized in Chicago with leadership positions in numerous organizations including the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, Illinois Partners for Human Services Board, Chicago Foundation for Women, and the International Women’s Forum.

Dara Munson’s commitment to what she cares about not only defines her, but is apparent in every one of her professional and volunteer roles. As the new Chair of the EMU Foundation Board of Trustees, there’s no question that commitment will benefit the entire University community.