University of Michigan

Staff Stories

Ellen Aretakis


Ellen Aretakis
Annual Giving Officer Inter
School of Music,Theatre&Dance

Ellen Aretakis, manager of annual giving at U-M’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance (SMTD), has always called Michigan home. Growing up in Metro Detroit, she’s a recent graduate of U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, and is now working in fundraising at her alma mater.

Knowing she wanted to pursue a career with an altruistic focus, Aretakis participated in the Development Summer Internship Program (D-SIP) as a student—a 12-week, paid development internship that helped pique her interest in pursuing a career in philanthropy.

“In D-SIP, I was using my strategic and analytical skills, but I could also be creative while building relationships, and I realized it was all a part of this really unique career,” Aretakis said.

As a D-SIP intern at U-M’s Life Sciences Institute (LSI), Aretakis gained hands-on experience working on a small development team to create stewardship and annual giving plans—experience that prepared her to begin her career as a development generalist at SMTD. Now, in her current role at SMTD, Aretakis works to engage annual donors by writing solicitations and newsletters, planning events, managing the alumni board, and more—building upon the critical foundation she learned during D-SIP.

“I like the process of creating new strategies,” Aretakis said. “It’s interesting working with different donor groups and learning how to better engage different people.”

Having studied English and Spanish during her time at U-M, Aretakis had very little fundraising experience when she began her career in development, yet, thanks to U-M’s breadth and depth of learning and professional development resources and emphasis on positive culture, she has been able to quickly expand her career at U-M.

“It’s encouraging to see that Michigan invests in its fundraisers and that fundraising is such a vibrant career here,” Aretakis said. “Anytime I have questions, I know there are structural resources in place. I’ve also benefited from different campus-wide groups and organization-wide meetings where cross-collaboration helps you to see what’s going on at such a large, decentralized organization.”

Aretakis said at Michigan, collaboration helps to create a thriving and engaged community of development professionals.

“We all want to see each other at our best,” Aretakis said. “There’s an emphasis on everyone succeeding, and that’s driving the positive culture here at Michigan.”

Carine Hails


Carine Hails
Senior Associate Director of Planned Giving
Office of University Development

University of Michigan alumna Carine Hails joined U-M’s Office of University Development after spending over two decades practicing law in the Grand Rapids and Detroit areas.

“I was immediately excited about the prospect of working at one of the best fundraising organizations and my first alma mater,” Hails said.

Now as the senior associate director of planned giving, Hails inspires alumni and friends to make gifts through their estates. Whether it’s traveling the Midwest to visit donors and prospects, hosting seminars, or strategizing with colleagues, she says every day offers exciting new challenges and opportunities.

“Planned giving is special because you work with people who give, but who do not live to see their gift in action,” Hails said. “I am fortunate to work with such good-hearted people.”

Working for decades as a litigator and in planned giving at her second alma mater, Wayne State University, Hails’ experience with taxes, estate planning, and relationship-building gave her many transferable skills to hit the ground running as a gift officer at U-M.

“At Michigan, donors are truly planning for the future with the goal to make a difference in the world,” Hails said.

But even as an experienced fundraising professional, Hails said it was U-M’s robust onboarding program for gift officers that significantly enhanced her skills, inspiring her continued success at Michigan.

“The onboarding experience helps build community because it brings people together who are in similar stages in their careers,” Hails said.“Each training opportunity has given me a chance to learn from my peers, reflect upon my own experiences, and grow as a fundraiser.”

For those interested in joining the U-M Development Community, Hails offers some words of advice:

“Bring your ‘A game’,” she said. “There is so much going on at U-M, and even though I am an alum, I am still learning new things. Be friendly, ask questions, be flexible, pay attention, and learn as much as you can about your area and others impacted by it.”

Nick Miller


Nick Miller
Corporate Relations Director
Business Engagement Center

The University of Michigan’s Business Engagement Center (BEC) designs, builds and catalyzes partnerships between companies and university faculty and students to advance research and education. Nick Miller, now corporate relations director at the BEC, was once one of its very first employees.

An Ann Arbor native and alumnus of U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, Miller grew up in the backyard of what is now, according to the QS World University Rankings, the nation’s top-ranked public research university. So in 2008, when he was given an opportunity to join the team at the brand new BEC, returning to his alma mater was a “no-brainer.”

“I knew that each day would present different challenges,” Miller said. “I’m able to work with many different companies from a variety of industries while interfacing with almost all parts of the university.”

As the BEC’s corporate relations director, Miller connects the university and private companies, linking businesses to U-M for philanthropic, research, recruiting and educational opportunities. Jointly sponsored by the Office of Research and the Office of University Development (OUD), Miller and the staff at the BEC work with everything from local start-ups to Fortune 10 companies, and more, managing a complex set of mutually beneficial relationships between the university and corporations.

“Finding needles in the haystack and making unobvious connections is always fun, and you learn more about the university in the process,” Miller said. “Being an alumnus, I thought I knew a lot about U-M, and when I came to work here, I had not realized how much the university really had to offer.”

As Miller’s role with the BEC has grown to include frontline fundraising, he has attributed much of his success in that area to OUD’s professional development and leadership training opportunities, allowing him to more easily navigate his development role at a dynamic new unit.

Miller credits OUD’s Leadership Blue program for helping him grow as a leader and fundraiser amongst a supportive network of colleagues.

“The skills you walk away with are applicable to all people in the fundraising profession,” Miller said. “So whether you’re focused on frontline fundraising or marketing, you learn tangible leadership skills at Michigan that can be applied across the board.”

Eun Ja Yu

Eun Ja Yu
Director of International Alumni Engagement and Communications
Office of University Development

As director of international alumni engagement and communications in the University of Michigan’s Office of University Development (OUD), Eun Ja Yu travels the world — from Hong Kong to Mumbai — engaging international alumni with the university.

“I love working with alumni living internationally, bringing a small piece of U-M to their country — whether it’s through faculty lectures, alumni reunions or other events,” Yu said.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Michigan, Yu graduated from U-M in 1990. Joining the staff in 2000 inspired her to reacquaint fellow alumni with their university.

She began her U-M career in the Executive Education program at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, eventually finding her true passion working with alumni. Now in her role at OUD, she engages with friends and supporters around the world who are eager to reconnect with U-M, building communities and a culture of philanthropy.

But across her many positions at the university, it has been the great people that have kept her coming into work every day, whether it’s alumni and donors or her colleagues.

As a newcomer to fundraising, Yu hit the ground running thanks to the supportive and collaborative environment within OUD, as well as respectful, thoughtful teammates.

“Learning is ingrained in the culture here. People are curious about each other’s roles and identify ways to collaborate, and it has helped me navigate this fun, but complex institution,” Yu said.

Jason Gilmore


Jason Gilmore
Associate Director of Development
Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Jason Gilmore came to fundraise for the University of Michigan for one reason: He wanted to help change the world.

“When I think about who’s moving the needle toward finding solutions to different issues — not only in our state, but in our country — I think about Michigan,” Jason said.

Jason and the U-M share the same roots: Michigan was founded in 1817 in Detroit, the same city where Jason was born and raised. Eager to make an impact at a world-class institution, he eventually earned his bachelor’s degree at U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in 2004.

From a young age, Jason knew his calling was to help people, so after college he began a career in philanthropy. After working for Chicago-based nonprofits Access Living and Easter Seals, Jason returned home to work as an associate director of development at U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Now, Jason meets with students, alumni and donors all over the country to fundraise for student scholarships, facilities and innovative faculty research that helps shape the future of business.

As a newcomer to higher education, he attributes his success to the “phenomenal onboarding” the Development Community provided to him.

“You’re really given the tools to be successful, and that was very apparent to me from the beginning,” Jason said. “It’s very collaborative. You can ask your colleagues, ‘can we meet for coffee?’ and everyone is so welcoming.”

Jeannie Moody-Novak

Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography

Stewarding scholarships: Moody-Novak outside the Office of Financial Aid

Jeannie Moody-Novak
Associate Director of Scholarship Stewardship
Office of University Development

When Jeannie Moody-Novak transitioned to higher-ed development at Michigan after 12 years in the banking industry, she felt well prepared to work with the university’s most influential donors. “I brought a lot of banking and finance experience to this work,” she says, “and I felt ready.”

Even so, she adds, “I still learn and grow every day.”

As a campus-wide stewardship officer—a newly created role when she stepped into it in 2007, after a year in the Office of Gift Planning—Moody-Novak works specifically with donors who have established one or more scholarships for students on the Ann Arbor campus through the Office of Financial Aid.

In addition to a letter of thanks, Moody-Novak ensures that these donors receive regular updates about their scholarship funds’ growth over time, along with information about the students they support. Sometimes that information comes directly from the students, many of whom write their own letters of thanks.

Moody-Novak also organizes gatherings big and small where donors and students can meet. The fall season often finds her planning a variety of outings to football games and other events. By spring she’s deep into arrangements for an annual campus-wide celebration for scholarship donors and students that was launched in 2009 and attracts some 300 people.

For donors who are unable to meet their scholarship recipients in person, Moody-Novak can sometimes introduce them remotely through digital videos, which she has learned to shoot and edit through classes at the James and Anne Duderstadt Center on campus.

Best of all, she says, “I know that the work I do at the university makes a difference in the lives of people. It makes a difference in the lives of students, and it makes a difference in the lives of donors.”

Carrie Throm

Photo by Scott Soderberg, Michigan Photography

One of Throm's favorite works from the UMMA collection, the Pablo Picasso painting "Two Girls Reading" reminds her of days spent enjoying books together with her daughter.

Carrie Throm
Deputy Director for Development and External Relations
University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA)

“My passion for the arts is really what has driven my career,” says Carrie Throm. As a French horn player who minored in music while majoring in quantitative economics and decision sciences at the University of California – San Diego, Throm decided early on that she “didn’t want to be a professional musician, but wanted to be close to the art world.”

After earning a master’s degree in arts administration at Indiana University in Bloomington, Throm directed publicity for the school of music there. Then came a move to the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she eventually shifted from public relations to development. “That’s where my development career took off,” she notes.

In 2005, Throm joined the U-M development community as assistant dean for development and external relations at the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance. “What attracted me to Michigan was the opportunity to continue serving my passions for higher education and the arts at a university where everything is top-notch,” she says. “The academics are amazing across the board, and the community fits our family dynamic well. We’re raising a daughter here, and we just absolutely love Ann Arbor.” In her spare time, Throm sings alto in the University Musical Society’s Choral Union.

After a few years, Throm was promoted to the senior management team within the Office of University Development. “While I really enjoyed that time and gained invaluable experience that continues to impact my daily work, it became more and more evident how much I missed serving that arts passion.” When asked to step in as an interim development director for UMMA in 2010, Throm found herself once again connecting with her core passions. Her work as interim director led to a successful bid for the full-time position.

“Because of the rich diversity of the development community, Michigan is a place where your path can go so many ways,” Throm says. “You can find where you’re best suited and, if your work is respected and your relationships are solid, really find a home here.”  

Mike Hartwell
Associate Director of Development, Children's and Women's Health
Michigan Medicine Office of Development

As Acting Senior Director of Development for Children's and Women's Health, Mike Hartwell has a personal connection to his work. In 2004, Mike lost his son Eric, who was 9, to a battle with graft vs. host disease following a bone-marrow transplant for leukemia. Eric's particular type of leukemia was so rare that he was the only person on record in North America to have had it.

"We did all of our due diligence as parents to find out where we should go," Mike says. "And everyone we spoke with in medicine said to come to U-M."

After Eric passed away, Mike and his wife, Lisa, started the Eric Hartwell Foundation. The Foundation organizes an annual 5K and 10K race in the Hartwells' hometown of Brighton, Mich., to benefit C.S. Mott's Children's Hospital. It also provides amenities to bone-marrow transplant patients and their families at Mott. Through that work, Mike came to serve on several Mott committees to provide feedback from a parental standpoint. In 2009, he transitioned from his advertising and entrepreneurial background to bring his passion to the Michigan Medicine Office of Development team.

Now, a sign in Mike's office, sitting right above a picture of Eric, reads: Have I made a difference today? "If I didn't, I'm letting the researchers down, and I'm letting the kids down, and I'm letting the families down," he explains, "because I have that ability to connect those dots, to find that resource that can help make magic happen."

When looking for those connections, Mike describes his focus as "donor-centric."

"What do donors want to do? What are their dreams? And how can I find ways to help them realize those dreams and make them even more than what they envisioned?" he says. "To me, that's what it's all about; it's what gets me up every day. I don't mind waking up thinking about all the work that's got to be done, because in the end, it's saving lives."

And that goal resonates throughout the Hartwell family. Mike's oldest son, Matt, is currently a first-year medical-school student at the U-M. His field of study? Pediatric oncology.


Byron Roberts

Photo by U-M Photo Services

Roberts at the Robert H. Lurie Engineering Center, where he and his staff are "always thinking about students"

Byron Roberts
Senior Director of Advancement
College of Engineering

"I often tell people when they start here that it's a great place because there's so much talent, and the people who work here want to be here," says Byron Roberts, Senior Director of Advancement for the College of Engineering (COE). "That combination of talent and desire really makes for a fabulous working environment." It's something the U-M alum noticed right away when he returned to his alma mater after stints in banking and in newspaper marketing. "People aren't here because they couldn't find another job," he says. "They're here because they believe in the mission of the University."

Roberts, who holds an M.B.A. from Stanford, joined COE as Director of Media and Marketing in 2001, and he's assumed increasing responsibility in the decade since. In his current position, Roberts takes pride in a team-based, strategic approach, whether the issue is who's sitting next to whom at an event or how well edited the alumni magazine is.

"But regardless of what we're doing," he continues, "we're always thinking about students. And when they become alumni, you can see that they really love this place. I'm grateful to be a part of this."

Maureen Shafer

Photo by Steve Kuzma Photography

The long view on a city loved: Schafer at Ann Arbor's historic Broadway Bridge

Maureen Schafer
Senior Director of Stewardship and Donor Relations
Office of University Development

An Ann Arbor native, Maureen Schafer understands the draw of a big city, having lived for short stints in both London and Florence before choosing to return to her hometown. "I love being in Ann Arbor," says the former singer, adding, "It's manageable in size and yet offers so much of what a big city has going for it. I could go to a student performance of professional caliber every single evening. And it's not unusual to find that a visiting artist has a tour schedule that includes New York City, D.C., San Francisco and Ann Arbor."

"I found my way into development through my love of the arts," Schafer says. "At Michigan, the two have come together in a way that is very meaningful for me."

Schafer finds U-M to be "really focused on people's professional growth—not only on a daily basis, working with colleagues across the university and learning from them, but also through well thought-out programs specific to a person's career development," she says.

"There's so much to take advantage of to help you grow!"


Maureen Martin

Photo by Martin Vloet, Michigan Photography

At the heart of it all: Martin spins "The Cube" in Regents Plaza

Maureen Martin
Executive Director of Foundation Relations and Program Initiatives
Office of University Development

As a former development director for arts, educational and environmental organizations around the country, Maureen Martin had done it all. "A director of development has to deal with so many aspects of the profession," she says. "Work with new prospects, handle direct mail, deal with management issues and boards…."

When she moved into U-M foundation relations seven years ago, Martin was thrilled for the opportunity to concentrate on one particular area of her expertise. She now devotes all of her time to connecting U-M's research and educational programs with their best opportunities for outside support. "What I love about this job is that you can be strategizing about funding important work designed to treat drug-resistant bacteria in a meeting one morning, and helping to develop programs encouraging community-college transfers that afternoon," she says. "After seven years at Michigan, I still enjoy my work every bit as much as I did in the first year!"


Kat Walsh

Teaching the next generation: Kat Walsh draws on ideas from her U-M master's degree in higher education to inspire future philanthropists and development pros.

Kat Walsh
Director, DEI Initiatives & Student Engagement
Office of University Development

Kat Walsh took the long road to U-M development: born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. B.A. in theatre and history from Notre Dame. Stints as a private-school alumni relations director, admissions coordinator and teacher of geography, religion and history. Theatre choreographer. Dual master in higher education and public policy. Intern at the U.S. Navy's Center for Defense Management Reform.

While studying in the U-M's graduate program in higher education Walsh got to know a group of faculty mentors and fundraisers who encouraged her interest in a pipeline for the development profession. Their conversations eventually led her to a job in U-M development, where she helped found the Development Summer Internship Program. The program, which introduces undergraduates to philanthropy as a lifelong pursuit, has won several major awards and is now being replicated on campuses nationwide.

Walsh still directs D-SIP, she also leads the U-M's student-philanthropy initiatives and Telefund operations. Asked what drew her to her career, she says, "I absolutely love working in fundraising because development officers are by their very nature change agents. Whether we're working as frontline fundraisers or in support services, our role is to connect people's passions to the needs of the world. I can think of no more rewarding profession."


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