Within Eastern’s boardrooms, new diverse voices are helping to shift and shape the University.
An increasing number of women are taking leadership roles on EMU boards and using their unique experiences to inspire students, faculty, staff and alumni. Of the four women featured here, three are also African-American—a rare occurrence for a non-historically black college or university.
For Trudy Adler (BSSW01), chair of the EMU Alumni Association Board of Directors, Eastern is an accelerator for personal change.
Once on academic probation, Adler redoubled her efforts and earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Work. After receiving a master’s degree, she enjoyed a career as a hospice care social worker. This year, she earned another master’s (in public administration) and began working in clinical oversight for Emergent Holdings, a Blue Cross/Blue Shield subsidiary.
“I came from a home where academics wasn’t pushed—consequently, I was a terrible student,” says Adler, who joined the board in 2009 and served two terms before rejoining in 2019. “But with Eastern’s help, I found success. To me, serving on the board is about engaging alumni to help students bridge social determinants of health.”
Adler says women have begun holding leadership positions within the social work field only within the past 10 years. She says the EMU landscape is also changing.
“It’s an historical moment,” Adler says. “The boards are becoming more representative of the makeup of the Eastern campus. It gives me positive chills.
“I’ve always been about overcoming obstacles. Eastern helped me realize that life is a series of moments that build up to a bigger picture. The decisions you make in each moment determines your success. Eastern is a place where you can find yourself and identify your area of success, no matter what your background.”
When EMU’s Board of Regents had an opening in 2016, then-Michigan Governor Rick Snyder appointed Eunice Jeffries to the position. Her longtime devotion to public service made Jeffries a perfect fit.
“I was charged with promoting volunteerism statewide with the Michigan Community Service Commission,” says Jeffries, who has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration from Fisk University and a Master’s of Business Administration from Northwood University. “When the Eastern board had an opening, I knew I had the capacity to take it on.”
Jeffries also served as director of Civic and Community Affairs for the State of Michigan and director of the national nonprofit organization Read to a Child. Today, she’s director of Government and Community Affairs at Oakland Community College.
In January 2021, Jeffries achieved a milestone by becoming the first African-American woman to chair Eastern’s Board of Regents. Her role comes with an obligation, she says.
“The board includes highly accomplished professionals who are all leaders in their own right,” Jeffries says. “Many of them are Eastern alums. For them to consider me worthy of being chair is humbling. Now that I’m in the role, I have to do the job right and do the university proud.”
One of her goals is to increase Eastern’s student retention rate.
“The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article about the size and diversity of Eastern’s freshman class,” Jeffries says. “We’re enjoying that accolade. But we’d also like to work toward increasing the number of students who complete their degrees here.
“Above all, I’m seeking as much feedback about the university as possible. Support your university leadership while respectfully giving us what we need to know to lead Eastern forward. We can’t lead effectively without it.”
“When I went into the criminal justice field, I didn’t exactly know my calling,” says Dara Munson (BS96), a Detroit native who earned a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice at Eastern. “After graduating, I worked at the Wayne County Department of Community Justice. During my time there, I knew I wanted to make a broader impact on underserved populations through education.”
Munson’s career—which includes senior executive roles with United Way of Southeastern Michigan, the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Metro Detroit—led to her role on the EMU Foundation Board of Trustees. She is the first African-American woman to serve as board chair.
“When I joined the board [in 2012], I was intrigued by the opportunity to help support first-generation college students,” says Munson, who is currently President and CEO of Family Focus, a leading human services agency in Chicago. “I could see opportunities for making an impact on students of color. And I can help donors understand how their gifts impact students.”
Munson has two views on becoming the first black woman to chair the board.
“I see myself as just doing the work I was called to do,” says Munson who is a recipient of EMU’s Alumni Achievement Award and Black Alumni Award. “For some people, it’s trendsetting and trailblazing.
“Each of the other women board members at Eastern have a different skill set and perspective. Their presence shows the critical role diversity of thought plays at the university. Together, we make up a powerful blanket of support for Eastern students.”
While many undergraduates spend finals week cramming at the Halle Library, Ebony Walls (BS14, MPA17) was also campaigning for a spot on the EMU Alumni Association Board of Directors.
“I was elected to the board [in 2014] before the ink was dry on my diploma,” says Walls, who earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and master’s in Nonprofit Organizational Management at EMU. “I wanted my connection with Eastern to extend far beyond my graduation.”
Due to illness, Walls missed four months of classes as an undergraduate and was on academic probation. After recovering her health, she worked five jobs to pay for her education and applied for numerous scholarships. She received 20 and graduated with honors.
“During the process of restoring my GPA, I was learning how to network with different offices on campus and Eastern alumni,” Walls says. “Eastern was very generous to me.”
Walls’ networking skills have been invaluable in her career as philanthropy and partnerships manager at Intersport, a national sports marketing agency that serves events like the PGA Tour Rocket Mortgage Classic. In addition to numerous other volunteer roles, she’s on the advisory board of GameAbove—a group of dedicated Eastern alumni.
In 2023, Walls will succeed Trudy Adler as president of the EMU Alumni Association Board.
“It’s a privilege to be elected incoming chair and to operate with such trust,” Walls says. “Above all, I do my best each day to inspire EMU students, staff and alumni to achieve beyond mediocrity. I’m excited about the work already done, but even more excited about what we’re going to do.”
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 15,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.