“When you get the call, you answer it,” says Jeffries, who not only joined, but became the first African American woman to chair the board upon assuming the role in January 2021. “I understand how coveted these appointments are and don’t take such requests lightly.”
The appointment is a highlight in a long career of public service—something she didn’t anticipate pursuing upon graduating from Fisk University in Nashville with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration.
“I sort of fell into working in government and community relations,” says Jeffries, who is director of Government and Community Affairs at Oakland Community College (OCC). “I had a job as an insurance adjuster right out of college, followed by an event manager job at the Detroit Institute of Arts. I was working an event there when I met Betty Appleby, who worked with [former Michigan] Governor Engler. She became an important mentor to me and invited me to become involved in politics.”
Thanks to that connection, Governor Engler appointed Jeffries to the Michigan Community Service Commission. Later, she became a congressional case worker for former Michigan Senator Spencer Abraham. When he lost his bid for re-election in 2001, Jeffries worked in government and community relations for Governor Engler’s southeast Michigan office. Then, she served in the office of Michigan Secretary of State.
“With each job, I’ve acquired a skill set for my next position,” Jeffries says. “My career is also a testament for the value of good mentor relationships. I have to credit Betty Appleby and others who proactively mentored me: Nadine Cook, an executive at Ascension Health, and Beverly Stanbrough, a colleague of mine at OCC and a longtime friend.
“All of these women are spiritually grounded, caring and know their stuff. I respect them greatly and have always tried to pattern my behavior after them.”
During this time, Jeffries also earned her MBA from Northwood University and, as a single parent, raised her daughters Jasmine, Ivy and Camille.
“Technology is my best friend in terms of scheduling my days and getting things done,” says Jeffries, a Farmington Hills resident. “I do it just like any other working parent. When I first joined the board, I had to put my kids on the school bus and rush to campus to attend important board meetings. Now, I have one college graduate and another daughter in college. This gives me a unique perspective as Regent. A lot of the things we address on the board are issues I hear from my kids, like tuition costs.”
Jeffries had the distinct honor of presenting her oldest daughter Jasmine with her diploma in August during her graduation ceremony at Kent State University. Jasmine’s degree is in Exercise Science.
“The university president invited me to be on the main platform,” Jeffries says. “It was an extraordinarily proud moment for me that I greatly appreciated.”
In addition to her work at Eastern and OCC, Jeffries is a volunteer within the community.
“The mayor of Farmington Hills appointed me to the city’s Economic Development Corporation,” she says. “I’m also a board member at Crossover Church in Southfield. And for the past eight years, I’ve been the costume coordinator for the Institute of Dance at Marygrove. My youngest daughter is one of about 80 dancers there. I order all the costumes and oversee the props for their productions. It’s one of the activities that keeps me grounded and focused.”
As a Regent, Jeffries follows a lighthearted approach, bringing disparate personalities together to help create and refine policies that help move Eastern forward.
“We’ve been appointed by different governors with different parties for different reasons,” Jeffries says. “Some of us are Eastern alumni; some are not. We each have our values and priorities. I try to present a relaxed attitude that allows us to collectively serve Eastern in a productive and honorable way.”
Jeffries also relies on her faith to guide her personal and professional life.
“I read the book ‘How Strong Women Pray’ by Bonnie St. John about 10 years ago, and I refer to it often,” she says. “It presents various perspectives on effective leadership. I’ve learned that one person can’t do it all. For me, this resource is one of life’s playbooks.”
Jeffries’ term as a Regent expires in December 2024.
Editor's Note: This is the third in a series of feature stories about members of the EMU Board of Regents. We will be featuring a Regent each Wednesday from now through November. Regent Michelle Crumm was featured on Sept. 28, and Regent Dennis Beagen was featured on Oct. 5.
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. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.