Kara Wood, managing director of economic development services for the City of Grand Rapids, will join Western Michigan University as its new associate vice president for community partnerships. Wood, a WMU alumna, is a seasoned economic development professional with two decades of experience. She will now lead the University's efforts to engage and develop collaboration with key community partners, both locally and regionally.
"I'm excited to join the team at Western Michigan University to continue the tradition of collaboration and public-private partnerships to advance the University's growth in the state of Michigan," says Wood. "I'm certainly excited to support my alma mater and build on the professional experience that I've gained over the last 20 years."
As associate vice president for community partnerships, Wood will work closely with University leadership to advance corporate engagement in areas including research, economic development and talent development.
"We are thrilled to have Kara join the Government Relations team. Kara's leadership with local and state governmental entities has resulted in meaningful partnerships involving higher education institutions, the corporate sector and the nonprofit communities," says Jeffrey Breneman, WMU's vice president for government relations. "Kara's unique background will grow WMU's public impact through new student, faculty and staff engagement opportunities and the communities we serve."
Wood replaces Bob Miller, who retired from the position he'd held with the University for 20 years in July.
Wood has spent the past 12 years working for the City of Grand Rapids. She started as economic development director and was promoted to managing director of economic development services in 2016. Her leadership in developing and implementing new and innovative economic development programs generated increased investment in the city, boosted revitalization efforts and bolstered job retention and creation.
A graduate of WMU's public administration master's program, Wood returned to her alma mater from 2014-16 to teach graduate students in the School of Public Affairs and Administration. Her previous experience working for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation allowed her to give students insight into both state and local government finance and economic development.
"My education at WMU helped lay the foundation for my growth as an economic development leader," Wood says. "Being able to now help advance the University's goals and create meaningful partnerships within the community and region is a dream come true. I'm looking forward to getting to work."