Education and human development alumni recognized as most influential people of West Michigan

Contact: Nicole Leffler

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Six Western Michigan University College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) alumni have been recognized by Crain's Grand Rapids Business as either emerging leaders, influential leaders or notable leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Crain's describes these lists as the "who's who" of power brokers across the West Michigan region, highlighting those individuals who are making a difference and leaving a large impact in their wake. CEHD graduates on these lists range from a superintendent of the state's eight largest school district to an NBA-affliate's chief operating officer. Read about each individual below:

  • Rhae-Ann Booker, M.A. '14, Ph.D. '08, evaluation, measurement and research, is currently vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at University of Michigan Health-West (UMH-W). Booker is nationally known for her advocacy and DEI work. Since coming to UMH-W in 2019, the institution has seen many milestones, one of which being national recognition in 2022 for a commitment to equity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ patients, families and employees. Prior to joining the team at UMH-W, Booker worked as an executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Davenport University. Read more about Rhae-Ann Booker, one of Crain's Grand Rapids Business's Notable Leaders in DEI .
  • In the 10 years since graduating, Trey Conner, B.S. '12, physical education, has seen much success. Shortly after graduating, Conner was hired by the Grand Rapids Gold (formerly Grand Rapids Drive) as the director of community relations. In this role, Conner saw the opportunity to flip his education skills into community outreach and help guide children in a different way. Conner was one of a few individuals who helped launch the Gold, the first and only minor league basketball team in Michigan, and he built it into the success it is today. In 2022, Conner was entrusted to become the Gold's chief operating officer, a position in which he still strives to not only entertain the community but also influence the community. Conner utilizes his position to ensure that the Gold provide summer camps, reading programs in schools and local fundraisers. Read more about Trey Conner, one of Crain's Grand Rapids Business's 40 Under 40. 
  • Jazz McKinney, M.A. '14, counseling psychology, has been working in the mental health field for over a decade. Additionally, McKinney has worked in the areas of racial justice and activism in the 2-SLGBTQ+ community for nearly two decades. Currently they are serving as the executive director to the Grand Rapids Pride Center, an organization aimed at providing support and celebration to the 2-SLGBTQ+ community by breaking down barriers, creating awareness and providing inclusive services. Learn more about Jazz McKinney, one of Crain's Grand Rapids Business's Most Influential Leaders.
  • Hired as superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) in 2020, Leadriane Roby, Ph.D. '12, educational leadership, has been an influential educator to our community for over 25 years. She has seen every side of a classroom, beginning as an elementary classroom teacher among other education roles. Under her leadership, GRPS has celebrated its 150th anniversary, created a strategic plan and is now leading a community collaboration project titled, "Reimagine GRPS with Us!", in hopes of realigning resources to reinvest in all children. Learn more about Leadriane Roby, one of Crain's Grand Rapids Business's Most Influential Leaders. 
  • Sandra Upton, M.A. ' 94, educational leadership, is the founder and chief DEI strategist for Upton Consulting Group in Grand Rapids, where she developed inclusivity hiring practices and diversity programs. Over her more-than-25-year career, Upton has worked with notable organizations such as the Grand Rapids Art Museum, SpartanNash and more. Learn more about Sandra Upton, one of Crain's Grand Rapids Business's Notable Leaders in DEI. 
  • Richard Winn, B.S. '78, secondary education, is the president of AHC Hospitality, a hospitality group that has grown from one, the Amway Grand, to seven under Winn's leadership. With over 35 years of experience, Winn's company brings the majority of tourism to Grand Rapids, and has earned him many awards and honors. Learn more about one of Crain's Grand Rapids Most Influential Leaders, Richard Winn.


Also listed as one of Crain's Grand Rapids Business's 200 Most Influential Leaders of West Michigan, was none other than Western's President Dr. Edward Montgomery. Read more about Dr. Edward Montgomery.

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