Blog: Michael Drake

Michael Drake is the director of corporate relations for the University of Michigan's College of Engineering. He joined the College in December of 2002, after working with Aon Corporation, where, in the course of four years, he held various positions including analytical, web development, and procurement management roles.

Prior to Aon, Drake served as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Kyrgyzstan, one of the former Soviet Central Asian Republics. As a Small Enterprise Development volunteer, he worked to enhance local tourism development, along with establishing a revolving credit program for farmers. He has a B.S. from Cornell University in Business Management and Marketing. 

Photo

Michael Drake at Maya Lin's Wave Field by Doug Coombe

Michael Drake - Most Recent Posts:

Post 1: Welcome to Kyrgyzstan

"Are you going to live in a yurt?"  This was the first question asked by one of my college roommates when I received my offer letter from the Peace Corps to go to Kyrgyzstan. Traveling halfway around the world, and spending more than two years living in one of the more remote places on earth, provided me with an invaluable amount of time to learn, grow and gain perspective.

Growing up in rural New York, I had little global perspective, and I had no idea what I was really getting into joining the Peace Corps.  It is impossible to convey the impact of this experience, but I can easily say that it was profound, and is why I am in Ann Arbor today.  The strong network of Peace Corp Volunteers, and the understanding that all volunteers have about what it takes to serve, connected me with Ann Arbor.  The Peace Corps is a community, a very strong community built on a diverse set of backgrounds, experiences, and a strong sense of service and inclusiveness.   

I see these core values of community, service, and inclusiveness as vital for the future.  This will sound cliché to most people but if you stop and think, the lack of these in our society is painfully obvious.  I was welcomed into a country where I didn’t speak the language, know the culture, or truly understand my job.  People were eager to have me as a guest in their homes.  They wanted to learn about the U.S. and understand our culture.  People went out of their way to help me integrate into Kyrgyz society and understand my role.  I had no choice but to be a part of the community.  It was a lot of fun – karaoke, weddings, hiking, and more.

 Ann Arbor is a great community.  Our town has the capability to provide an amazing experience for anyone who lives here.  That said, it is important to understand what it really means to share these core values.  The ability to further develop our town hinges on understanding cultures and expanding our sense of service and community.  We need to continue defining and developing an environment that is welcoming.   It is important to me to think about this question: would someone from Krygyzstan experience here what I experienced there? 

After living in Ann Arbor for five years, I am encouraged to think that someone visiting from Kyrgyzstan could experience the welcoming environment that I saw during my time in the Peace Corps.  Although I've only lived in one part of town, my neighborhood is open, connected, and welcoming.  Neighbors get together regularly; block parties are common.  This type of environment is fertile ground for a great experience.  This environment is a big reason why I am still here today.

So what – why is this important?  Developing an international perspective should profoundly change how you work and play.  It did for me.  Gaining my international perspective came from living in a challenging communications environment, developing an understanding of something (many things actually) completely foreign, and refining my patience.  If we eliminated fear of the unknown and improved people's ability to communicate, we would all live in a much better place.  In addition, patience can yield a lot. 

More broadly, our region's vitality is linked to our ability to attract and retain businesses.  This means attracting and retaining talented people to work for those businesses.  The community's response to new members, or potential new members, is critical as we transform our economy.  A society dominated by individuals with an international perspective creates a clear competitive advantage in establishing a desirable/livable community for work and play.  

In case you were curious, I didn't live in a yurt but spent a fair amount of time in several.

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