Flint, Kettering have played a large role in life of Mott Foundation's Liversedge

Flint, Kettering have played a large role in life of Mott Foundation's Liversedge

Jul 21, 2014

“Kettering has always been a special place for me.”

Jennifer Liversedge '97


Jennifer Liversedge '97 still remembers the Flint of her childhood. She remembers vibrant neighborhoods, a bustling downtown with ample retail activity, and a time when there was a strong sense of community.

Unfortunately, that’s not the Flint she returned to in 2010, after a successful career that spanned the public and private sectors across the United States. The city she returned to was struggling to right-size and reinvent itself in the wake of decades-long job loss and a recession that hit “rust-belt” communities like Flint with particular ferocity. Despite these serious challenges, Liversedge did recognize one unmistakable characteristic that remained intact – the omnipresent soul of the community.

“There’s something about Flint,” Liversedge said. “There’s a compelling story here. This is where important work is taking place.”

That compelling narrative is what attracted Liversedge back to her hometown four years ago when she accepted a position to be assistant to Mott Foundation President and CEO William S. White, and program officer for the Foundation’s Flint Area and Special and Exploratory Initiatives grantmaking portfolios. This position fits well with Liversedge’s personal and professional experiences and most importantly, returns her to the hometown she has loved from both near and afar.

“I’m resolved now. This is the place for me to be,” Liversedge said. “Clearly decline has taken place, but it is a community that still has great assets. To me, the greatest asset is its people and that makes Flint a place where there’s great potential for positive impact.”

A Three-Fold Kettering Connection

In a recent meeting at Kettering University, Professor Pete Gheresus pointed out Liversedge’s three-fold connection to the University – she’s a graduate, a Mott Foundation program officer responsible for managing the school as a grantee, and long before either of those, she’s family.

Liversedge’s father, Carmon, began working at Kettering in 1970 and remained at the University for the next 38 years. He retired in 2008 from his position in the corporate relations department. A career that spanned four decades left a lasting impact on Liversedge as it framed her childhood experiences with Kettering in background.

“Since I was born, so much of my life frame contains Kettering,” Liversedge said. “Kettering has always been a special place for me.”

Growing up in Flint, Liversedge completed her K-12 education in the Flint Community Schools before completing her undergraduate degree in finance between the University of Michigan-Flint and Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

“After I completed that degree, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it,” Liversedge said. “My father suggested Kettering because there are so many things you can do with a Kettering degree. So I applied, transitioned there, and loved it.”

Liversedge graduated from Kettering in 1997 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. She completed parts of her co-op placement in North Carolina and Virginia but finished and conducted her thesis at RIMA Manufacturing in Hudson, Michigan.

“Even during my co-op, there were pulls to see and do different things but there always were pulls to come back to Flint as well,” Liversedge said.

After graduating from Kettering, She spent the next eight years working in the automotive industry before an opportunity in the nation’s capital once again sent her out east.

Leaving and Returning to Michigan        

In 2005, Liversedge accepted a position in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Washington D.C. where she oversaw patent application reviews in the fields of finance and operations research, another unique step in her diverse career path.  

“Nothing that you learn at Kettering is ever wasted,” Liversedge said. “The organizational skills and practice looking at systems and processes, those things apply to everything that you do.”

While in Washington, Liversedge’s interest in public education equity grew as she facilitated GED classes, became a mentor in after-school programs and volunteered with numerous other organizations through her church. Before leaving for Washington, she also completed her master’s degree in secondary education which helped lay another piece in the foundation for her current work in Flint.

“Everything we do contributes to who we are," she said. "The time in the automotive field was important as was my time in D.C. Each of those experiences contributed to my current perspective and skillset and helped prepare me to be successful right now. I value each phase for what it was.”

Volunteering her time with non-profits and causes that were dear to her has always been a part of Liversedge’s life, and the opportunity to work for the Mott Foundation was an ideal path to elevate and cement her desire to work on behalf of those in need.

The Intertwined Future of Kettering and Flint

In her current position with the Mott Foundation, Liversedge manages approximately 20 programs and grantees, one of which is Kettering University. Liversedge is overseeing Mott Foundation’s $15.5 million pledge to the University in 2012, which aims to help grow student enrollment, communicate the university’s unique identity to a broad audience, build alumni relationships and support for the school and nurture the school’s economic impact on the Flint Community.

“I have been encouraged with Dr. [Robert] McMahan’s vision of how a university can integrate into the rest of the community,” Liversedge said. “Even more so than just a partner, how does Kettering set itself up as a leader? There’s a lot of technology and innovation and entrepreneurship that is fostered at Kettering, how does that translate to economic development in Flint?”

Mott’s pledge to Kettering has already resulted in the Einstein’s Bros. Bagels and Campus Safety headquarters on the corner of University and N. Chevrolet Avenues, the soon-to-open FIRST Robotics Community Center at Kettering University and the facilitation of a new campus master plan which is scheduled to be unveiled later on this year. Since 1983, the Mott Foundation has invested $29.6 million in Kettering with the 2012 pledge being the highest single commitment the University has ever received.

“Kettering is already a strong anchor in the community and is really expanding on that and playing a more active role in the community,” Liversedge said. “I’ve been impressed to see how Kettering has been engaging in that way.”   

Going forward, Liversedge intends to continue to use the “Kettering lens” to enhance the work she does in Flint for the Mott Foundation.

“My experience at Kettering has provided me with a unique perspective and an excellent foundation for whatever path my life takes," she said. "Right now, I’m very pleased to be a part of some important initiatives in Flint related to educational opportunities for youth and young adults.  I’d like the city’s youth to be able to capitalize on the many educational assets that are here in Flint both for their personal betterment and for the continued advancement of the city.”

Written By Pardeep Toor | Contact: Patrick Hayes - phayes@kettering.edu - (810) 762-9639