Get to Know CEDAM’s Communications Specialist, Jennifer Lareau-Gee

Jennifer (Jenn) joins CEDAM as our communications specialist with a range of experience and skills, and a passion for amplifying the work of our industry!

Emily, Director of Communications & Training: Can you give me a brief overview of what you were doing before joining CEDAM and how that led you here?

Jenn, Communications Specialist: Before CEDAM, I was doing a lot of freelance. I worked a lot with the University of Olivet – editing social media posts, editing and writing press releases and articles for their alumni magazine and editing new content for their website redesign. They recently went through the rebranding process from Olivet College to the University of Olivet so I helped with that and created an updated style guide for university-wide use.

I also did some freelance magazine editing for a recipe magazine; I’ve done some digital marketing freelance; I ghost wrote a chapter for a book on sales, I’ve edited fiction novels. And I also edited article submissions for the U of M College of Engineering. Aside from freelance, I was the academic editor for the MSU College of Nursing for over 2 years; edited Ph.D. dissertations, grant applications, journal submissions, compiled and edited handbooks; and developed marketing materials, newsletters, and audits and reports for internal communications. 

Emily: Does it excite you to learn about something new that isn’t normally your world?

Jenn: Yes, usually. It was interesting learning more about areas and getting a new perspective even if it originally wasn’t a topic I was interested in, like engineering. I have no background with that. Versus working in the College of Nursing, my stepmom was a registered nurse and worked for over 20 years, my mother-in-law is a nurse and a nurse educator, and my husband works in a hospital. Medical terminology and knowledge have been around me for most of my life, so it was nice being able to apply that in another context.

What has ended up happening inadvertently is the jobs I’ve taken gave me an opportunity to further develop an interest I already had or get a peek inside of something I hadn’t ever considered. For example, I’ve always wanted to edit fiction books. Being able to freelance from that perspective let me scratch an itch that I had without directly being in the field. 

With CEDAM, I had never considered working at a nonprofit. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more in tune with the climate around me in terms of politics and being able to live. It felt like the right time, considering the current state of Michigan, to be a part of a nonprofit focused on equitable economic development.

Emily: What are you looking forward to most as the communications specialist at CEDAM? 

Jenn: Increasing the reach of CEDAM’s message. If I hadn’t been looking for a job I would not have known it was a thing – there a lot of people caught in a helpless position. To know there is a nonprofit that is doing good work across the state, I feel a broader reach would be beneficial to not only Michigan as a state so that its legislators and leaders can see where the gaps are that need to be filled, but also to give citizens of Michigan insight and show that there are people considering these things. 

Emily: What excites you most about community development as a field?

Jenn: Seeing it in action! I know that a lot of work has been done to revitalize communities, to get them interacting with one another, make them safer, and just building that sense of community. It’s not just a word. It’s been ignited in Southeast Michigan in the last few years. Seeing what that means from a housing perspective and seeing the community do better as a whole is warming. It makes you feel good. 

Seeing community members take initiative on their own to help themselves, improve their area, and get a better representative for their voice versus waiting on the elected officials to do something, and make their community more than just the literal word but a means of support and growth and nourishment is amazing.

Emily: Is there anything else you would like to share? What do you want to get out of this role? 

Jenn: I am excited to grow, be a better communicator, to learn more about economic development and community development and be more immersed and see where I can do more. I want to be the star behind the scenes. If what I can do as a communications specialist is amplify the message and make sure the message is clear and hit a broader reach or create success in funding and news attention – that’s what I want to do. 

Lighting round: Get to know you questions!

What’s the last book you read?

Jenn: Masters of Death, by Olivie Blake

What are you currently watching?

Jenn: National Geographic did a series on the JFK assassination that I’ve been watching. I also started watching Reacher on Amazon Prime. Tasting History on YouTube is my big go-to.

If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?

Jenn: On a cruise ship. But an actual place, probably back to Alaska in the summer to whale watch. I also really want to see great white sharks so probably go to South Africa.

What was the last concert you attended? 

Jenn: Chloe & Halle in Detroit when they were touring with Beyonce and Jay Z. 

What’s your favorite hobby? 

Jenn: Video games and reading. I also cross-stitch!