Intergroup Relations

Staci Daniels-Sommers and Patrick Howe

Staci Daniels-Sommers was very involved in a myriad of different IGR activities during her undergraduate years. She facilitated Intergroup Dialogue courses and worked with the Summer Youth Dialogues as a facilitator and a Program Manager. She graduated with her BA in 2007 and her MSW in 2011, both from U-M. Staci currently is serving as co-chair of the Alumni Committee, which is planning IGR’s Fall Alumni Weekend. She works for the Ginsberg Center at U-M and has a private psychotherapy and consulting practice.

Patrick Howe, who received his undergraduate degree from U-M in 2002, facilitated three dialogue classes when he was a student. He also worked as IGR's marketing intern for a year. Patrick  is a partner at Howard and Howard Attorneys PLLC in Detroit. His work is focused on Real Estate Development and Hospitality Law.

We recently caught up with Staci and Patrick to chat about their time in IGR and their current work.

Q: What impressions did you take away from your time in IGR?

Staci: IGR helped me understand that peoples’ experiences matter, my experience matters, and what we experience is not an accident.

Patrick: Being a part of IGR was not only an incredible experience, but it  helped develop a skill set that is invaluable in whatever career path you choose.   Addressing differences, communicating through conflict and tension, and arriving at common understandings, are things I encounter  every day as an attorney. My IGR experiences have made me a better  attorney.

Q: How did IGR influence your career choices?

Staci: I always wanted to be a social worker. IGR helped me to better understand social context and what helping and supporting people is really about.

Q: What kinds of skills did you learn in IGR that you continue to use in life?

Staci: I have used the facilitation skills I learned in IGR in all of my sets of work. I’ve learned to listen to people, meet people where they are in their process, and understand how societal context affects individuals and groups.

Patrick:  Much of my work is about helping Detroit entrepreneurs redevelop properties and open new businesses. In this work, there are many dynamics that come into play when we have to turn a concept (or a development plan) into a reality. When a client wants to embark on a new development, or open a businesses in a community, the interests of neighbors, community groups, competitors, political stakeholders, and governmental authorities, have to be respected, managed, and addressed.  I work with very diverse groups of interests and backgrounds, and I naturally rely on skills that were enforced in IGR dialogues.

The IGR concept that I carry with me on a daily basis, is the commitment to challenge a position, rather than the individual that owns that position. This is especially helpful when negotiating contracts, or getting a project to the finish line when neighbors and community groups are adamantly opposed. If all lawyers maintained the respect and integrity that is established in the IGR dialogue setting, the legal profession would be much more enjoyable!

Q: Can you say more about your role as Co-Chair of the Fall Alumni Weekend?

Staci: IGR provided me with the opportunity to meet awesome individuals that have diverse and interesting stories. I’m excited to see where everyone’s journey has taken them. I’m also excited to reminisce about the experiences we shared when we were at Michigan. I’d love to connect with any other alums over email and answer any questions about the Fall Alumni Weekend. Feel free to drop me a line at stacida@umich.edu!

Patrick: Serving in this role a great way for me to give back to a program that gave me so much. It's incredible how much the program has grown and expanded its reach since I graduated in 2002. The celebration of the 25th anniversary at the Alumni Weekend is an opportunity to not only reflect on what the program has done, but it should also be a catalyst to bring together over 16,000 IGR alumni.

IGR  is a pioneer and leader in the field of intergroup dialogues. By organizing our alumni, my hope is that we might be able to expand IGR's reach into community and professional circles in which our alumni are engaged.