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Week of November 5, 2012

Staff Spotlight

Outreach coordinator working on solo album

Growing up in Detroit and raised on Motown hits, Michael Turner had a confession to make when, at 18 years old, he saw a Lenny Kravitz music video and a friend suggested he check out a certain left-handed guitarist who inspired Kravitz.

“I was a college freshman who didn’t know who Jimi Hendrix was,” he says.

Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography.

Now, a picture of Hendrix decorates the middle of his desk in an office on South University, where Turner, now a community outreach coordinator in the Center for Educational Outreach, plays a sample of a song from his own upcoming album.

His solo debut, due out early next year, is a fusion of rock and R&B with Latin and Middle Eastern influences. The blend of genres in his music reflects his own opinions on the field as a whole.

“The one thing that unifies people is music,” Turner says, adding that he’s played for many different populations of people and been able to connect with them all.

Working for the Center for Educational Outreach, Turner’s ability to connect with many different audiences has been an asset. His job is to create and monitor programs that provide pathways and access to higher education for socio-economically challenged communities throughout the region. A lot of that involves meeting and building relationships with schools, community organizations and parents.

Turner relishes the opportunity to reach as many people as possible.

“My job is to create college-going cultures in every community I go to,” he says.

A product of Cass Tech High School, Turner left for Southern Methodist University, where he was a fine arts major. After acting professionally for a while, he came back to the Detroit area looking to give back to his community, but was surprised by how much he enjoyed his new line of work.

“I didn’t plan on getting ‘bit by the bug,’” he says.

Because the programs he creates are meant to be long term, Turner also is responsible for looking at what works and what doesn’t work, and occasionally tweaking the structure when needed.

In addition to educating parents about college, from finding the right fit to financial aid and extracurricular activities, Turner’s programs include Future U, a series of hands-on career exploration workshops for Michigan middle school students.

“I believe in this. I believe 100 percent in the mission of the Center for Educational Outreach and what we’re trying to do,” he says.

Turner says his background in the arts has helped him with his new career, and vice versa.

“People look at it like it’s a dichotomy,” he says. “But they go hand-in-hand.”

The key, Turner says, is to focus on delivering an impactful message regardless of the audience. Music, for example, always has a message to convey, and while he’s performed for people of many different populations and demographics, the goal never changes. The same can be said of acting and, now, in educational outreach for the university.

“You have to learn to be really flexible in the arts,” he says. “It’s not always going to be a packed house, but if there’s one person, you give the same message to that one person.”

Another important part of his job is recognizing that each audience is different and to reach out to them in whatever ways are possible.

“I meet people where they are,” he said. “I’ve never believed in meeting people halfway.”


The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at urecord@umich.edu.

READER COMMENTS (5) POST A COMMENT 
Posted by Tiffany | Nov 18, 2012
Met this man over the last couple of years, and slowly stated to understand life at it's finest. Mike and he awesome lady of his life Mal are complete inspirations to me to be happy. I am so proud to call you my friend and a inspiration to not only me but to all. thanks :)
Posted by Tiffany | Nov 18, 2012
Met this man over the last couple of years, and slowly stated to understand life at it's finest. Mike and he awesome lady of his life Mal are complete inspirations to me to be happy. I am so proud to call you my friend and a inspiration to not only me but to all. thanks :)
Posted by Mary Davis (Mom) | Nov 16, 2012
What a great article!!I am so proud of my son! Thank you for sharing.
Posted by Brenda Dennis | Nov 16, 2012
Im so proud, you inspire me, even at my age.
Posted by Markeysha Davis | Nov 6, 2012

"My precious...". :) Great article! I didn't know this guy could be summed up in words; I've been trying to accomplish that all my life.



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STAFF SPOTLIGHT

Michael Turner, community outreach coordinator, Center for Educational Outreach, on being a musician: “The one thing that unifies people is music.”

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