Dionne Broadus

5 questions with… local government and community relations leader Dionne Broadus

Throughout her career, Dionne Broadus has collected skills and experiences in community engagement and development in jobs across the country. But each of those ultimately was leading her to her “dream job:” executive director of local government and community relations here at Case Western Reserve University, a position she’s held since July. Now, home in her native Cleveland, she gets to connect with her city in new ways.

Three years ago, Broadus moved back to Cleveland after 21 years away from her beloved city. During that time, she worked as an attorney in Chicago, at Essence magazine, at NYC & Company under former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and at New York City’s High Line.

But no matter where in the country she lived, Broadus, who previously served for two years as senior director of CWRU’s Office of Government and Foundation Relations, championed her hometown. “First and foremost, I have undying passion for Cleveland,” she said.

In her new position, Broadus puts that passion into action by increasing public awareness of CWRU’s deep community programs and investments (over 1,000) supporting community engagement initiatives, establishing relationships with local leaders.

One of her most important goals? Putting forth a revamped version of Case for Community Day. Prior to Broadus being appointed to the executive director position, university leadership decided to put the annual day of service on hold. At the time, they were conducting the search to fill the executive director position and hoped that the new executive director would be able to provide a fresh approach, and find new ways to make it even more impactful.

While Broadus is working with campus and community leaders to determine what Case for Community Day will look like moving forward, she hopes it will lead to a more year-round community service platform.

After all, for Broadus, making a difference every day is what’s most important.

In each of the jobs she has accepted along her career, she has had one crucial criterion: She had to be able to make an impact. In fact, after working as an attorney at two large law firms, Broadus realized that she wasn’t getting as much out of her career as she expected.

“I believed in my heart that there were more things that I could do to make an impact and make a difference,” Broadus said.

So she sought out more fulfilling career opportunities, where she could engage with the community she was serving.

And that’s what brought her here.

Immediately, she recognized the importance of the university to the city. In her previous role in CWRU’s foundation relations office, Broadus worked to generate more funding and resources for some of the university’s key outreach programs, including the mobile geriatric dentistry van, the Envoy program, the National Youth Sports Program and more.

While Broadus grew up in University Heights, her family had strong connections to some of Case Western Reserve’s closest neighboring communities in Hough and Glenville. Broadus’ father grew up in Glenville and worked in Hough, while her mom is a retired teacher, starting in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

Through her new role, Broadus has increased opportunities to ensure that Case Western Reserve University remains a good neighbor and provides even more opportunities for faculty, staff and students to give back to the city.

“It’s great being in a role where I can champion Cleveland every day,” she said.

Learn more about Broadus in this week’s five questions.

1. Who has been your most influential mentor?

My mom and my grandmother because they embodied strength, determination, love, kindness and just great character. I’ve always learned a lot from great, strong women.

And I wanted to become a lawyer because of Barbara Jordan, who was a leading legal and political leader.

I’ve really valued having great mentors all across my pathway—in grade school, in high school, in college. As a result of having good mentors and education being so important, there are two things I do now: I serve on the board of my high school, Beaumont, and I mentor with College Now [an organization that aims to ensure Northeast Ohio students attend college].

2. What was your first job?

I babysat in grade school and high school. I will say I have a tremendous work ethic—that was instilled in me by both my parents—and so I’ve always had a summer job. I worked at a bagel shop, I delivered papers. And I had internships in college.

3. Who is your favorite author?

I love Alice Walker. one of my favorite poets and authors is Gwendolyn Brooks. I loved Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. And Desmond Tutu’s An African Prayer Book…so meaningful after having dinner at the Archbishop’s home in South Africa.

I had a great English professor in high school; she was someone who really pushed me. I had a summer reading list and I always finished it. I was always drawn to classes where I had to write. I’m very glad that I had that appreciation of reading and literature.

4. How do you like to spend your time when you’re away from school and/or work?

I love sports and live music. I love to travel. I just like to be out and about trying new things in Cleveland. That might be a restaurant, an art event, a festival, just soaking up the city. There’s a lot of interesting people in Cleveland, and you’ve got to get out there to meet them.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

There are tremendous alums and history on this campus. There’s such a deep collection of people who have crossed paths at Case Western Reserve. And the fact that we are an anchor within (what I think is) the most interesting, culturally rich part of Cleveland makes this a pretty special place.