Ruth Johnson

Public Policy Director

Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD)



Tell us a bit about your educational and professional trajectory

I received my bachelor's degree from James Madison College at MSU and my law degree from WSU Law School. After practicing law for nearly 15 years, I began working in the nonprofit sector. I've work for small and large organizations as well working as a nonprofit consultant. The common thread has been serving people and serving the community.

About the Organization

Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD) has served as the leading voice for Detroit’s community development sector for more than 20 years. As a membership centered organization with more than 175 members, CDAD advocates for public policies and resources that advance the work of nonprofit, community-based organizations and resident-led groups in Detroit neighborhoods who are engaged in physical development, land use planning, community organizing, and other activities designed to stabilize and revitalize the quality of life in Detroit.

Tell us a bit about your projects (in which you worked with UROP students)

As part of a coalition, CDAD worked to prevention evictions and to establish a right to counsel for low-income Detroiters facing or at risk of eviction. Our UROP student helped prepare a flyer and assisted in a virtual summit with over 300 participants. She also prepared a comparison of different proposals regarding how the City of Detroit would spend the $826 million in American Rescue Plan funding. The comparison chart was shared with CDAD's members. The chart was referenced in a media interview and in a meeting with senior City officials. Lastly, she explained our ARPA advocacy work to a committee of CDAD members.

What attracted you to working with this organization and in your field?

I have been involved in community-based public policy advocacy for over 20 years. I had the pleasure of working with CDAD staff on advocacy for more public transportation and enhanced racial equity in the nonprofit sector. When the Public Policy Director opened up, I jumped on it, because it a continuation of my ongoing work and an opportunity to work with some great people.

What led you to become a mentor to undergraduate students?

I feel it's important to invest in people as advocates, leaders and researchers. This is especially important for undergraduate students to learn more about nonprofit careers and opportunities as a community-based advocate.

How do students contribute to your work?

CDAD has had students contribute in a variety of ways including conducting research, analyzing data, interviewing CDAD members and other community stakeholders, and drafting flyers, and reports.

What has been the most valuable lesson you have learned mentoring undergraduate students?

Being a college student during a pandemic requires incredible flexibility and adaptability.

What do you think is the key to a successful mentoring relationship and/or what is your favorite thing about mentoring?

Regular and open communications.

What advice do you have for current UROP students?

Be comfortable with your uncomfortableness. Being involved in new situations will help you develop new skills or strengthen your existing skill sets.

Do you have advice for future UROP Community Partners?

Your investment in a UROP student will pay dividends now and in the future.