United Way of Southwest Michigan’s director of advocacy chosen for selective statewide advocacy program

Published 3:03 pm Thursday, April 22, 2021

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN —Heather Cole, director of advocacy and public innovation at United Way of Southwest Michigan, is one of only 60 individuals asked to participate in the third cohort of the Michigan League for Public Policy Advocacy Boot Camp.

The program, to take place virtually this year on May 20 and 21, brings together a dynamic group from around the state who share a commitment to improving public policy in Michigan, officials said. Participants will build on advocacy knowledge and skills, network with other change-makers, and strategize on ways to continue to make Michigan a more equitable place for all to thrive.

“I’m honored to be included in this year’s MLPP Advocacy Bootcamp, and I’m looking forward to learning more skills to become a better advocate myself and to grow UWSM’s advocacy department in a way that elevates the voices in our community that aren’t often heard,” Cole said. “I want to make sure that everyone feels empowered to advocate for change that is important to them.”

UWSM strives to be a catalyst for change by mobilizing the power of communities, a representative for the organization said. Through public-policy advocacy, the nonprofit is working to achieve systems-level change in the areas of health, education, and financial stability—with focus on ALICE households (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) in Berrien, Cass, and Van Buren counties. ALICE households are those whose earnings are above the Federal Poverty Line but who fail to cover basic needs, such as housing, technology, healthcare and childcare.

“We’re very pleased that Heather is included among those on the front line of advocacy and public-policy change in our state,” said Anna Murphy, president and CEO of United Way of Southwest Michigan. “This is an important opportunity that the Michigan League for Public Policy has given her to help turn our advocacy efforts into the great successes we know they will continue to be.”

Cole joined United Way in 2014 and has facilitated projects aimed at advocating for health policies, building local and statewide partnerships and increasing access to educational opportunities. Cole received her B.S. in dietetics and M.A. in Health Promotion & Program Management from Central Michigan University. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist and has participated in Leadership Training from NovoEd, Teams of Leaders, and the Center for Creative Leadership/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.