Michelle J. DePass: A Visionary Leader in Philanthropy, Equity, and Sustainability Justice

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    Michelle J. DePass is a seasoned professional with a wealth of experience in Philanthropy and Non-Profit Management, Strategic Partnerships, Financial Management, Corporate and Social Responsibility, Grantmaking, Strategic Planning, Policy Development, Staff Leadership, Governance, Equity Analytics, Social Inclusion, Human Rights Advocacy, Community Outreach, and Sustainable Development. Previously serving as the Executive Director of Upside Tech Alliance, based in Oakland, California, she lead a partnership that harnesses technology to serve the public good, and completed a mission to create data-driven solutions for healthy, connected, and intelligent cities.

    Currently Michelle serves as the President of DePass Paulson Advisors, providing philanthropic services, executive coaching, and support for equity and inclusion initiatives. She also held the position of Chief Executive Officer & President at Meyer Memorial Trust, where she demonstrated exceptional leadership by growing the foundation’s assets to $1.1 billion, focusing on dismantling barriers to equity in various domains. During her tenure, she conceptualized and executed the groundbreaking Justice Oregon for Black Lives initiative, committing $25 million to Black-led organizations and addressing racial injustices in Oregon.

    Michelle’s dynamic career also includes her role as the Dean & Tishman Professor at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School, where she elevated the school’s policy and management offerings and led initiatives in environmental justice and equitable economic growth.

    In the public sector, Michelle served as the Assistant Administrator in the Office of International and Tribal Affairs at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where she was responsible for environmental policy, grants, and technological cooperation with foreign nations, U.S. tribes, and multilateral institutions.

    Her commitment to environmental and community development continued at the Ford Foundation, where she managed a significant grantmaking portfolio focused on green economic development, environmental health, environmental justice, climate change, and energy research and policy. Notably, Michelle co-created the Gulf Coast Fund for Community Health and Ecological Renewal, providing support to communities affected by Hurricane Katrina and Rita.

    Earlier in her career, she served as the Environmental Compliance Manager for the City of San José, where she oversaw environmental programs for a medium-hub airport, and as the Principal Investigator for the New York/New Jersey Environmental Worker Training Program, focusing on environmental workforce development.

    Michelle’s dedication to environmental justice and community advocacy began as the Founding Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, where she represented and testified on behalf of low-income communities and communities of color in environmental enforcement actions and co-founded influential organizations like the Northeast Environmental Justice Network.

    She holds a Doctor of Law (J.D.) from Fordham University School of Law, a Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.) from Baruch College, and a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Political Science and Government from Tufts University. Michelle J. DePass is a dynamic leader with a track record of effecting positive change across a wide range of sectors and issues, making her a formidable force in the realms of philanthropy, environmental justice, and social equity.

    Character: Michelle J. DePass embodies integrity, resilience, and a deep commitment to social equity throughout her extensive career in philanthropy and environmental leadership.

    Knowledge: With a wealth of experience spanning nonprofit management, strategic partnerships, financial acumen, and environmental policy, Michelle possesses a comprehensive knowledge base that informs her innovative approach to addressing complex societal issues.

    Strategic: Michelle’s strategic prowess shines through her transformative leadership roles, where she has successfully grown organizations, fostered inclusive partnerships, and initiated groundbreaking initiatives, all aimed at advancing racial and economic justice.

    Communication: A persuasive and inclusive communicator, Michelle excels in rallying stakeholders around shared goals, whether through advocating for environmental justice, mentoring C-suite professionals, or shaping policy at the highest levels of government.


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