Ismael Ahmed

Farmington Hills, MI

Ismael Ahmed worked for a decade at the University of Michigan-Dearborn connecting academic initiatives with community, business, and governmental partners to improve life in the surrounding communities, and launching the Public Allies low-income youth leadership program. Previously, Ahmed had served as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, overseeing more than 11,000 employees and administering an annual budget of $7 billion. In this position, Ahmed initiated projects to stem the effects of poverty in the state and increase access to fresh food sources in the city of Detroit.

In 1971, Ahmed co-founded the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, Michigan, becoming executive director in 1983 and responsible for overall operations of the organization as well as the executive administration of the Arab American National Museum. During his tenure, ACCESS established the Arab-American Resource Corps (ARC), the first and only national AmeriCorps program serving Arab American community organizations; the National Network for Arab American Communities, a formal network that participates in civic engagement work, including leadership in national campaigns such as immigration reform and civil rights; and the Center for Arab American Philanthropy, a program to promote Arab American community organizations through education, training, and donor outreach services. ACCESS has received, among other accolades, the Exemplary Community Service Program Award from the State of Michigan and the Points of Light Award from President George H.W. Bush. Today, ACCESS is the largest Arab American human services nonprofit organization in the United States, with 28 affiliates in 14 states.

Since 1998, Ahmed has been producer and host of This Island Earth, a music and arts program on the public radio station WDET in Detroit.