Photo by Erin Kirkland

Life After Lead

Fall 2017

Donovan Colquitt, ’16

We catch up with one of our former LEAD Scholars.

AT THE RIPE AGE OF 9 YEARS OLD, I wanted to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at U-M’s prestigious College of Engineering. I grew up in Southfield, Michigan, where I attended Southfield-Lathrup High School. While there, I split my time between earning a 4.0 GPA, volunteering within the community, and leading organizations, such as the National Honor Society, the Student Congress, and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser. I also often worked up to three different jobs at the same time.

Not only do I still remember opening the LEAD scholarship letter on my living room floor and holding back tears of sheer exhilaration, but I also remember questioning whether I truly embodied the LEAD traits of leadership, excellence, achievement, and diversity. From that day forward, I strove to uphold the LEAD values.

Earning the LEAD scholarship, among other academic awards, motivated me to write a self-help book—“The Scholar’s Key: How You Can Achieve Your Dreams as a Teen”—during my senior year at U-M. The aim was to motivate, embolden, and inspire teens to achieve their goals and aspirations by doing well in school with an eye toward winning scholarships. For research, I used my own experiences, sharing how I searched and applied for the awards I received.

Since college, I have conducted numerous presentations at inner-city high schools in the Metro Detroit area on how to apply for scholarships. My goal is to increase college access to underrepresented students. The ability to help students gain entry to the college of their choice is meaningful to me because I was able to pursue my dreams thanks to the LEAD Scholarship.

I currently work as an applications engineer for Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology in the customer education department in Brighton, Michgan. The position allows me to work with customers of various industries, including energy, medical, and aerospace, educating them on how to use our software and hardware. Teaching has given me the chance to travel, meet new people, and help our customers learn to solve challenges.

The training I have received has molded me into a more dynamic teacher, yet I am constantly striving to improve. In the future, I hope to earn a PhD in engineering education, with the goal of developing a diversity and outreach STEM program aimed at increasing the number of underrepresented students pursuing engineering degrees. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as a focus for education.)

Whether it be at my job, in my relationships, or within my community, the LEAD Scholarship has instilled in me a vigor for paying it forward. By elevating others, I know I am creating a cycle of positive change in peoples’ lives.


The LEAD Scholars Program provides scholarships to African-American, Hispanic, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit umalumni.com/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

Michigan Alumnus is made possible through the generous support of Alumni Association members. Join today to help sustain the future of Michigan Alumnus and other alumni programs. Visit umalumni.com/support.