The students have just returned from their holiday break. “It’s an unusually quiet week for us,” says Cindy Hughey, Executive Director of MSU Hillel. Since the startup of Hillel’s growing venture – the Hillel Campus Alliance of Michigan (HCAM) — Cindy and MSU Assistant Director, Robyn Berkowitz Hughey (Cindy’s daughter-in-law), have a lot of new territory to cover. A “quiet” week on the calendar means fewer miles on the road. For Cindy, there will be a business trip from East Lansing to the Jewish Federation in Bloomfield Hills. For Robyn, it will be a short visit to Hillel students on the Grand Valley University campus.
“Our goal is to empower students to be true leaders, to run their own boards and plan their own programs,” says Robyn. “We visit each campus at least twice a month, but we a do a lot of our work with students online – relying on Skype, Facebook, texting, email and conference calls – any way the students want to communicate is how we communicate.”
“Essentially, we’re trailblazing a new model for Hillel – extending our reach and expanding services to college campuses across the state,” says Cindy. An experienced lobbyist and community builder when she took the helm at Hillel MSU in 2000, Cindy continues to advocate for innovative programs and the resources to provide students exceptional opportunities to connect, travel and develop leadership skills.
Beyond her role at MSU Hillel, Cindy is the architect and Executive Director of HCAM, a new brand of Hillel, established in 2010 to maintain a vibrant Jewish presence on ten college campuses from East Lansing to the furthest northern reaches of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.
Gaining traction, winning accolades
Well-recognized as a mentor and visionary leader on college campuses throughout the state, Cindy has gained both local and national attention. MSU Hillel awards include: the 2011 Hillel Foundation Vision and Values Award for Indispensable Partners and the 2010 Michigan State University Leadership Award for Outstanding Multicultural and Cross Cultural Programming.
Most recently, in November 2013, Cindy was named the 24th recipient of the prestigious “Berman Award.” In 1988, Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman established this award in order to recognize the career achievement of an outstanding professional employed by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, its family of agencies and other Detroit-area Jewish social service organizations.
According to their time-honored tradition, the Bermans themselves presented the award at the November meeting of the Federation Board of Trustees. In her remarks, Madeleine (Madge) described how Cindy has played a transformative role with Hillel, starting with a two-year campaign to raise the funds to build the Lester & Jewell Morris Hillel Jewish Student Center where student activities now flourish. “As Executive Director of MSU Hillel, Cindy recognized the need for Hillel outreach to Jewish students throughout the state, so she envisioned a unique model for collaboration – the consortium we call HCAM.”
Nearly 6,000 students served
Today MSU Hillel serves as a center for Jewish life and a hub for approximately 3,500 students on the East Lansing campus. With 36 student leaders and 26 paid student internships, MSU Hillel offers more than 200 programs per year, including two Birthright trips and three alternative spring programs. Cindy and her MSU Hillel staff connect and anchor Hillel activities for another 2,500 students at Alma College, Albion College, Central Michigan University, Eastern Michigan University, Grand Valley State University, Kalamazoo College, Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University, Saginaw Valley State University and Western Michigan University.
Beyond her roles with Hillel, Cindy continues to make an impact in the Jewish community. Recently she accepted the additional role of Executive Director of the Michigan Jewish Conference, to build relationships in state government and strengthen the Jewish voice in Lansing,
As a community volunteer, Cindy has held leadership positions with ORT, Congregation Shaarey Zedek of Lansing, the East Lansing Board of Education and the Greater Lansing Jewish Welfare Federation. Though Cindy’s multiple roles put her on the road to Michigan campuses far and wide, she and husband Steve find time for regular visits to Washington to see daughter Jennifer (married to Eric Ross) and granddaughter Isla. Closer to home in East Lansing, Cindy’s son, Eric, recently married Robyn.
Accepting the Berman Award, Cindy acknowledged an outstanding network of community support. “You can have vision, great ideas and a plan to execute the vision, but without the financial support of donors, nothing happens,” she said. “I have every past, present and future donor to thank for their generosity, but my greatest reward comes from seeing the impact our combined efforts have on young people across the state. I am very lucky to do what I do and I hope that I have made a small contribution to the future of our community.”
Past Recipients of the Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman Award for Outstanding Professional Service include: Harlene Appelman, Sharon Alterman, Michael Berke, Linda Blumberg, Rabbi Avraham (Avi) Cohen, Marion Freedman, David Gad-Harf, Allan “Geli” Gelfond, Jonah Geller, Barbra Giles, Rabbi Judah Isaacs, Carol Kaczander, Marcia Goldsmith Kamin, Joyce Keller, Nira Lev, Anita Naftaly, Barbara Nurenberg, Margo Parr, Rhoda Raderman, Carol Rosenberg, Sylvia Serwin, Miriam Starkman and Ellen Yashinsky Chute.
Are you the parent of a Michigan college student far from home? Put HCAM in touch. Call Robyn at 516-332-1916 or click here.