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Celebrating Diversity at Stritch: Shannon Reed, ’11

Shannon Reed, '11

Stritch alum Shannon Reed, '11, leads United Way Worldwide’s Young Men United (YMU) initiative

Shannon Reed is one of southeastern Wisconsin’s most respected and innovative leaders on the topics of racial equity and justice. Anyone who has collaborated with Shannon understands that he is a servant leader, who is focused on promise and purpose.

Shannon served at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County for close to 10 years, most recently as director of racial equity and justice. In that role he aligned the strategic direction of programming and drove new innovations in racial equity dialogue that was occurring at the national level. He also was intentional about the integration of community engagement and racial equity.

Shannon earned the 2015 Stritch Graduate of the Last Decade Award in recognition of his commitment to the community and his work as a "convener, bridge builder and leader."

Trustee Thelma A. Sias and Shannon Reed

Now Shannon will have the opportunity to have a nationwide impact. In January 2022 he was named national director of United Way Worldwide’s Young Men United (YMU) initiative.

YMU is a new national effort that, in coordination with local United Ways, will support young men of color to successfully navigate high school and college and enter the workforce with meaningful careers. YMU will serve 25,000 young men of color and provide the critical support they need to build bright futures. The initiative will initially launch in six United Way sites across the nation.

“We are focusing on making sure every young person who comes through Young Men United is whole and healthy,” said Shannon. “We know there are people who are dealing and reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. For some Black and brown boys, there was a pandemic before COVID.”

YMU also will examine barriers created by the digital divide and how young men of color have been affected by the lack of access.

“Our goal is to ensure we are creating opportunity, access and resources,” Shannon shared. “We are committed to building a support system that will prepare YMU participants for success. I want to stay focused on an asset-based conversation, as opposed to a deficit-based conversation.”

Shannon’s own experiences have uniquely positioned him to lead this transformational effort.

“When I talk about YMU, I come from a lived experience,” he said. “I am not only talking about the experience, I am walking and living it. I have seen and been a part of things that help me understand where the needs are. We want young people to advocate for themselves and leave a legacy for the next generation.”

Shannon earned a master’s degree in management from Stritch in 2011 while he was an internal auditor at a local non-profit in Milwaukee. “I pursued a degree in management because I wanted to be in a place where I could make a decision about my future instead of someone making it for me. I knew that my work was taking me in a direction where the management degree would create a path I wanted to pursue.”

Stritch’s cohort model enhanced Shannon’s experience in the program. “I learned content and also learned how to work with other folks. That is what we do every day – figure out how to work within community and work with our community. We want to do everything we can to add value to our community and to relationships within the community.

“Everyone came into the program with different ideas and those ideas had the potential to turn into something big,” said Shannon. “You really have to keep an open mind because you never know where you will end up or what conversation you will be a part of. You will never truly know a person until you are in a relationship with them, and close relationships were formed in our cohort that still last today.

“When you are in the real world, you need a team to push you through and that is exactly what I had at Stritch.”

The program’s curriculum prepared Shannon to work on issues that are rapidly evolving and developing. “One of the courses that impacts me today is Organizational Theory – my first class at Stritch.

One of the first things the professor said to us was ‘when you think about things you will do throughout your learning, always remember that anything and everything is possible.’ It still sticks with me because while we are trying to do the work that we do and impact communities, anything can happen. I am still learning that we only know what we know and things are forever changing.”

Shannon’s experience continues to influence his work, even more than a decade after earning his degree.

“I remain grateful for every moment I had at Stritch,” Shannon shared. “My Stritch experience helped me look at life differently. If we are not ensuring we are working on ourselves, we are not able to do our best to help others. I continue to ask myself and ask others, ‘how can we continue serving on purpose and with purpose?’"

Shannon’s work in Milwaukee established him as a respected leader who is transforming the community. Now, in his new role with United Way Worldwide, he is certain to create an even more expansive impact.

“It is so important for me to share every tool I have to put young Black and brown boys in a position for success. I am inspired because I have been given a chance to make the world a better place.” 

Celebrating Diversity at Stritch shares the stories of members of the Cardinal Stritch University family who are transforming the communities where they live, work, serve and lead.