Douglas

Vice President for Civic Engagement and External Affairs Derek Douglas in February, 2020

Derek R.B. Douglas, who has served as the University of Chicago’s vice president of civic engagement and external affairs since 2012, has announced his impending departure from the position to become president of the Civic Committee and Commercial Club of Chicago.

The Tribune reports that his first day as head of one of Chicago's oldest and most important civic groups is Aug. 1. In a statement, Douglas noted the organizations' history of addressing critical issues facing Chicagoland — they commissioned the 1909 Burnham plan, which bears the most responsibility for the lakefront's preservation for public use and is a founding document of the urban planning field — and expressed his excitement for the new job.

Before taking his U. of C. job, Douglas spent three years on President Barack Obama's Domestic Policy Council. He has degrees from Yale Law School and the University of Michigan.

Douglas oversaw several units at the university: Commercial Real Estate Operations, the Office of Business Diversity, the Office of Civic Engagement, and the Office of Government Relations. He also worked on the University of Chicago Medical Center's community engagement efforts.

Specific community programs Douglas helped create include the Civic Leadership Academy (now housed at the Harris School of Public Policy), the Community Programs Accelerator for small-to-midsize South Side nonprofits and UChicago Local, the university's economic inclusion initiative with "Buy Local," "Hire Local," "Live Local" and "Partner Local" strategies for partnership with area small businesses.

He helped expand the U. of C.'s partnerships with Chicago Public Schools, including the Collegiate Scholars Program, a three-year program to help underrepresented CPS students apply to and succeed at highly selective post-secondary institutions.

Most recently, Douglas helped form the Council on UChicago/Community Relations, composed of an equal number of town and gown members and tasked with critically examining the school's complex history and contemporary relations with surrounding South Side communities.

Said U. of C. President Paul Alivisatos in a statement, “Derek has left an indelible mark on the University of Chicago throughout his 10-year tenure —advancing critical local initiatives, elevating the role of civic engagement across the University, and strengthening trust and mutually beneficial relationships between members of our campus and shared South Side communities.

“I am confident he will bring that same passion and drive to his new role leading the Commercial Club and Civic Committee of Chicago. The University and I look forward to continuing partnering with Derek.”

A university spokesman said the school will launch a nationwide search to identify Douglas' successor in the coming weeks.

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