DTE Energy is one of U-M’s closest corporate partnerships. Our executive champion and alum, Dave Harwood, works tirelessly to build a deep, strong, mutually beneficial relationship with the university. And sometimes he comes to campus to join the band and teach a class or two.
Q: What are some of your memories as a U-M student?
A: I started at U-M in the Fall of ‘78 and my best memories are of football games and being a proud member of the Michigan Marching Band – I played alto horn all four years. I was a huge Michigan fan growing up, so the opportunity to be an integral part of the football experience in Ann Arbor was great for me. This was back in the ‘Bo’ era, when the Big 10 was really ten schools, and we did three Rose Bowl trips during my time at U-M. I will never forget road trips for the rivalry games to MSU, OSU and Notre Dame. I made a lot of long-time friends that I still see every football season.
Q: How do you stay connected to U-M?
A: In addition to my real job as Director of Renewable Energy at DTE, I have taken on the role as the company’s liaison between DTE and U-M. For the last 10 years, I’ve worked closely with the UM-BEC to help coordinate the all the touchpoints our two large organizations have. This involves keeping track of our many connections across campus and finding new ways to help each other.
DTE sponsors a number of campus activities, recruits students, has employees sitting on various advisory boards, and much more. I participate in as many of these activities as possible and make sure we are staying connected in ways we should. Stella Wixom and Amy Bellas at the UM-BEC make it a priority to understand our business goals and are very effective in identifying new opportunities to connect.
More recently, I’ve played a greater role in our relationship at UM-Dearborn. We are collectively trying to grow that relationship as well. We recruit many students the Dearborn campus. It’s also an important aspect of UofM for us to stay connected.
On a personal note, I love the opportunity to visit campus and guest lecture from time to time. We’ve built good relationships with many faculty members at Engineering, Ross, and LSA and I’ve had the opportunity to give back thru a variety of courses on topics like energy economics, renewables, sustainability, and the like. I have enjoyed getting back into the classroom and sharing my experiences. I also visit with various student clubs and groups; Chemical Engineering AIChE and OXE, the Ross Energy Club, and others.
I also stay connected to U-M through my love of Michigan Athletics. I’m a long-time season ticket holder and as best we can count, have missed five home games in the last 42 years – since I was a Freshman in 1978. I have also played in the alumni band at almost all Homecoming football games.
Finally, this summer was my family’s 20th consecutive year spending a week at Camp Michigania, and I just finished a three-year term on the camp board. It is one of our family’s favorite times together every year.
Q: What is your background and your role at DTE?
I’ve been at DTE Energy since graduating from UofM and was even a DTE summer intern before my Senior year. For the last 6 years, I’ve held the position of Director of Renewable Energy. In that role, I have responsibility for long term renewable strategy, project development & construction, vendor agreements, regulatory compliance, and the day-to-day operation and maintenance of Michigan’s largest fleet of renewable energy facilities.
Prior to Renewable Energy, I held positions responsible for resource planning and power operations, environmental strategy and reliability planning, and nuclear development. As a chemical engineer, I spent my first ten years at DTE as a power plant engineer in various roles.
Q: What are your priorities for working with U-M?
I want to make sure the University of Michigan gets best of DTE and DTE gets the best of the University of Michigan. Where we best intersect – and we do so in a many different places – that’s where I want us to be.
The priorities are dynamic and diverse; it may be recruiting, identifying DTE leaders for an advisory board, working on a professorship endowment or student scholarship, sponsoring campus activities, or identifying someone for a guest lecture or conference panel.
Q: What impresses you about DTE that you’d like to share with U-M faculty, staff and students?
DTE is a great company to work for. We have passionate employees dedicated to providing safe, reliable, and affordable service. As you can see from my resume and tenure, DTE is also a company where someone can change careers many times and never have to leave. I’ve been fortunate to change my role and grow, and not have leave the organization.
From a workplace environment aspect, DTE is the only utility to win Gallup’s Great Workplace Award. It’s a difficult award to win, and until DTE achieved it eight years ago, no utility company had done so. We have now received it seven years in a row. Others are recognizing us as a great employer nationwide. Indeed.com listed us in the 10 nationally as a great place to work. It’s nice when people outside the organization recognize you in this way.
We also are a diverse company; both in employees and our products and services. We have significant energy interests in Michigan, but we also own and/or operate in many other States. The diversity in our scope of work enables career development and professional growth.
The Renewable Energy organization at DTE is an exciting place to be. There is real pride and passion in being the largest renewable energy investor in Michigan. Our long-term goal is to achieve net zero carbon emissions, and we work at that every day.
Q: I understand you support the Tauber Institute programs as well as hiring interns and full-time hires – what does DTE look for in student talent?
DTE has an advisor on the Tauber Institute board. The engineering, business and operations focus is a great fit for us. We also host Ross MAP program teams from Ross every year. Part of my responsibility is to help ensure we put quality projects in the queue for students to participate in.
We hire hundreds of summer interns and co-ops throughout the school year into engineering, business and environmental roles and show them a variety of career possibilities. Over the years, we’ve had almost every major represented as an intern at DTE. Many of our interns get job offers to join the company when they graduate. My group hosts 4-6 co-ops and interns at any one time. Two of our four interns in the summer of 2019 were from U-M, and a third has now started his master’s at UofM.
Q: DTE sponsors an endowed professorship at the College of Engineering – why is that important?
The DTE Energy Professor of Advanced Energy Research was established in 2007 and is an endowment that fits well with our mission to be the best energy company in North America. The research done at the U-M Energy Institute is relevant to our work, and this endowment helped us connect better with the Institute. Dr. Volker Sick is the current endowed professor and his work with the Global CO2 Initiative aligns perfectly with our mission.
DTE also endows an engineering undergraduate scholarship every year for a student in almost any engineering major, particularly focusing on giving women or students from underrepresented minorities an opportunity for funding and to explore the energy industry. A highlight of every fall is the chance for DTE executives and I attend to a scholarship luncheon and meet the student chosen for the scholarship.
Q: When you’re on campus, what is one thing that you love seeing or doing?
If I’m on campus early enough, it’s breakfast at Angelo’s for French Toast. Other than that, I love the new North Campus and visiting Ross. In the fall, we love tailgating, connecting with old friends, and stopping by Revelli Hall to see the band.
Q: Tell us something unique about yourself.
I still play French Horn and classical music a big hobby. I play with an international symphony orchestra near Port Huron that performs a full concert series October – May.