Kimberly Dowdell

Alumna Profile


Kimberly Dowdell

Sheila C. Johnson Fellow
Harvard Kennedy School, MPA ‘15
Principal, People Oriented Designz (PODz)

What specific leadership lesson did you take away from any of the co-curricular sessions or other activities while a CPL fellow?

Of the many leadership lessons that I took away from my CPL experience, the one that resonates most strongly is the power of collaboration and partnership to deepen one’s impact within a community. Now that I am back in the real world, I am constantly reminded of the power of coalition building and collaboration to solve problems and lead positive change. 

This practice was cultivated early on in our Outward Bound team building exercises and at different points throughout my fellowship year. CPL staff once spoke about the California Redwood trees that seem too tall to withstand strong winds, but are supported by a deeply interwoven root system below the forest ground. When I faced my own winds during and after school, I relied on the members of my Sheila C. Johnson Fellowship cohort and other CPL community members to help me stand tall. I have always made an effort to support others when they need me--that's the way it works.

Talk about the elements of the fellowship experience that were most meaningful within your specific cohort

My cohort is full of incredible young leaders with amazing dreams. It was very meaningful for me to learn about and embrace each Sheila C. Johnson fellow’s personal and professional dreams through our weekly Dream Trust exercises. I was inspired by our group’s commitment to helping one another address disparities in underserved communities and the unique role we each have to play in achieving our collective goals. 

In what ways do you think the CPL Fellowship and HKS experiences have helped you get better at what you do or hope to do?

As a licensed architect and a budding real estate developer, I believe that I am in a unique position to assemble the necessary resources and partnerships to create positive change in urban environments. My CPL experience helped me find my voice and use it on behalf of others. While at HKS, I learned more about the various stakeholders that influence urban development—developers,  politicians, community members and investors—and gained the skills to negotiate between these groups. I have also gained an incredible network of people to call upon for help as I seek to reinvest in urban neighborhoods, starting in my hometown of Detroit.