Michael Dowhan Inducted into Leadership Rhode Island's 2020 Cohort

Michael Dowhan SMMA Site Designer

SMMA’s Michael Dowhan, Senior Associate and Senior Landscape Architect, oversees business development and expansion for SMMA’s Rhode Island market. Last year, Michael was inspired to apply to Leadership Rhode Island (LRI) and was inducted into the 2020 cohort for their Core Program in January.

Leadership Rhode Island is an organization that creates and supports a legacy of leaders. Their mission is to “engage and connect people through shared experiences that positively transform individuals, organizations and communities.” Now in its 40th year, LRI has developed into one of the premier community leadership programs in the country by building on a foundation of ever-improving human capital whose strengths and potential they spend each day revealing and igniting.

For the Core Program, LRI selects diverse classes of emerging and established Rhode Island leaders from both the public and private sector to participate in a thought-provoking year-long curriculum, that includes day-long sessions where the cohort meet s and discusses current issues with businesses, organizations, and state agencies across Rhode Island. The cohort is split into teams based on participants’ individual strengths to create a plan of action to address a specific issue facing the state. This year, the issue that LRI has chosen to tackle is the “epidemic of aloneness,” in hopes of creating sustainable action plans that help educate Rhode Islanders about the dangers of being alone and to foster a stronger sense of community.

At the start of the program in January, no one knew how much the world would change in such a short period of time and how much more important this topic would become. The rapid spread of COVID-19 and the issuance of stay-at-home orders brought the program’s plans to a halt, including the ability to meet in person as a team. As a result of the current climate, LRI has gone digital, moving their usual in-person gatherings and field sessions to video chats and phone calls. With the epidemic of aloneness being more prevalent as a result of social distancing, Dowhan’s team has pivoted and is now focused on finding solutions that work with the times. Currently, this involves connecting with local kitchens in Rhode Island to help provide meals to those in need, volunteering with call centers that are working to connect with individuals, and focusing on building connections and offering support inward to the entire class.

With more than 25 years of experience in the design of the built environment, Dowhan’s previous work has been largely focused on placemaking in highly urbanized areas, helping to create places where people come together as communities. Now more than ever, that work resonates with entirely new meaning. As such, he is looking forward to helping with immediate relief efforts for those living in the vulnerable communities and having the opportunity to work with others and utilize his skillset and passion for creating connections to make the state of Rhode Island less lonely.

"As a native Rhode Islander, I’ve always been really proud of where I where I grew up. Not unlike other places, Rhode Island has its own issues that need to be addressed. I didn’t want to just talk about it, I wanted to do something about them. I found out about LRI through an alumnus of the program, and immediately knew that it was exactly what I’ve been looking for. I feel emboldened knowing that everyone in my cohort wants to try to solve problems to help others in our state."