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Updated 4:00 PM January 25, 2008




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Spotlight: Family inspires start of foundation

Many people are motivated by the triumphs of others. For Sonya Jacobs, U-M's human resource organizational effectiveness consultant, it was through the courageous battles of two family members that she found her own inspiration.
(Photo courtesy Sonya Jacobs)

"As a teenager I became aware of breast cancer when both my aunts were diagnosed with the disease and underwent radical mastectomies. At that time, the treatment options were few," Jacobs says. Watching her relatives deal with cancer inspired her to create Crystal Cure, a breast cancer foundation that sells unique jewelry.

Because of her family history, Jacobs undergoes yearly mammograms and has become an advocate for awareness and early detection. "I wanted to do more. I wanted to increase awareness and give back."

As a co-chair of the diversity committee for the Greater Ann Arbor Society of Human Resource Management, Jacobs often uses the motto "to lead, learn and live inclusively." "It all kind of ties together; I live to help others," she says.

It was that belief that paved the way for Crystal Cure.

The original concept began in 2004 when Jacobs first started working at U-M. After several discussions with her fellow employees regarding the I.D. lanyards clashing with their outfits, Jacobs and the others decided to make their own. However, it was Jacobs who wanted to take it to the next level by asking, "What if we could make and sell lanyards and jewelry for breast cancer awareness?"

The jewelry, with each piece named after a woman affected by breast cancer, is made by volunteers and sold at events at the hospital and through word-of-mouth. Proceeds benefit the Rally for the Cure, UMHS Breast Center and the UMHS Department of Social Work's Helping Hands, which helps breast cancer patients on an individual need basis for items like wigs.

Jacobs' drive for helping others began years ago and she has been fortunate enough to incorporate it into her career.

Prior to coming to U-M, Jacobs worked as a private consultant for IBM, the Detroit Institute of Arts and Wayne State University. Jacobs, who has a degree in social science from Michigan State and is pursuing her master's degree at Wayne State, began working for U-M in December 2002 as an independent consultant and was hired as a permanent employee in 2004.

A key element of her job is helping supervisors, mid-level managers and senior leaders manage periods of change.

One of the most rewarding parts of her job is when leadership trainees call to say they've gained from her work. "I've had them say, 'I've been able to apply what I learned in the training program and my staff notices and comments on the positive change,'" she says.

Jacobs's main focus is to develop leadership programs to "ensure the right people have the right skills at the right time." One of the goals is to help managers be effective in building, communicating and managing a diverse work force. "People from different backgrounds communicate in ways that are not just verbal; body language is also used by people from different cultures."

Jacobs' ability to lead while meshing with others in the work place is one of the reasons so many of her co-workers have taken an interest and involvement in Crystal Cure as well. "This project is my baby," Jacobs says. "I love seeing new faces all the time; it's great to see all different types of people as passionate about this as I am."

For more information on Crystal Cure, visit

Meet Sonya Jacobs

Title: human resource organizational effectiveness consultant

At U-M: Four years

On co-workers' support of her cancer foundation: "I love seeing new faces all the time; it's great to see all different types of people as passionate about this as I am."

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