Daniel Williams

President and CEO, Steelcase Foundation
Grand Rapids, Michigan

A leader in education and equity-centered design, Daniel works to advance justice through education & community engagement. Prior to his role as president and CEO of the Steelcase Foundation, he led the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology where he worked towards equity and innovation throughout Michigan. Prior to that, he was co-founder and principal of Grand Rapids University Prep Academy, the first “Centers of Innovation” School in Grand Rapids Public Schools. In 2020 he was elected to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees for Grand Rapids Community College. In 2018, Daniel was appointed by then-Governor Rick Snyder to join the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks, and in 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed him as vice-chairperson of the MI-STEM Council. Daniel has served on many local boards and statewide committees, as well as a number of national initiatives. He believes deeply in the innate brilliance of community and the importance of centering the voices of those so often ignored. These beliefs and his passion for liberation and justice drive his work with community.

My Truth

Justice work is a never-ending journey of persistence, tension, and balance. Doing this work means wrestling with the uncomfortable space between valuing diverse perspectives and refusing to validate oppressive ideology. It means relentlessly moving forward in the face of sorrow and exhaustion while giving yourself grace. It calls for both peacemaking and disruption, discomfort and joy. It is so hard, and it is so necessary.

Stories featuring Daniel Williams

Text over a landscape of South Africa
Tiana C. McCoy – Senior Associate, Operations and Convenings at Ascend – provides an inside look at the experience of a Fellows Forum.
BlogMay 2, 2023
Group of Ascend Fellows at Wind Cave National Park
My heart is filled with love and gratitude for the courageous community of leaders our Ascend at the Aspen Institute team works with everyday.  And I am simply delighted to share our Ascend at the Aspen Institute Impact & Inspiration Report. In this magazine-style 2022 Impact & Inspiration Report, you will meet just a few of those inspiring …

2022 Ascend Impact & Inspiration Report Read More »

PublicationFebruary 14, 2023
I started off the 2022 Aspen Ideas Festival at Aspen Words Book Ball, a passion project of Isa Catto and Daniel Shaw.
Ascend FellowshipJune 25, 2022
This year, the Aspen Idea Festival returns to in-person programming at our campus in the Rocky Mountains June 25 - July 1, 2022.
Ascend FellowshipJune 15, 2022
Poverty is the result of poor policy choices. These choices reflect our national values and decide who deserves access to opportunity to achieve their dreams and who does not. This flawed mindset has led to persistent inequities and a hollowing of our shared humanity. Change is possible. The choice is ours.
Ascend FellowshipJanuary 21, 2022
Daniel Williams was featured in MiBiz discussing his long-term plan to help guide families from intergenerational poverty. “So often what happens is we provide early investments in folks — whether through career training or food benefits, for example. We support families on their front end of their journey, but instead of doubling down on that support, we remove it. They hit the benefits cliff. If they get a raise, they don’t get access to certain benefits,” he said. “We know there’s a gap from what workers are earning and family income to what it actually costs to live and thrive in our community.”
Ascend FellowshipJanuary 16, 2022
In order for America to thrive, our families must thrive. This is the understanding of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, a program dedicated to mobilizing systems, policy, and social impact leaders who are working to create a world where every family passes a legacy of well-being from one generation to the next. This week, the Institute announced that 19 leaders were selected for the 2021 Ascend Fellowship, an 18-month-long program that brings together innovators from diverse backgrounds to build political will, change systems, and drive policy that benefits the well-being and prosperity of all children and families in the US.
Ascend FellowshipOctober 7, 2021

Convenings Featuring Daniel Williams

Location: Aspen, CO (in-person) & Live Webcast (virtual)
Everyone deserves the opportunity to find their talents, support their families, and be the best version of themselves. Hear how leaders and communities are using art, and their voices and power to challenge perceptions and build ways for families...
ConveningAugust 1, 2023
Location: Aspen, CO
For over a decade, Ascend at the Aspen Institute has lifted up parents’ voices and experiences to inform bold solutions for economic mobility in the United States. How does lived expertise influence the way programs and policies are created? What...
ConveningJune 27, 2022