Q&A: Columbus Partnership’s Jordan Davis

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From the August 15, 2013 edition

Remember a few years ago when that video of a flash mob of Ohio State students dancing to “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the Ohio Union went viral?

Jordan Davis did that.

After being defeated in her bid for student government president, Davis found another way to support her school by choreographing, organizing and leading the video project.

In an awesome case of being rewarded for keeping her spirit up in face of loss, Davis’ work on the project helped her make the connections that led to her current job at the Columbus Partnership.

Now she uses her love of Ohio State to help new students discover how easy and enjoyable it is to live beyond Lane and 10th Avenue. Through the Partnership and the university, she helps institute the Ohio State Welcome Week event — happening this weekendthat bus-tours all 7,000 incoming freshman down High Street.

We caught up with Davis to discuss her hopes for Columbus and why she is kind of obsessed with fostering leadership development.

I will always be involved in the community. I will always be committed to growing things and making things better. I’ve always been a self-starter. Things just bother me when they’re not right, and I want to figure out how to fix them. I’m not, “I need to fix this problem.” It’s more like, “Oh, we can do better than this, and I want to help make it better.”

I hope that Columbus becomes a top place for young professionals. We have every component to be. Some infrastructure improvements we need to make, public transportation, stuff like that. But I think we have the capacity, the energy is here. We really could make this the foremost premier place for young professionals. The power that young professionals bring to a community is really underappreciated. Fortune 500 companies are started by people at the average age of 26. So could you imagine if you just had a crap-ton of young people here and just one of them comes up with a sweet idea?

My biggest frustration with [the young] demographic is its focus on the tactical rather than the thought leadership, which is where the decisions are being made. These conversations in City Council and these conversations with the mayor’s office — all these key traditional positions have a role in changing how things function and where money and resources go. The most powerful thing we can do is ask questions because someone has to answer them. If the questions are not being asked why do they need to find the answer? Young professionals, frankly, are going to ask much different questions than others. That’s extremely healthy.

I’m actually really into CoGo right now. I am determined to figure out why they’re not on Campus because it makes absolutely no sense. I love the concept of it. I’m frustrated it wasn’t thought to include the university.

Working at the Partnership has validated what I always believed: If you have genuinely passionate people you can really move mountains to make some pretty cool things happen. It requires a vision and a confident leader.

I’m comfortable with me being a work-in-progress. I didn’t used to be. If you thought of yourself as an expert on yourself and you stopped asking questions on how to get better, how are you ever going to stay an expert on yourself? The best leaders are ones who are still learning. It’s a lifelong process. You’re never going to be perfect at it. For those who want to lead, this concept of development and understanding yourself is a key piece, and that’s what I think is really cool about it.

The more things we do, the better. Some things are going to fail, but that’s cool. We’ll learn from that, but I’d rather create and start and make things as good as possible.

Photo by Meghan Ralston