Lauren Heinonen, Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fresh Perspective
Even as a child, Lauren Heinonen was a scientist at heart, an answer-seeker, a problem-solver — by age six she was dissecting lobsters her mother brought home from the store. "She would entertain any kind of scientific question or interest that I had," Heinonen says of her mother, a clinical researcher. Heinonen is now a project manager for DalCor, a small pharmaceutical company developing personalized medicine for patients with cardiovascular disease.
"I loved the idea of helping people in a tangible way," says Heinonen, who began working for the company in 2016 while she was still a biological anthropology student at the University of Michigan. In 2017, she had her dream job but still felt that something was missing. "I wasn’t having the impact that I wanted to see every day in my life," she says. "I stumbled upon Rotary."
Rotary’s Four-Way Test sealed the deal. "I had never seen a group of people or an organization that held themselves to such high standards," she says. "It gave me a reason to trust the people and trust the work that they were engaging in."
Still, Heinonen hesitated; at 22, she would be the youngest member of the Ann Arbor club. "But so many people came up to me and said, ‘You have such a unique perspective and so many skills that we don’t have. We would love to learn from you.’"
Since joining, she has taken on a twoyear stint as the club’s public image director. "I figured, ‘OK, I can probably figure this out quickly. Why don’t I see if they can use my help?’" Heinonen says.
"Lauren’s willingness to take a risk has rubbed off on the club," says club member Rosemarie Rowney. "We are now more willing to try new things and become more technologically astute."
Heinonen hopes the club’s enhanced online presence — along with recent shifts such as using video technology during the COVID-19 crisis — will help attract more young members. She’s also launching a satellite club that meets in the evenings to make Rotary more accessible to young professionals.
"I’m interested to see how Rotary will change in the next decade, or even sooner," she says. "I hope it will continue to accommodate the desires and needs of young people." — NIKKI KALLIO