An optiMize Farewell from Jeff Pituch

An optiMize Farewell from Jeff Pituch

Jeff Pituch has been with us from the beginning of optiMize seven years ago, and he worked full-time for the last four years. As he leaves the organization and moves to his next adventure, we couldn't be more grateful for JP's unmatched dedication to servant leadership that has changed so many of our lives for the better. We asked him to share some parting reflections below.


Four and a half years ago, as I was preparing to graduate college and weighing my future options, Jeff Sorensen called me and offered the opportunity to join optiMize as the organization's second full-time staff member. I was excited about the possibilities to build on optiMize’s early success, but it was also a big unknown. At the time, there was no guarantee that the organization would still exist 12 months later.

That uncertainty excited me. I was pretty sure that the unforeseeable challenges and risks would give me a lot of room to grow, and I wanted to spend my time and energy helping to make something I deeply believed in into an integral part of the U-M experience for hundreds (and soon thousands) of students each year. And ultimately, I decided to join the team because of the strength of friendships and connections I had built in the short time I was involved.

I’m so glad I made that decision.

Now, after four and a half incredible years growing optiMize from a small student organization into a new university department and the country's largest student-led innovation incubator, it's time for my next adventure. For the last year, I've been working hard with our team to make sure sustainable infrastructure is in a place so that optiMize will only continue to grow and thrive after I leave. Having helped optiMize make it through the "startup" phase of our organizational lifecycle, I’ve accomplished what I initially set out to do four years ago. Looking to the future and seeing the incredible team we've built in the last few years, I’m fully confident that y’all are in good hands.

Belonging to a community that’s as dynamic and supportive as optiMize has been an immense privilege. My time here has been indescribably fun, challenging and rewarding. The first couple of years involved just a few of us working out of coffee shops and our shoe-string budget meant ordering all of our food from Jerusalem Garden. (Pretty great!) Today, optiMize operates out of a beautifully renovated state of the art space with a dedicated university budget, and a much bigger team to share the workload and do more exciting work. In my first summer, we only had 5 teams in the cohort. Now we have 36. I feel so lucky to have met and learned from thousands of brilliant people who have such diverse interests and life stories.

Until I started with optiMize, I had no idea that I loved to teach and mentor young people! I’ve come to understand that hard work is energizing if you believe in what you’re doing, and being in an environment with people who care deeply about what they do is always refreshing. I find so much joy in contributing in any small way to incredibly motivated and talented people. I am beyond appreciative to each of the student leadership teams, the fellows, the alumni, all of the mentors, staff, and administrators that have pushed me to grow and lifted me up at the difficult moments.

You all mean so much to me. I'm so grateful for the love and care you've shown me and for the relationships we've formed together. I sincerely hope our paths will cross again in the near future, and I’m eager to stay connected with you. Please stay in touch!

See you at opti-reunions!