COREY GRANT: Circling Home

Michigan Department of Treasury
9 min readFeb 29, 2024


Headshot of Corey Grant next to a photo of her with troops in Afghanistan in front of a USA flag.

In 2004, a massive tsunami hit Thailand, sending 100-foot waves blasting inland and killing over 200,000 people. With orders from the Pentagon, the regional Command Center in Hawaii called the Installation Deployment Officer in Japan with urgent orders to act: You need to deploy troops, medical supplies, and cargo into Thailand to support the humanitarian mission. The Logistics Officer tasked with the effort was Corey Grant, and without the assistance of the internet, she was able to coordinate, arrange transport and deploy lifesaving aid and thousands of military members to the crisis-stricken country. Corey accomplished her mission in less than 24 hours — and bravely deployed her own Commander.

TODAY, Corey Grant is the chief operations officer for the Michigan Department of Treasury. She defines her general responsibility as “all things people” but specifically guides the Budget, Security & Technology Bureau, the Bureau of Lean Innovation and Improvement, and the Office of Communications.

With her oversight encompassing the Budget Division, IT Business Integration, and Security & Data Risk Management, Corey’s training, experience and right/left brain capabilities also allow her to provide insight and guidance to the People & Culture and the Innovation Divisions.

It was a LOT to take on when Corey first stepped into the Treasury COO role seven months ago. Methodically making her way through the department, she attended meetings, listened to employees, collected data and laid down the first of small steps that cumulatively lead to effective change.

Coming from her previous role as regional solutions director for UPS Healthcare, Corey displays a solid background in making change happen. She began her corporate career at UPS in supply chain solutions, advancing to customer facing positions in operations, sales, customer solutions, and data analytics.

Entering state government from the private sector can be a shock to career professionals. The emphasis in government is on public service versus corporate sales and profitability, but Corey knows both entities benefit from data-based continuous improvement and a healthy company culture.

How did the teenager working her first job at Dairy Queen near the beach of Houghton Lake, Michigan, grow up to become chief operations officer over Michigan’s state-wide financial agency?

Corey’s career path is more of a career circle.

Meeting her first boyfriend/future husband while dishing out soft-serve (he worked at the supermarket and dropped bananas off at the DQ for her Banana Splits), Corey left her small town after high school to attend Central Michigan University.

“I started at Central because I thought MSU was too big,” she says with a smile. “But CMU gave me some really good opportunities to learn about myself. I wasn’t meant to be a lab rat as I originally thought, and I decided I did want to see the world and could handle more challenges. So, two weeks after my sophomore year of college, I went active-duty Air Force, delayed enlistment. I had a great recruiter who tried to talk me into getting my degree before I enlisted, but I insisted I could do both.”

In the Air Force, Corey planned to go into Intelligence, but while at basic training she was pulled aside and told the Intel position was no longer available. Her options were to choose from a list of other jobs or go home. She called her recruiter and he immediately said, ‘go into logistics’. The job involved medical supply which she also knew nothing about, but her recruiter was adamant.

“Just trust me,” he said. “Logistics. You’re perfect for it!”

Corey’s boot camp reroute became the basis of her successful career. While on active duty, in school and a member of the Honor Guard, she turned down an opportunity to attend the Air Force Academy while accepting an offer to attend officer training and pursue a second degree.

“I’m the first one of my family to go to college,” she explains. “Or, as my parents put it, I dropped out of college for the military! Everything has a way of working out, as I ended up with my master’s and some amazing experience and leadership training. I tell folks, especially in the Air Force, the amount of leadership training the military offers is second to none. I’ve not come across it in the civilian sector. Commercial private organizations will try, but you’re trained in such a different way in the military.”

Corey working in a mlitary tent with three other soldiers on a field exercise.
Corey at a Field Exercise

Spending nearly 11 years on active duty took Corey from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, to Travis Air Force Base in California. Then her boss called with a question.

“Where do you want to go next?” he asked. Corey told him that she would love to spend a duty assignment in Europe.

“Nope,” he answered. “You’re going to Japan. Europe is just an older version of America. If you go to Japan, you’ll learn to appreciate the culture.”

Corey gave birth to her daughter, Bethanie, while stationed at Yokota Air Force Base, Japan, where she also finished her Master of Business Administration (MBA). The Japanese culture is very community-focused, and Corey appreciated the nurturing family care assistance she received for Bethanie from local women, as all her own relatives were back in Michigan.

Situational Leadership

Through multiple tours of duty and temporary assignments around the world, Corey was able to gain the practical experience that shaped her leadership style.

Corey is center of photo with soldiers posing in front of the USA flag in Afghanistan
Afghanistan (Corey is center)

Describing it as ‘situational leadership’, she codified her approach in officer training school where she was placed in no-win situations as a training exercise. There she discovered that you don’t have to be in a position of leadership to be a leader. It’s not just about rank and structure, but about how you treat someone, and the importance of entering a situation with an intention to learn and give back.

“You don’t have to be loud or tough to lead,” Corey adds, her own calm demeanor reinforcing her words. “You can get so much more done when you kill ’em with kindness.”

As a woman in the military, Corey applied ‘situational leadership’ in a variety of circumstances while dealing with cultures unaccustomed to working with women in decision-making positions.

Having very successfully handled the deployment in response to Thailand’s cataclysmic tsunami, Corey was chosen to return to Thailand one year later to practice a planning exercise with 26 different countries. The Air Force didn’t recognize her gender when they issued the invitation to ‘Corey’, so she and her team were simply instructed to teach participants on what had been learned and how to be better prepared for a future weather event.

Corey didn’t know there was an issue until she landed in Thailand, and her embassy representative began yelling at her for showing up female. Whatever you do, he told her, just don’t talk. For the first couple of days, Corey was forced to whisper her knowledge into her pilot partner’s ear for him to explain to attendees. Eventually, the Mongolian General, who was part of her staff, was able to convince the Thai general to recognize her — and by the end of the week Corey presented the summary speech on behalf of the United States Air Force, as a woman.

Corey is surrounded by Thai soldiers at computer, listening to her as she explains crisis exercise
Crisis planning exercise in Thailand

“The Air Force definitely taught me how to use my voice in a professional manner,” Corey says. “I’m not afraid to stand up for what is right, whether it’s to the president of a Fortune 100 company, or to the janitor.”

Or to an Army Captain. While deployed to Afghanistan on loan to the Army, Corey was one of the few female officers on her team. After she accomplished the near-impossible by getting Special Forces to participate in a maneuver, a Captain approached her, called her out dismissively (“oh you’re a girl”) and compared her to a low-level staffer. Corey earned a military coin from a General who overheard the conversation and commended her for demanding respect as an officer (and for the masterful way she corrected the Captain’s attitude!).

Not all soldiers were unreceptive to working with a female superior officer. In California, fresh out of officer training school, Corey was assigned to manage the Fuels Flight in a dirty, greasy, dangerously dilapidated building near the air strip. Moving in over the holidays, both her Chief and the outgoing Commander were on leave, so Corey showed up at work anyway.

With no one to tell her what to do, she used her free time to get to know the people. She started riding around with her astonished troops, sat in the command center, went on some missions and read as many manuals as she could. It was a non-standard procedure Corey would return to in other positions outside of the military world as well — because establishing rapport, asking questions, and working together to create better solutions is a powerful approach to any situation.

By the time she was rotated out of the Fuels Flight six months later, Corey and her team had a proposal accepted to replace their unsafe building. Her soldiers organized and performed a full pass and review parade for her in an appreciative farewell as Corey left her office for the very last time.

Corey at the pass and review ceremony/parade as she finished her assignment at Fuels Flight.
Fuels Flight Ceremony

Full Circle

After separating from the military, Corey and her family ended up in Atlanta where she planned on entering law school. However, while attending a Veteran’s hiring event with a friend who didn’t want to go alone, Corey met a recruiter from UPS.

UPS needed someone who could write standard operating procedures, and Corey’s logistics/transport background was a compelling bonus. She started as a supervisor and moved up quickly.

“Most people think of UPS as just the brown trucks,” Corey comments. “But UPS spans the spectrum: air, ground and rail. People need stuff moved from point A to point B, and there’s a million different ways to do it.”

Post-pandemic, Corey, her husband and daughter made the decision to return to Michigan to be closer to family. Leaving UPS as regional solutions director, Corey was weary of travel challenges and open to applying her strategic planning and leadership skills in her home state. Successfully finding a house with enough acreage for her three dogs, six cats, chicken coop and gardening hobby has anchored them all in the Lansing area.

Coming full-circle, Corey thinks back on her early mentors who made it possible to leave Michigan in the first place, and whose wisdom left the door open so she could eventually return to her roots.

“My wonderful high school counselor gave me a children’s book by Eric Carle when I graduated. Called “The Tiny Seed”, it’s about how you can go off and do amazing things.

“My Air Force recruiter was also a big influence, along with all the great folks I worked with at every military installation. It’s part of the ‘whole person’ concept the military taught me — you continue to grow by people offering you a hand and teaching you what they know. You add to that knowledge and as it evolves to meet the needs of today, it shifts and becomes far more than what you are able to create on your own. What knowledge can you update? Or how can you take what folks already know and get them to think a little bit differently?”

Corey’s personal/professional philosophy is grounded in a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and her husband gave her a framed copy at Christmas for her office wall.

Corey with her husband, Steve at the 2023 Rotary Children’s holiday party where they handed out gifts (wearing red Santa hats).
Corey with her husband, Steve at the 2023 Rotary Children’s holiday party where they handed out gifts

The poem encapsulates the real growth and success that comes from making a difference in the lives of others, and the connections with people that make the work worthwhile. ~

The poem, “What is Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, describes success as simple pleasures and being kind.



Michigan Department of Treasury

The Department of Treasury is committed to maintaining Michigan’s financial integrity. Contact: 517-335-7508