Jim Leija, Council Chair - Presenters

Jim Leija currently serves as the director of education & community engagement for UMS, the 138-year-old nonprofit performing arts presenter affiliated with the University of Michigan and 2014 recipient of the National Medal of Arts. 

He began at UMS in the marketing department, serving first as public relations manager and later as the manager of new media & online initiatives (a position created for him). Leija was promoted to the position of director of education & community engagement in June 2011 following a national search. In his current role, he provides the strategic direction for UMS's community, university, and K-12/youth engagement and education programs, and leads the team that produces over 125 free or low-cost education events and a range of educational materials each season.

In addition to his role at UMS, Leija was publicly elected, in 2014, to a four-year term as a trustee of the Ann Arbor District Library. He currently serves as Treasurer, and plays a vital role in stewarding this beloved community institution. Leija is an occasional filmmaker and performer, and recently took top prize in the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design Alumni Exhibition. His non-fiction performance essay “dance or die” is published in the anthology "Queer and Catholic" (Routledge). He holds three degrees from the University of Michigan: a Master of Fine Arts in Art & Design, Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre. Leija lives in Ann Arbor, MI, with his husband, Aric Knuth, and their two rescue dogs, Maisie and Olive.

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