Guest post by Michael Manansala, 2nd year M.P.P. student about his Ford School experience

With only a month left until Ford School’s admissions application deadline, many of you are sitting in front of the computer mapping out your writing strategy for the personal statement and the statement of purpose, thinking about what to include on your resume, and wondering how your application could best communicate your commitment to Michael internshippublic service. Key to that understanding is being able to tie your aspirations with general aspects of student life at the Ford School. In this post, I want to answer some of those questions by sharing my experience at the Ford School and what made me choose this amazing public policy institution. While there’s no cookie-cutter journey that shapes a graduate student in public policy, I hope to provide you with some key reflections and learnings as you explore your options.

My path to grad school followed a very conventional path. I first learned about the Ford School when I met Beth Soboleski at the Public Policy and Leadership Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School, and a year later, I found myself in Ann Arbor as a Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow. After graduating from Macalester College, I took an 1,100-mile road trip from Saint Paul, Minnesota to Washington, DC where I worked as an international development professional at DAI prior to entering grad school. For me, grad school was a chance to gain more skills, expand my network, and pivot towards a leadership role in the international sector.

At the Ford School, I set out to do exactly as I had planned. Along with core classes, I’m taking as many international courses as possible, and I co-chaired the Ford School’s International Policy Students’ Association. In March, I will head to Athens, Greece with other Ford School students for annual International Economic Development Program, where we will delve into critical domestic and international policy issues that affect the country.

Even my internship experience was completed abroad. This past summer, I accepted a position as a Summer Fellow at the Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF) and was embedded in PALF’s portfolio company, the Affordable Private Education Centers (APEC) in the Philippines, the country’s largest private school. PALF is the venture capital subsidiary of Pearson Plc, the world’s largest learning company. As a Fellow, I shaped APEC’s academic strategy and directed two work streams critical to the school’s efficacy objectives.

For a path that looks conventional and straightforward, my journey also took some interesting turns. Since entering grad school, I’ve become increasingly interested in policies and issues that affect the LGBT community. To that end, I joined Out in Public, the Ford School’s LGBT student organization and a group I currently co-chair. Last year, I organized a University-wide event on HIV prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with panelists from the White House, the Human Rights Campaign, and Michigan’s School of Public Health. In light of the 2016 Presidential Elections’ outcome, our group now plans to establish an LGBT Policy Leadership Institute in March 2017, where we plan to train queer students on the fundamentals of building, organizing, and leading policy campaigns around issues that affect the LGBT community.

I could not have done all of the things I set out to do in grad school without the tremendous financial, academic, and professional development support that the Ford School and the University of Michigan invests in its students. The Ford School’s curriculum allows me to apply a set of tools across a diverse array of policy areas, with opportunities to broaden or specialize in multiple or specific disciplines that are taught within the University such as law, business, environment, urban planning, engineering, public health, education, social work, etc. As a recipient of the Rackham Merit award and of the WDI Fellowship, I’m able to afford this prestigious, yet expensive degree and travel to opportunities that expand my professional experience. Furthermore, as part of a small school within a top public university that boasts the largest network of living alumni in the world, I constantly encounter Michigan alumni, students, and faculty in my travels who are excited to share their story and are eager to support my aspirations.

Your grad school journey is about to begin, and it could not be a more interesting time to pursue a career in public service. In our classrooms, not only will you learn how to impact and transform public policy from faculty who are at the forefront of these policy debates, you will also become part of a supportive community that will help you shape and own your grad school experience. To show how this support has helped us, let me tell you what happened after the 2016 elections. On November 9th, many students at the Ford School were devastated at the outcome and found it difficult to process how this election will affect our personal and professional lives. To my relief, Betsey Stevenson, our Public Finance professor cancelled that day’s lesson and provided a space for us to discuss and reflect on our thoughts and frustrations about the elections. Later that week, many Ford School faculty and staff opened their doors to further help us process the election results. Since November 8th, our school (and the University writ-large) has provided multiple resources on career paths in public service given the new administration, as well as support specifically for DACAmented and international students. The Ford School is committed to ensuring that we thrive in this current political environment, and while many of us are still grappling with the outcome of the elections, I know I can count on the Ford School’s and University of Michigan’s community to support my professional growth.

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Cookie day 2016!

To celebrate the end of the fall semester, each year the Student & Academic Services office at the Ford School hosts our annual Cookie Day. On the last day of classes, staff in our office and others throughout the school bring in dozens of delicious holiday cookies to share with our students, faculty and staff. Many folks refer to it as their favorite day of the year! Here are a few photos from the celebration. Good luck with finals to all of our students!

cookie day 2Cookie day tableCookie day

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: The Ford School strategic plan

Last year our president, Mark Schlissel, charged the university with creating a five year strategic plan to address the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion on our campus. As a community, we conducted surveys, held focus groups and had many discussions about the many facets that need to be addressed in crafting such a plan. Each school on campus submitted their plan to the Provost’s Office for review and, over the summer, those plans were woven together to help create a university wide plan. In October we launched our plan and many activities have already taken place. Our Communications and Outreach office has written an article about some of these activities. As many of the prospective students I speak with ask about issues related to diversity and inclusion, I thought you might find it interesting and hope you will read it when you have a few minutes.

Best wishes, Beth

Student profile: Maureen Higgins

MHiggins HeadshotI am a third-year MPP/MBA student originally from the Philadelphia suburbs. I got my undergraduate degree in economics from Tufts University, and then I spent several years working in policy research and evaluation in DC. I focused mainly on education and health policy, both in my work and at the Ford School. I’ve had two internships while at Michigan: in 2015, I interned with an education-focused nonprofit through Education Pioneers. In 2016, I had a private-sector consulting internship with Bain & Company. I plan to return to consulting after I graduate.

Public policy isn’t one of the most obvious career paths. Describe the path that brought you to it.

Public policy actually felt like a natural fit for me. I love problem solving, and working in public policy lets you tackle some of the most interesting and complex problems that our society is facing. I was fortunate enough to work with some awesome MPPs during an undergraduate internship in education policy. The experience really solidified my interest in public policy because I was doing challenging work with a tangible impact for kids.

What’s on your reading list this week? What are you doing for homework? 

I’m reading a few different things right now! I’m taking a class on financial crises and economic policy, so I’m reading Timothy Geithner’s book about his experiences as Treasury Secretary during the 2008 crisis. I’m also in a class on the role of business in society, so I’ve been reading a lot about corporate social responsibility efforts. In my spare time, I’m also reading a fiction novel (Fates and Furies) for a book club that I’m in with some fellow students.

What’s your favorite place, at U-M, or in Ann Arbor or Detroit, to take an out-of-town guest? Describe it.

During the Fall, I always try to bring out-of-town guests to football games. My undergraduate institution was much, much smaller than Michigan, so this is a totally new experience for me! It’s a lot of fun, and a great reminder of the amazing Michigan community that extends every beyond the Ford School. I’ve run into fellow Wolverines everywhere from San Francisco to New York to Puerto Rico, which is pretty incredible.

Visit from Reverend Jesse Jackson

Rev. Jackson and students lrgOn Wednesday, November 16th the Ford School was honored to host a symposium for the Reverend Jesse Jackson, commemorating his long and distinguished career as a civil rights leader in our country. While it was a memorable day for all of our community, a small group of our student leaders had the opportunity to talk with Rev. Jackson and attend a reception in his honor. They were more than a little awed by this experience! During part of the day, Rev. Jackson accompanied the students to our Diag, where a student protest about some hateful incidents that had occurred on campus was being conducted. The chance to walk with a man who had been witness to so many important events in our history was well appreciated by the students. I asked some of them to express what this event meant to them and have included some of their responses below.

From Nashaira Verrier, 2nd year MPP student:

“It’s not everyday that you get to meet Rev. Jesse Jackson, let alone escort him to a protest at the diag. It was such an honor and a privilege to stand next to a man who has dedicated his entire life to working toward social justice and equality. This event and Rev. Jackson’s speech calling for unity and speaking out against racism, xenophobia, sexism, and Islamophobia could not have come at a better time and I am proud that the Ford School invited such a revolutionary civil rights leader to speak.”

From Ginelle Sanchez Leos, 2nd year MPP student:

“Just some background — I grew up in a household where my grandparents constantly praised Rev. Jesse Jackson and supported what his Rainbow Coalition stood for.  To them, Jesse Jackson represented the America that they, as immigrants from Mexico, worked so hard to bring their family to and he symbolized a promise that their children’s future would be better than the one they left behind.

I had the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for dedicating his life to civil rights and social justice.  I also told him thank you on behalf of my grandparents who, I explained, were migrant workers from Mexico and believed so much in his work.  Then the enormity of walking alongside Rev. Jesse Jackson hit me and I imagined how proud my grandparents would have been.  I started crying and couldn’t speak.  He smiled and told me to be careful not to trip on the sidewalk, since I was a little shaken up, and then how important it was that we were strong and all stood together.
His speech on the steps of Hatcher and at Rackham were hopeful and moving.  And, especially after the most recent election, he renewed my faith that our Rainbow America is still just as strong and determined. I couldn’t have ever imagined having this opportunity, so thank you to the Ford School for making it possible.  I’m definitely framing my photos with him.”
Thank you to Nashaira and Ginelle for sharing their thoughts!