Learn more about the Michigan Journal of Public Affairs – by Larry Sanders, M.P.P. 2018

Sanders, Larry

Quick: what are the first three adjectives you associate with academic journals? Yes, you.

Dry? Repetitive? Stale? These might be stereotypical — and downright mean too, I suppose — but I can’t say I didn’t once view academic journals in the same way. Academic journals are made for academics clearly, hence the name. But even academics, in a world where their time is especially precious, need to be sold on why reading these journals is a good investment of their time. I can’t tell you the amount of journals I’ve been given at symposiums and conferences — journals within fields I typically find fascinating — that I’ve only glanced through once. And glance might be too strong of a word. This might be more an indictment on myself than the academic journal format; I’m sure Dr. Du Bois would roll his eyes at my inability to focus. But, I think this is a fundamental question any successful organization must answer: why us? What is our ultimate goal? And, most importantly, what have we done, what are we doing, and what are we planning to do to maintain our relevancy?

I have no illusions about changing how academic journals are formatted, but I do think organizations can be much more innovative in their communications and outreach efforts. I’m sure there are plenty of journals who aren’t lacking for submissions and readership, but journals trying to establish a foothold within these academic communities need to think more outside-the-box about ways of proving their appeal, and their significance. My first year at Ford, way back in 2014, I flirted with the idea of submitting a piece for our journal, the Michigan Journal of Public Affairs (MJPA), but ultimately I balked. I had way too many questions, some admittedly superficial, but I think it boiled down to a question of value: Is this a good investment of my time?

From my perspective, our journal is massively undervalued. We’re one of the top policy schools nationally at one of the country’s greatest public institutions, and we’re looking to Harvard and Princeton for advice? This isn’t a shot at either of their universities or their respective policy journals; I am simply in disbelief that we’ve yet to leverage our access to Michigan’s strong academic and research brand to make MJPA one of the largest policy-based journals in the country. The interest is definitely there: just last year, MJPA received 22 submissions from over a dozen schools. But there’s not a doubt in my mind that number can grow even larger.

To that end, I joined the MJPA executive board this year as its Communications Director (be the change you’d like to see, I know). So far, I’ve only done rudimentary stuff: when our executive board took over, the journal only had a Facebook page; since then, I’ve launched a Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to capture and broadcast more “exclusive” content. What “exclusive” means, I’ve yet to determine, but I do think it’ll be cool to grant more access into the machinations of how these journals come together. It doesn’t take much for things centered in academia to become stodgy, or at least perceived as such. I know the planning process for Volume 15 of MJPA will be a blast; I’ve had so much fun working with the rest of the executive board (hey Olivia, Kristina, and Will!), and we’ve picked a phenomenal group of editors and contributing writers who will not only help facilitate this process, but make next year’s edition even greater. This is supposed to be a hobby! Why aren’t we showing off some more?

I see great things in the future of the Michigan Journal of Public Affairs, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help with its advancement. If you’d like to check out Volume 14, visit our website, and follow all our new social media pages too! (@fsppmjpa, if you’re looking.) I’m prepared to be slightly obnoxious with promotion, but only because I truly believe MJPA has value within academia. I definitely wouldn’t be writing this blog post if I didn’t.

The International Policy Center – the Ford School’s hub for global engagement and education on pressing global issues

Many prospective students express interest in becoming involved in research as part of their graduate school experience. This post is the first in a series that will focus on the research centers at the Ford School and how their work is relevant to our students.

The International Policy Center (IPC) has recently expanded both their staff and their activities. Professor John Ciorciari is the faculty director of IPC and brings an impressive resume with him. His research interests include international law and politics in the Global South, particularly in Asia. He has been a National Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and a Shorenstein Fellow at Stanford’s Asia-Pacific Research Center. He is also part of the inaugural class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows.

This past year two new staff members joined IPC. Cliff Martin is the Global Engagement Program Manager. He leads IPC’s efforts to help design, manage, and support international policy courses at the Ford School, as well as related events and co-curricular programs. He also helps lead IPC initiatives to foster interdisciplinary research, cultivate strong ties to international policy practitioners, and develop opportunities and resources for students.

Zuzana Wisely is the Administrative Coordinator. She serves as the lead event planner for IPC’s major events, seminars and conferences and she is the Ford School travel administrator for Public Policy courses with an experiential learning component that require traveling abroad.

Two areas of work for IPC that involve large numbers of Ford School students are the International Economic Development Program (IEDP), which takes a group of students to a developing country and internship funding support for masters’ students pursuing an internship abroad.

The addition of these two new roles has given IPC the ability to add other types of exciting programming to their schedule. The Center just hosted a policy simulation exercise on diplomacy related to North Korea. They are also planning a second simulation related to conflict resolution for the winter semester.

IPC also hosts two seminar series, one related to international security issues and the other to international economic development.  These seminars are open to students. If you are interested in learning more about the work of the International Policy Center, you should definitely visit their website.


Welcome to our new assistant professors!

Mitts and Silva

The Ford School is delighted to welcome two new assistant professors to our faculty this fall. We are excited about the new perspectives they will add to our community and how our students can benefit from their research.

Tamar Mitts will earn her PhD in political science from Columbia University in May. She specializes in comparative politics and international relations, with a focus on political violence, conflict, radicalization and extremism.

Before pursuing her PhD at Columbia, Mitts worked as a counterterrorism research officer in the Israeli Directorate of Military Intelligence and in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mitts holds a master’s degree in political science from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in politics from New York University.

Fabiana Silva will earn her PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in June. Her current research seeks to understand the mechanisms that perpetuate or mitigate group-based inequality in the labor market, with a focus on social networks and employer discrimination.

Before pursuing graduate studies, Silva served as a research associate with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency in Oakland, California. She received her master’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley and her bachelor’s degree in social studies from Harvard University.

Diversity, equity and inclusion – some thoughts from Stephanie Sanders

In 2015, the University of Michigan began a strategic planning process related to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Each college at the university developed a five year plan to further enhance our resources and training in this area. One of the results of this plan was the development of a position within the Ford School for a diversity, equity and inclusion officer. We were very fortunate to recruit an outstanding person, Stephanie Sanders, to fill this newly created position. I asked Stephanie to share some of her thoughts about the Ford School.




stephaniesandersAs I begin my new role as the inaugural Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer/Lecturer III, I am thrilled to be here and to work with you in this new capacity. We are very fortunate to work and learn at an institution like the University of Michigan – a place where we can speak freely, challenge ideas and acknowledge and celebrate our differences.


We entered the first week of fall semester with a Community Dialogue to address polarizing national and local events. This event marked the beginning of what continues to be ongoing efforts this semester and beyond. While events like the dialogue are important platforms where we hear from members of the Ford School Community, we are also intentional in our efforts to address these and other concerns.


At the Ford School we strive to create a working and learning environment where diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded in everything we do. A key aspect of this work is engaging as many members of our community as possible. To this end, I view this work as a collective call to action. Dean Barr, Professor Paula Lantz, Susan Gundi and myself are already prioritizing events and initiatives that advance our strategic diversity framework. We have incredible resources in our faculty and staff who are committed to lend their time, energy and expertise to these and similar efforts, both in and out of the classroom. Students and student organizations are independently doing the same.

At the Ford School we value rigorous learning, critical engagement with ideas and respect for those whose views differ. As iron sharpens iron – expect your intellectual mettle to be tested through the process of intentional engagement, thoughtful inquiry and application.


Stephanie Sanders

“The depths of our divisions, the breadth of our communities” – by Hannah Bauman

One of our annual fall events is the Josh Rosenthal Education Fund lecture. This lecture series honors Josh Rosenthal, a University of Michigan alumnus who died in the 9/11 attacks. The Rosenthal Fund supports lectures, special seminars, student research, internships and other programs, encouraging new and deeper understandings of international issues. You can learn more about this series here: http://fordschool.umich.edu/events/named-events

A current MPP student, Hannah Bauman, offers her review of this year’s lecture “The depth of our divisions, the breadth of our communities,” by Nadina Christopoulou

“We anthropologists are obsessed with arrival scenes,” Nadina Christopoulou states matter-of-factly as she attempts to describe to the audience what it is like to enter the worn,19th century building that houses the Melissa Network, the organization for migrant and refugee women in Greece that she co-founded in 2014. It’s a difficult task to explain to the people sitting in the large Ford School auditorium how welcoming the honeyed smell of Tunisian desserts, the laughter of women, and the gleeful patter of children’s feet halfway across the world felt to me when I visited in February, but I had a feeling that warmth was due mostly to the woman standing in front of us now.

Nadina Christopoulou is a remarkable person–as co-founder of the Melissa Network she runs what is essentially a community center for migrant and refugee women from, at her last count, over 45 countries ranging from the Philippines to Afghanistan. Located in the heart of Athens in a neighborhood wavering on the edge of becoming a stronghold for the alt-right, the Melissa Network educates, empowers, and heals the scores of women who walk through its doors in an attempt to address what is quickly becoming one of the biggest policy questions in the world today–how to address the very real human consequences of globalization and the migratory patterns that go with it?

Athens’ location has always predisposed the historic city to be at the center of various human drama–political, social, economic–and no more so than during the waves of refugees that started coming in 2014 and haven’t stopped since. You probably saw the headlines flash across your phone, maybe you even read a story about the people propelled out of their country by war and destruction and pulled toward the Western world by the promise of jobs and better lives for their children, but it is unlikely that any of that information truly hit you in the way that it hit Athens, or Nadina. In tandem with women leaders from various immigrant communities, she founded the Melissa Network as a safe haven from women fleeing violence, political instability, or simply seeking better opportunities.

And it is truly an amazing place–filled with art classes, language lessons, coding workshops, yoga sessions, and the buzz of activity brought by the women and their children who walk through its doors. Having visited the Melissa Network in Athens as part of the Ford School International Economic Development Program in the winter of 2017, I can speak to the life-changing work that happens there. Oftentimes, as policymakers, it is easy to throw out buzzwords like “asset-based thinking” or “community-based development,” but Melissa is the rare organization that actually practices what it preaches and that places people at the center of their work. Melissa demonstrates the inherent worth of all humanity in practice by flipping the narrative of the broken refugee to one where the women who enter are treated as wells of information and skills that they can share within this new sisterhood. The Melissa Network is a bridge to an integrated society for these women from disparate lands and different backgrounds because it capitalizes on the inherent strengths of its members by seeing women as multipliers. “This is what women do,” Nadina says, “They turn the uninhabitable into a home.”

In this way, the Melissa Network is a feminist critique of current refugee policy. Even the name of the organization itself–Melissa–invokes this idea. The Greek word for honeybee, Melissa is a nod to the industriousness and commitment to community that marks those insects led by their queen. The women who make up the Melissa network are not bystanders waiting for aid to be delivered but people actively working for a better future. Through their involvement in the network they create life opportunities for themselves and then bring that back to their own communities, spreading their impact across countries, even continents, much as bees are known to pollinate flowers miles from their own hives.

This is what rests as the center of policymaking–people. Before we think about policymaking we need to think about community building. As Nadina said, “When policymaking becomes a remote practice, by the time it gets implemented it is already irrelevant.” Her work through the Melissa network is a testament to how in a place where policies failed, humanity stepped up. As Nadina said in her talk, “Today’s refugees are tomorrow’s neighbors.”