Get involved: Center for Social Impact Board Fellowship Program

Amelia Esenstad

Amelia Esenstad is a first year MPP student. She is participating in the CSI Board Fellows program. Thanks to Amelia for sharing her experience with us!


One of the strengths of the Ford School is its connection between the academics of public policy and their real-world application. There are many opportunities here at UM to build on classroom and personal experience, including policy talks, student organizations, and other volunteer opportunities. For me, the Center for Social Impact (CSI) Board Fellowship Program has been a valuable way to further develop my leadership skills and connect with the local Ann Arbor community.

CSI’s Board Fellowship Program places UM graduate students across disciplines as board members of local nonprofits in Southeast Michigan. The program helps students build skills in project management and leadership through a board-level project and other trainings and workshops all while contributing to the mission and vision of the organization. Since 2003, the program has placed over 450 students on the board of 175 local nonprofits.

I’m serving on the board of Apple Playschools, a local nonprofit preschool with nature-focused and bilingual programs, helping to develop a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic plan. As part of my project, I’ve collaborated with the Executive Director and conducted research on best practices in the early childhood education field. Though I had previous nonprofit experience as a staff member and volunteer, working with Apple Playschools has been a great chance to see how a nonprofit board functions – what kinds of decisions the board is faced with making, how does the board address competing priorities, and more.

My peers in the program are working on an exciting collection of projects, ranging from advocacy guides to board governance to capital campaigns. We’ve been able to learn from each other and share recommendations, particularly through the recommended accompanying course at the Ross School of Business called “Governance of Nonprofit Organizations” which focuses on the responsibilities of nonprofit boards and unique challenges of nonprofit board leadership. Taken together, the course and board placement are a great blend of learning, then applying, the information and strategies for successful board leadership.

Participating in the Board Fellows program has been a highlight of my first year at the Ford School. I am excited to continue building on this experience throughout the rest of my time at Ford and with future board service and nonprofit leadership roles.

MLK panel photo

In the U.S., Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This federal holiday is set aside to celebrate the life and accomplishments of the great civil rights leader. At the Ford School, we were fortunate to be able to attend a program to look at innovative programs for youth and young adults featuring an outstanding panel of experts.

Broderick Johnson, a former Obama Administration Cabinet Secretary and Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, Luke Shaefer, Director of Poverty Solutions, and Brian Jacob, co-director of the Youth Policy Lab as well as the Education Policy Initiative, talked about mentoring and summer youth employment programs aimed at low income urban youth.  Although these programs have only been in operation for a few years, the initial evidence indicates that they are having a positive impact on the populations they seek to serve. However, as all of the panelists acknowledged, the programs have room to grow and develop. As a school, we are very proud and excited of the applied research being conducted by our research centers, seeking to make an impact on issues of poverty and inequality.

We were also excited to learn that Broderick will be joining us as a Towsley Policy Maker in Residence for the Winter 2019 semester and he will be teaching a class on mass incarceration. For any of you who are interested in learning more about this panel or exploring issues related to poverty alleviation and social inequality, you might want to take some time to watch the video of the panel.

Applying for Fall 2018?

We are pleased to see applications from prospective students for our masters’ programs for the Fall 2018 semester beginning to arrive. If you are currently working on your application, we wanted to provide some information and direction that may be helpful.

Submission Deadline
The deadline to apply for one of our masters’ programs is Monday, January 15, 2018 by 11:59 p.m. EST.  We understand that sometimes letters of recommendation, transcripts, test scores, etc. may be a little late. We will be as flexible as possible, but you must ensure that your application is submitted by January 15, 2018. Our team is in the process of reviewing submitted applications to ensure that they are complete and updating the status of the application.

The application is available online through the Rackham Graduate School website.

For the purpose of the admission review, you may upload unofficial copies of transcripts from your degree-granting institution(s) with your online application for the admissions committee to review. You are also welcome to upload unofficial transcripts from any other institutions you may have attended, but you are not required to do so. All transcripts need to be uploaded as one document. We do ask that you provide it in a format that is easy to understand. Some applicants have used advising report formats that are difficult to follow.

Friend Account
When you begin your application, you are prompted to create a friend account, which enables you to access your application. Applicants sometimes get locked out of this account and need to have it reset. If you experience this situation, you should contact the Rackham Admissions office. You can either email or you can call 734-764-8129. We are unable to unlock friend accounts, so you must contact Rackham directly.

Application Fee Waivers
The Ford School is able to provide application fee waivers to individuals who have participated in the following programs:

– Teach For America
– Peace Corps (at least three months removed from their service)
– AmeriCorps (at least three months removed from their service)
– Active U.S. Military
– U.S. Military Veterans

To request these fee waivers, complete the Ford School’s volunteer service form. After requests are submitted, applicants receive an email from asking for a Letter of Verification from their organization (Letters of Verification must include dates of service). Upon receipt of the Letter of Verification and subsequent approval of the request for fee waiver, applicants will receive their fee waiver code via email with additional instructions. If you are applying for a fee waiver from either Rackham or the Ford School, please allow at least a week for processing.

The Rackham Graduate School offers fee waivers to graduate students with financial need, Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) alumni, and current AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and Vista volunteers. To receive your Rackham fee waiver approval in a timely manner, please follow Rackham’s Instructions for fee waiver requests.

Detailed information about necessary application materials can be found on our application checklist page, as well as information for International Applicants. As always, please be sure to contact us with any questions at or by calling 734-764-0453.