The Dow Sustainability Fellowship program

Garcia Montufar, Diego


This post is written by Diego Garcia Montufar. Diego is pursuing a dual master’s degree program in public policy and applied economics


One of the highlights of my experience at the Ford School was my work through the Dow Sustainability Fellowship. Dow fellows engage in an interdisciplinary team project with students from other schools and departments from across UM and attend seminars by academics, practitioners, and other sustainability experts. The fellowship highlights the importance of collaboration across disciplines to devise actionable sustainability solutions at local and global levels.

My team, composed of students from the schools of Public Policy and Environment and Sustainability, assessed barriers to ridesharing and carsharing in HOPE Village, a neighborhood in the city of Detroit. Shared-use mobility services such as ridesharing and carsharing are changing the transportation landscape across the world and providing people with access to opportunities such as jobs and education. These mobility services, however, have mostly been targeted to high-end consumers and have the potential to exclude low-resourced, low-density communities. By focusing on a neighborhood in Detroit, my team hoped to understand whether shared-use mobility services could contribute to satisfy the transportation needs of communities where public transportation is wanting, and to identify the challenges and barriers that prevent people from using them.

As a policy student interested in qualitative research methods, I was responsible for designing the questionnaires that we used to conduct focus groups in HOPE Village. A key part of my job was amplifying the voices and opinions of residents, and using their insights to inform the recommendations to our local partner. My teammates conducted research in areas like transportation policy, focusing on successful ridesharing and carsharing programs across the US, while others incorporated their business and environmental expertise to our work. In addition, we received enormous support from our local partner, Focus: HOPE and from Ford School faculty like Elisabeth Gerber, a transportation policy expert.

The focus groups we conducted revealed that the most significant barriers to shared-use mobility services in HOPE Village were access to credit, security concerns, and a lack of outreach and inclusion from shared-use mobility companies. Many of these barriers could be addressed by adequate policy responses, but others depend on the strategies employed by shared-used mobility companies to penetrate different neighborhoods and areas. Our findings confirmed that an interdisciplinary approach like the one espoused by the Dow Sustainability Fellowship could in fact contribute to major changes in the transportation landscape and make shared-use mobility services more accessible and equitable. Many cities across the US have acknowledged this; the city of Detroit has launched an Office of Mobility Innovation, and the city of San Francisco is currently conducting a series of studies on Emerging Mobility Services and Technologies to inform future policy options and pilot programs, taking community collaboration and equitable access as some of its guiding principles.

My experience as a Dow Fellow serves as a strong reminder of why I chose to study public policy in the first place: policy problems are multifaceted, and their solutions must draw from multiple disciplines, including economics, sociology, health sciences, and others. Programs like the Dow Sustainability Fellowship are an opportunity for Ford and other UM students to put their knowledge in practice and contribute to solutions that can improve the quality of life for present and future generations while safeguarding our planet.

Interested in science and technology policy?

A number of students in our masters’ programs are interested in policy issues that are related to science and technology, including areas such as energy policy, environmental policy, health care, etc. One way to get a little deeper training in this area is through our graduate certificate in science, technology and public policy (STPP). Below is more information from our STPP program administrator, Caroline Walsh


Are you interested in influencing science and technology policy? Are you concerned that U.S. research funding is at risk? Do you wonder how scientists and governments will navigate the ethical challenges of CRISPR/Cas9 technology? Do you want to use science and technology to help citizens in the developing world? Are you interested in a science or engineering career outside the lab? The STPP Program provides you with tools to think through these questions and prepare you for a career that engages with science and technology policy.

Launched in 2006, STPP is a well-regarded and uniquely interdisciplinary graduate certificate program dedicated to training students on politics and policy related to science and technology. Masters and PhD students in good academic standing from across University of Michigan’s campus are eligible to apply. The STPP Program currently enrolls 51 students from a variety of backgrounds including engineering, biomedical sciences, public health, physics, chemistry, social sciences, law, business, environmental science, and public policy. Over the past 11 years, the program has successfully graduated 81 students who have gone on to shape science and technology policy by working in government, non-governmental organizations, industry, and academia.

Our course content reaches across multiple disciplines and is concerned with cutting-edge questions that arise at the intersection of science, technology, policy, and society:

  • Should governments regulate potentially transformative emerging science and technology, such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and autonomous vehicles, and if so, how?
  • How should governments balance science and values as they make public policies?
  • Can we do better science, and develop better technologies, to ensure social benefit?
  • How can scientists and engineers better engage the public and policymakers?

The STPP graduate certificate program is dedicated to training students to: 1) contribute, as science or technology experts themselves, in the policymaking process; 2) engage in science and technology policy analysis (through thinktanks, industry, or academia); and 3) participate in the politics and policy of science and technology (as government officials or members of non-governmental organizations). STPP students enjoy a competitive advantage when applying for science and technology policy jobs and fellowships; preferential access to STPP courses; access to scholars and practitioners invited through STPP’s lecture series and other events; access to supplementary funding through the STPP Student Career Development Grant; networking opportunities; and more!

Reclaiming My Time: Leveraging Professional Development Funds by Lee Taylor-Penn, MPH/MPA student

lee cropped

While the Ford School of Public Policy offers a rigorous curriculum, they also recognize that not all learning takes place in the classroom. For that reason, they offer $500 in professional development funding per year to each graduate student. This year, I used a portion of my professional development funding to attend The Women’s Convention in Detroit, Michigan from October 27th to 29th.

Founded by the organizers of the Women’s March, the Women’s Convention brought together activists, politicians, and women* for a weekend of learning, movement building, and artistic expression. When I arrived on Friday morning, I was overwhelmed by the palpable energy of the more than 4,000 conference attendees. The main hall was filled with thousands of people from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico that had come together with a shared intention to “reclaim our time” through resistance and action.

As a straight, cis-gender, white woman, I was thrilled to see diversity in race, age, gender, and ability represented in the attendees, panelists, and keynote speakers. It was clear that the organizers had prioritized intersectionality—the belief that we all have overlapping identities that affect our life experience. The focus on intersectionality gave attendees an avenue to better understand other’s experience of power and oppression and how they could use their privilege to fight for equality for all women.

The highlight of the conference was the keynote speech by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-California) on Saturday. A tireless advocate for women, children, and people of color, Congresswoman Waters focused her speech on sexual assault and harassment, centering on the recent #metoo movement.  She spoke about the cost of silence, saying “We cannot afford to be shut down or shut up by any man.” I was struck by her passionate rallying cry to “keep up the resistance” and “provide the leadership” for the progressive movement. Throughout her speech, she received several standing ovations and she ended her talk by leading a chant to “Impeach 45.”

The conference offered a multitude of panels on topics including community organizing and advocacy, public speaking, equitable labor policies, incarceration, and much more. Here is a brief overview of a few of the panels I attended:

  • Future(s) of Work—what the growth of the food and domestic industry means for women and economic security
  • Leverage Local Power: Winning on the Inside—lobbying and grassroots strategies to affect change
  • This is What Democracy Looks Like! Engaging New Voters in 2018—voter engagement and the changing demographics of the Democratic party

Through these workshops, I learned organizing tactics and strategies to build power in my local community and I gained a better understanding of the challenges to creating transformational change. I was also inspired to run for political office, and I hope to one day run for city council or as a state representative. I am grateful to the Ford School for providing me with the opportunity to hear from the women that are changing our nation for the better!

The word “women” refers to significantly female-identified people, including trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people. 

Choosing the right policy school – by Hannah Bauman (MPP 2018)

This is a post by one of our current M.P.P. students, passing along information and ideas about how to assess the right program for you.


I’ll start this out by saying: obviously, I’m biased. As a student at the Ford School, I personally think it’s the best place to get a policy degree for many reasons; but as someone who applied to twelve (yes, twelve) graduate schools with no idea what she was looking for, hopefully a look into my decision process will help someone out. Below I’ve listed 5 questions aimed at helping prospective students with their decisions about where to apply to policy school and where to go.

1. Is going to graduate school the right choice for me?

I think the first mistake people make when looking towards graduate school is simply returning to school because they have no idea what else to do and they think school might be the answer to feeling “stuck” in their current position. Before you apply to graduate school I would encourage everyone to think honestly about why they want to return to school and why policy school specifically is the next right step. As a former teacher, policy school made sense for me because I wanted to use my MPP to pivot career paths. I saw very few other ways to move out of education and into the types of social policy jobs I wanted without an advanced degree. However, if I wanted to stay in education policy then I could have probably done that through shifting to work in an education nonprofit of some type, eliminating policy school as a necessity. Before investing time, resources, and money into a graduate degree, make sure you really need it. Are there ways you could advance in your current path without a degree? Are you sure policy is the right fit and not a law degree or a social work degree? Policy school can be as general or as specific an experience as you want it to be, so having some idea of the reasons why you are applying can help you narrow down both where you apply and where you decide to go.

2. Where do I see myself in 10 years?

I know, this question is a terrible one. But bear with me–the exercise is a useful one. Even if you are totally unsure of what you want to be or how you will use this degree, it can be helpful to at least think through a few larger questions. Do you see yourself in a big city or a smaller town? Does federal government work interest you or not? Would you like to have a job that is more centered around desk work or interacting with people? Does direct service energize or exhaust you? Thinking about these questions can help decide what kind of school you’re looking to attend. Wanting to work in federal government might limit your school choices to those in DC or those with already strong connections to federal jobs (like the Ford School), whereas wanting to work on the west coast might encourage you to focus your energies in schools out there. Knowing that a more research-focused job appeals to you makes the case for a more quantitatively-focused program or one that allows you to practice your research skills with a thesis of some sort. Or perhaps you recognize your resume lacks examples of your writing skills–you might want to look at schools that offer opportunities for bettering your craft and even publication. One note here–this thought process might lead you back to Question 1, and that’s ok! Maybe thinking about where you want to be in 10 years illuminates paths you never considered like business school or a master’s in public health. Listen to that.

3. What do I value in an educational setting?

Maybe you’re someone who really cares about facetime with professors. Maybe you’re a liberal-arts graduate like me who values seminar-style classes with heavy discussion and analysis. Maybe you prefer to attend a school with a big sports profile, or maybe you’re going to graduate school just so you can force yourself to finally take statistics. Maybe your first priority is finding a school that can help you finance your education or one that allows you to study a very specific niche area. Whatever your reasons, part of choosing the right school for you is choosing what you value from your education and what you need your master’s degree to do for you. Obviously, graduate school is a very different beast from undergrad, but these questions still apply. One of the reasons I chose the Ford School was because of its outstanding career services department. From a graduate degree I really wanted to expand my network in order to get a job, and I saw the Michigan community and Ford’s career services as a huge part of that. Grounding yourself in what you want from your education can be a helpful step in selecting programs that allow you to reach your goals.

4. How much do I care about location?

Here’s the thing–there are top-tier public policy schools all over the world. Pretty much wherever you choose you are guaranteed to get a great education and move your career forward. However, it’s important to remember that school is not your life, and where you spend the next two (or more) years has an important impact on not just your degree but also your personal life and happiness. Attending school in Ann Arbor is going to be a different experience than going to Boston, or Chicago, or Austin (and not just because of the weather). Choosing the right school for you means considering every aspect of that school, including where it’s located and what that location offers. Maybe you really value being in a big city, or maybe you enjoy the clarity and focus that a college town offers you. If you’re coming to graduate school with a partner or a family that obviously also informs your decision. Having a well-balanced and happy personal life goes a long way towards making graduate school a more enjoyable experience.

5.Can I afford it?

A graduate degree is very valuable, but one of the questions you should absolutely be considering is how much your degree will cost. Saddling yourself with thousands of dollars of loans and entering a life of public service might not be setting yourself up for future success. The balancing act between school and loans is always a difficult one, and so it’s important to consider every aspect of that decision before you commit. One of the great things about Michigan is the plentiful opportunities for grad school students to work as TAs and fund their schooling that way, as well as taking advantage of in-state tuition and grants for those who completed service opportunities such as Americorps. Making sure that the finances make sense for you and your future should be an important part of any decision.

At the end of the day, only you can make the right decision for you. There are so many excellent programs out there (first and foremost, Michigan) that wherever you go will provide you with opportunities that you could not have otherwise had and allow you to impact policy in ways you would never have imagined. Good luck!

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.

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:

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.”

Life in Ann Arbor by Juan Jaimes (MPP 2018)

This article is the first in a series of articles by current students about various aspects of the student experience at the Ford School. Juan graduated from Texas State University with degrees in Family and Consumer Sciences and a minor in Business Administration. Juan has been involved with various non-profits, his university, and his community, specifically in the areas of education and immigration. During his time at Texas State University, Juan founded a student organization to address the issues faced by undocumented students in achieving a college degree. He has worked with organizations such as College Forward, Upward Bound, and University Mentoring programs, whose mission is to improve college attainment for low-resourced students. This includes a partnership with the Mexican Consulate Office in Austin and an internship with Catch the Next, Inc. While at the Ford School, Juan is interested in exploring education and immigration policies.


Once upon a time, in a school far, far away, well not that far, a student asked himself, “What about life in Ann Arbor?”

If you are a student who is asking this question now, life in Ann Arbor can be great! As a student, I like to wake up early and walk to campus. On my way to the Ford School I can smell the coffee and breakfast from the small coffee shops around town. If you like to bike, the town is cyclist friendly!

When talking about groceries, there are some options close by. If you are looking for larger scale stores, the bus system is free to U-M students. Lyft and Uber are also great transportation alternatives!

Expenses can pile up for students, if you are looking for inexpensive furniture and all the stuff that you need for your home, you should know that many students give out their gently used belongings as they move out! There are community groups as well as Facebook groups that place ads about things that you may be looking for.

Summers in Ann Arbor are some of the best you’ll have! There are summer festivals, the social events around the school, and even the green scenery will give you a sense of adventure!

Winters can be full of snow, but don’t let that fool you! Students find creative ways to be productive and active during the cold season. Whether it’s snowboarding, community fireplace socials, or even building a snowman, there’s many things to do.

Lastly, in terms of social life, the city has a variety of options. For me, Salsa Night at Bar Louie is always a great stop! The University as well as the City of Ann Arbor host great events and speakers. D.C is only an hour and a half flight away! Don’t forget, the University of Michigan is home to the one of the largest stadiums in the world, it’s a place where athletics draw huge crowds. If you like school spirit, there is no better place to experience it than at Ann Arbor!

Public Policy Connects – masters’ students helping to inspire the next generation of students

Guest post by Carmen Ye, 1st year MPP student:

On Friday, March 10, the Ford School welcomed a new group of students. Twenty-nine high school students from the Detroit Leadership Academy (DLA) and Washtenaw International (WIHI) joined Ford for a day at the annual Public Policy Connects (PPC) conference. Organized by the Association of Public Policy for Learning and Education (APPLE), PPC aims to educate high school students about the field of public policy and careers in public policy, and challenge them to think about issues in their communities in a policy-oriented way. This year’s PPC organizers were Kate Naranjo, Hannah Bauman, and me.

PPC picture 1The day started with a panel asking “What Is Public Policy?”, featuring Susan Guindi, the Director of Student and Academic Services; Talha Mirza, a junior and Ford B.A. student; and Charisse Wilkins, a first-year MPP and MBA student. Perhaps the most exciting thing about this session was not the diversity in the panelists’ experiences, interests, and backgrounds, but that Talha himself had been a PPC participant when he had attended WIHI. It was truly full circle to see Talha speaking to students from a high school he had graduated from several years ago.

During the Q&A portion of the panel, the students asked thoughtful and engaged questions. One senior, who knew she wanted to study engineering in college, asked, “How can I still be involved in public policy as an engineer?” I thought of something I had heard during my time with the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program, “There are few roads that do not lead to public policy.” And Susan conveyed this in her response, emphasizing that engineering is not isolated from things like energy and environmental policy, and to volunteer for causes she cares about.

The remaining sessions of PPC involved small group break-outs. Starting with a community scan, facilitators asked students what issues they cared about in their community. They PPC picture 2identified topics ranging from lack of mentorship to police brutality to inequality between school districts. One discussed the systemic discrimination in the incarceration system, and highlighted sentencing differences between crack and powder cocaine as a factor contributing to oppression. Listening to them talk about such heavy topics in incredibly articulate and critical ways, it was hard to believe these students were only in high school. They demonstrated an impressive emotional maturity, reminding me that people of color are great policy leaders because our lived experiences bring us closest to the problems we are trying to address.

PPC ended with lunch and a campus tour, where the students were able to take a spin of the Cube and see a sample dorm room. For some, walking through the dorm made higher education that much more tangible. Lashonta from DLA said, “I’ve learned a lot from the trip and it makes me want to attend and become a student there.” Indeed, the teacher from DLA later wrote us, “The kids have not stopped texting, calling, and following me around at school to tell me about what a great time they had on Friday.”

PPC picture 3

As we prepare to wrap up the school year, PPC has been a highlight of my first year at Ford. Feedback like, “I just want to say thank you for the experience at U of M. It was amazing to go to my dream college,” is the entire reason I am in graduate school – to encourage and empower young people of color to have a seat at the table.

They think we inspired them. But really, every day, they inspire us.






What do you do with a public policy degree? A guest post by Jennifer Niggemeier, Director of Graduate Career Services & Alumni Relations

Careers for Policy Wonks

In my many years (okay, it’s been 19, but who’s counting?) as Director of Graduate Career Niggemeier, Jennifer-2Services & Alumni Relations at the Ford School, I’ve worked with students through great economic times, downturns in the economy, Presidential and party transitions, and any number of shifts in policy priorities, trends in public-private partnerships, emerging fields and markets, and more.

Change and uncertainty can be disconcerting, and it can require (and build) resiliency and flexibility you didn’t realize you had (or wanted!) But here’s what I know through the many shifts and transitions over the years:  the world has, does, and will continue to need the skills of MPP/MPA graduates of the Ford School.

Our students, recent graduates, and alumni work across all sectors (e.g. federal, nonprofit, private, etc). From year to year, the sectors in which students accept internships and first jobs out of Ford shifts a bit. Much of that shift is influenced by individual choice (i.e. I want to work in local government). Some is influenced by the hiring market; for example, a reduction in federal workforce often leads to government work being outsourced to consulting firms, which leads to a greater interest on the part of consulting firms in recruiting at Ford.

You can see some of the data on internships and on first jobs for the past few years on our website.  Over the course of their careers, many alumni work in multiple sectors and on a host of policy issues. Our alumni careers map will allow you to read about some of their impressive career paths.

Given the diversity of interests among our students, our office’s goal for programming and our employer relations work is to continually evaluate and respond to the ever-changing landscape for policy wonks. We continue what works—which includes cultivating our many established employer relationships. And we grow our employer base to respond to changes in both student interests and workforce priorities.

So how does our career services team go about building the Ford School’s connections with employers of interest to policy students?

  • We survey students on their top organizations and policy areas of interest
  • We ask our faculty and alumni about the organizations doing cutting-edge work in their specific field or policy area
  • We listen for the organizations and issues that are emerging, keeping a close ear to our Policy Talks speakers, the media, community leaders, professional conference speakers, etc.
  • We follow the money trail: what organizations are being supported by foundations or receiving federal or state funding? Newly-funded priorities often require new staff support.
  • We follow the track record of success, identifying organizations where students individually developed internships or accepted jobs in organizations unfamiliar to us that are likely to be of interest to other students.
  • We then reach out to build recruiting relationships with the Ford School. We invite new organizations to host information sessions at the Ford School, post jobs and internships on FordCareers, receive our resume books, participate on a panel during our DC or Detroit career trips, etc.
  • Some of our work is “cold calling”, but for most part we leverage networks: that includes student networks, the incredible reach of U-M networks around the world, our very close Ford alumni networks, faculty networks, speaker networks, our donor networks, and more.

Employers and communities need strategic, collaborative, well-trained problem solvers and communicators.   The Ford School analytic and communications tool kit is relevant and transferrable across sectors and policy issues. This is why employers in all sectors actively seek out our interns and grads.

Should your career bring you to the Ford School, my team and I look forward to working with you this fall to forge the rewarding and meaningful career you seek.

— Jennifer Niggemeier, Director

Graduate Career Services & Alumni Relations