Inside the Ford School: Policy Pitch Competition Recap

With the semester underway and students, faculty, and staff returning to Weill Hall, the Ford School’s annual Policy Pitch Competition returned for the fourth time on September 14th. Every Ford School MPP student is required to complete a ten-week summer internship between their first and second years in the program. The Policy Pitch Competition gives Fordies an opportunity to share their experiences working in the policy world and reflect on the skills developed and lessons learned. 

At this year’s event, twelve second-year Fordies put on a show for the audience and judges. We’re so lucky to have such a talented, passionate student body here at Ford, and this event was yet another reminder of the special people who make the Ford School what it is. 

Fordies in the Fall 2021 Policy Pitch Competition:

  • Marissa Uchimura, REDF 
  • Maheen Zahid, Save The Children 
  • AJ Convertino, NASA 
  • Kristina Curtiss, City of Detroit 
  • Yasin Shafi, CARE 
  • Bethany Haddad, State of Michigan 
  • Priyanka Panjwani, GAO 
  • Clare Knutson, City of Detroit 
  • Linh Tran-Phuong, City of Chicago 
  • Pisacha Wichianchan, FINRA 
  • Doug Ortiz, Detroit Future City 
  • Justine D’Souza, GAO 

A panel of three judges (Ann Arbor City Councilor Linh Song, Washtenaw County Commissioner Justin Hodge, and Sam Geller ‘17 of the City of Detroit’s Budget Office) evaluated the student presentations and declared Marissa Uchimura, Linh Tranh-Phuong, and Pisacha Wichianchan as first, second, and third place winners, respectively. Audience members were given the chance to vote for their favorite presenter, with Bethany Haddad being crowned the winner of this prize. 

We’re so proud of the students who took part in this event and shared their internship experiences. With the fourth annual event being such a success, we can hardly wait for year five in 2022! 

Be on the lookout for more events happening at the Ford School!

Announcing new professors and promotions

The end of May was an exciting time for the Ford School, as several of our current faculty members were approved for new positions or received promotions, and a new faculty member joined our Ford School community.

National security expert and current Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the Ford School, Javed Ali, was appointed to an associate professor of practice on the faculty of the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Both undergraduate and graduate students will have the opportunity to take courses with Ali in fall 2021 as he will be teaching a Ford School course called “Domestic Violence Extremism: Policies, Threats, and New Approaches” and co-teaching an Engineering/Policy course, “Cybersecurity for Future Leaders.”

On May 20, the University of Michigan Board of Regents approved the appointment of Celeste Watkins-Hayes, Jean E. Fairfax Collegiate Professor of Public Policy; professor of sociology; and a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor, as the associate dean for academic affairs at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Dr. Watkins-Hayes appointment will serve a three-year term beginning August 1, 2021. We are looking forward to Dr. Watkins-Hayes’ leadership over the next three years and we thank her predecessor, Dr. Paula Lantz, for her service and incredible leadership over the past five years.

Finally, we are excited to announce that both Natasha Pilkauskas and Kaitlin Raimi have been promoted to associate professor, with tenure, at the Ford School. Read more about Dr. Pilkauskas’s work on her Ford School profile, and more about Dr. Raimi’s work in the Ford School directory. Undergraduate students will have the opportunity to take a course with Dr. Pilkauskas in fall 2021 as she will be teaching a Ford School course called “Evaluating Public Policies.”

If you talk to Professor Ali, Dr. Watkins-Hayes, Dr. Pilkauskas, or Dr. Raimi be sure to congratulate them on their new positions and promotions!

New Faculty Addition: Dr. Katherine Michelmore

The Ford School is recognized worldwide for its distinguished faculty. Ford students learn everyday from experienced policy professionals and academics with expertise in their fields. 

This past month, the Ford School’s ranks grew with the addition of Dr. Katherine Michelmore as an associate professor of public policy. The University of Michigan’s Board of Regents approved the hiring on March 25th. Dr. Michelmore’s appointment will begin on August 30th, 2021. This is a homecoming of sorts for Michelmore, as she previously served as a postdoctoral fellow here at the University of Michigan. 

Prior to coming to the Ford School, Dr. Michelmore served as an assistant professor of public administration and international affairs at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School. 

Michelmore’s research focuses on the social safety net, education policy, labor economics, and economic demography. In addition, she is recognized as an expert on the Earned Income Tax Credit’s efficacy and impact on children. Her appointment further bolsters Ford’s exceptional social policy faculty. 

We’re thrilled to have Dr. Michelmore join the Ford community this summer. For more information about her hiring and background, please visit our website. Stay tuned for future hiring announcements!

Ford School again ranked #1 in Social Policy by U.S. News & World Report

It’s been a challenging year for universities across the country and world as we’ve grappled with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the uncertainty and obstacles the past year has presented, we’re pleased to report that the Ford School has once again topped U.S. News & World World Report’s rankings of social policy graduate programs. 

We’re incredibly proud of Ford’s status as one of America’s premier public policy schools and it’s an honor to once again receive a distinction we’ve held for nearly a decade.  

At the Ford School, we’re committing to training the next generation of diverse, innovative, and service-driven leaders in public policy. Our rigorous curriculum provides our students with the tools they need to address our most complex and daunting challenges. 

It’s been an amazing year at Ford. As we head into the final month of Winter Semester, we’re looking to close out strong. 

Stay tuned for more updates from “Inside the Ford School!”

New Faculty Addition: Morela Hernandez

The Ford School is home to distinguished faculty with years of experience in a wide variety of policy disciplines. This past month, the Ford faculty gained another member with Morela Hernandez’s appointment as a Professor of Public Policy being approved by the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents. 

Professor Hernandez, previously of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, brings her expertise in organizational psychology and behavioral science to Ann Arbor. At Ford, she’ll serve as faculty director of the Ford Leadership Initiative and will teach courses on the intersection of diversity and leadership. 

Hernandez will officially join the Ford School faculty on August 31st, 2021. We can’t wait for Ford students to learn from her this coming year. 

Learn more about Professor Hernandez’s career and background here.

Stay tuned for further hiring announcements and other updates on life at the Ford School!

Ford School DEI Strategic Plan

As part of the University of Michigan’s commitment to making our campus a welcoming place for all, the Ford School launched our five-year strategic plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion in October 2016. 

The Ford DEI plan focuses on four central goals: 

  • Diversifying who we are
  • Diversifying what and how we teach  
  • Promoting an equitable and inclusive climate  
  • Diversifying our research and policy engagement

Since beginning this process, Ford has created a permanent DEI officer position on our senior leadership team. To ensure input from every part of the Ford community, our DEI coalition consists of faculty, staff, and students (both graduate and undergraduate). Student representatives serve one-year terms. The student perspective is invaluable to our efforts to make the Ford School as inclusive as possible. If you think you might be interested in serving in this capacity, be on the lookout for announcements regarding next year’s DEI coalition. 

To stay informed on the progress of the Ford DEI plan, be sure to check out our monthly updates


Exciting Winter ’21 event line-up announced

The Ford School is pleased to welcome distinguished policymakers, writers, and expert faculty for public events in Winter ‘21 on topics ranging from energy policy and leadership, to racial justice and education. For a full line-up, please visit our website or join our events mailing list.

Below is just a sampling of the highlights:

We hope you’ll join us for these virtual events!

We continue to add new speakers each week. Visit our events page for the full Winter ’21 line-up!

Heads up! We will be out of the office from December 23-January 3. If you have questions about your application, please feel free to email us at, and we will respond when we return on January 4.

New webinar recording available!

Missed our latest webinar? Visit our website to watch recordings of all our previous webinars including:

November 19 | Why Now? Why Ford School?
Hear from the Ford School’s associate deans on how a Ford School master’s degree can help you make an impact on the public good at this critical time. This session features Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions and associate dean of policy engagement, and Paula Lantz, the James B. Hudak Professor of Health Policy and associate dean of academic affairs.

December 3 | Tools for influence and action
With a firm grounding in social science research and quantitative analysis, real-world policy issues are woven throughout our rigorous, hands-on curriculum. In this webinar, learn about opportunities to practice these skills in and out of the classroom and how they provide a toolbox of research, analytical, and management skills that are highly transferable across sectors and issue areas.

December 10 | Hands-on, practical experiences
We believe in an applied approach to learning, including interactions with people and organizations outside the university actively working on public policy. In this session, learn about the wide range of opportunities for students to engage with real-world policy issues in the classroom and through research, activities, and workshops.

Interested in learning more about the Ford School? Register to attend our upcoming webinars here, and sign up to receive more information from us here.

Information Session, fee waivers & WDC

The Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy is a top-ranked policy school located within one of the world’s premier research universities–in one of America’s best college towns. We offer ready access to the world-class intellectual, cultural, and social resources of the University of Michigan and its impressive alumni network–the largest living alumni body in the world.

Our curriculum emphasizes research, analytic, communication and management skills that are highly transferable across sectors, issue areas, and geographical regions—all offered with an applied approach to policy training, providing hands-on learning around real-world problems.

In addition to the outstanding educational environment, the Ford School also host an impressive array of guest speakers, including this fall’s launch of the Weiser Diplomacy Center, which included former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, to name a few.

The Ford School’s mission is to inspire and prepare diverse leaders grounded in service, conduct transformational research, and collaborate on evidence-based policy making to take on our communities’ and our world’s most pressing challenges. We are a community dedicated to the public good.

We will be hosting a graduate information session here in Ann Arbor on Saturday, November 9 from 10am – 3pm, and would be delighted to have you join us! Please RSVP by 11/4/2019 for the graduate information session.

The application is available online through the Rackham Graduate School website, and has a deadline of January 15, 2020 for the Fall 2020 term.

Detailed information about necessary application materials can be found on our application checklist page, as well as information for International Applicants.

Through partnership funding the Ford school is able to provide support to a number of incoming public policy students. In addition to financial assistance, the Ford School also offers application fee waivers.

  • 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
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Fellowship
  • Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship
  • Rangel Scholar
  • Truman Scholar
  • USAID Payne Fellowship

To request these fee waivers, complete the Ford School’s volunteer service form.

Ford School Fall Recruiting Events

The master’s application is open, and will have a deadline of January 15, 2020. The application is available online through the Rackham Graduate School website.

Detailed information about necessary application materials can be found on our application checklist page, as well as information for International Applicants.

Ford School representatives attend graduate school fairs across the country each year. If we are in your area, we strongly encourage you to visit us for more information about our programs. We will also be hosting a graduate information session here in Ann Arbor on Saturday, November 9, 2019 from 10am – 3pm. We would be delighted to have you join us!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us by phone at (734)764-0453 or email the admissions mailbox,