2021-22: Another Academic Year Come and Gone

No matter how much we might wish otherwise, all good things must come to an end. It’s the last day of another semester at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. As final examinations get under way, some students are turning their attention to the next academic year while others (like me) prepare to venture out into the world with the skills they’ve learned. 

The end of a school year can feel bittersweet. We look forward to a brief respite from the stresses of academic life, the constant deadlines, and the routine of class schedules. At the same time, we know all too well the sense that the book is closing on a distinct chapter in our lives. 

This bittersweetness is present in any year, but perhaps particularly at the end of this one. Coming off two semesters disrupted by the pandemic, we finally had the chance to return to Weill Hall and learn alongside one another rather than through the confines of a computer screen. We were able to attend in-person gatherings, laugh at each other’s stories, and commiserate about the challenges we faced. After a period of extraordinary upheaval, we got to experience the joy of genuine human connection. 

Despite the curveballs we’ve seen as a community, state, country, and world, in many ways this year has been a gift for those of us fortunate enough to spend time at this special place. It isn’t often in life we have the opportunity to spend two years surrounded by passionate, dedicated future leaders committed to creating a better world. 

As I look back on my two years at Ford, I’m exceedingly grateful for the kind, talented individuals I’ve met, the lessons I’ve learned, and the commitment this community has shown to meaningfully improving people’s lives.

With my time coming to an end here at Ford, my thoughts turn to our incoming cohort and the countless future Fordies down the road. This school has offered a warm, welcoming environment in which I have learned, laughed, and thrived. For every person who chooses to study at this remarkable institution, I hope you find the same sense of belonging and community that I have. Go Blue.


“Meet a Fordie” Student Spotlight: Sydney Thompson (MPP ’22)

Where are you from?
I grew up in Metro Detroit and went to the University of Michigan as an undergraduate.

What were you doing before you came to Ford?
I was previously working at the healthcare software company Epic on the population health team. On this team I managed software development for social determinants of health workflows that assessed patient social needs and connected them to community resources through community health workers, care managers, and social workers.

Why did you choose Ford?
I chose Ford because I loved the close-knit community. I feel like I am part of a group of incredibly talented and passionate people that work to raise each other up and help one another academically, professionally, and personally. Ford’s emphasis on interdisciplinary policy design also attracted me to the program.

What do you want to do with your Ford degree?
I want to work in the public sector at the local level. I have experience with and am passionate about food policy, sustainability, and process improvement (government accountability and performance). I plan to work as a program manager in one of these areas for a city.

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Inside the Ford School: Michigan Football 101

It’s the first day of Fall here in Ann Arbor, which means college football is in full swing. While last season looked a bit different due to public health restrictions, Michigan Stadium is open again and fans can be there in person to watch the Maize & Blue take to the turf. 

If you’re new to the University of Michigan, the hype around football can be a bit overwhelming. Game days in Ann Arbor brings tens of thousands of people from all over the country and world to our little corner of the Great Lakes State. So whether you’re returning to the Ford School or setting foot here for the first time, let’s do a crash course on the basics of Michigan Football. 


  • The University of Michigan’s athletic teams are known as the Wolverines, known for their distinctive winged helmet design and bold maize (yellow) & blue uniforms.
  • Since 2015, Jim Harbaugh has served as head coach of the Michigan football team. Previously, Harbaugh was head coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers and the Stanford Cardinal football team. A “Michigan Man” through and through, Harbaugh previously played for the Wolverines as a quarterback from 1982-1986. 
  • The Wolverines play at Michigan Stadium (known as “The Big House”), a massive 107,601-capacity arena that is the largest stadium in the U.S. and the third-largest in the world. 
  • The Wolverines play in the Big 10 Conference and have major rivalries with the Michigan State Spartans and the Ohio State Buckeyes. 
  • The Michigan Wolverines are one of the most successful collegiate football programs in history, holding the record for all-time wins and claiming 11 national championships. 
  • On any game day, you can be sure to hear “The Victors”, the famous fight song of the university. 
  • The only Michigander to serve as president of the United States, our namesake Gerald R. Ford, played football for the Wolverines in the early 1930s before attending Yale Law School and enlisting in the U.S. Navy.

The 2021 season for the Michigan Wolverines:

  • The team is currently 3-0 to start the season after wins against Western Michigan, Washington, and Northern Illinois. 
  • This weekend at 3:30 PM ET, the Wolverines will take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Michigan Stadium for the annual Homecoming game.
  • After their undefeated start to the season, the Wolverines are currently ranked 19th in the nation in college football. 
  • Going forward, the Wolverines are set to face the Michigan State Spartans (Oct. 30), the Penn State Nittany Lions (Nov. 13), and the Ohio State Buckeyes (Nov. 27) in Big 10 matchups sure to entertain. 

We could go on and on, but hopefully we’ve given you enough of the basics to really ace those on-campus conversations throughout the season. Stay tuned for more from “Inside the Ford School”.

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!

A New Semester at the Ford School

It’s the start of a new semester here at the Ford School and the doors of Weill Hall are finally open once again. For the first time in months, Fordies are coming together in person to dive into the challenges facing our community, state, country, and world. 

Students from numerous backgrounds returned to Weill Hall, some fresh off summer internships, others new to the area and ready to embark on the exciting challenge offered by life at the Ford School. 

Though the semester is in its early days, events are already underway on campus to help Fordies connect with one another and the broader world of public policy. 

Last week, students, faculty, and staff got together outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and some ice cream at Ford’s Fall Launch & Ice Cream Social. On Thursday, UM students had the opportunity to hear from the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission about the new process for mapping Michigan’s congressional and legislative district boundaries for the coming decade. 

As we kick off Week 2 of the semester, we’re celebrating the Michigan Wolverines’ dominant 47-14 victory over the Western Michigan University Broncos last Saturday. Here’s hoping for another win this weekend as the Wolverines take on the Washington Huskies. Go Blue!

Distinguished alumni, faculty, and leaders from a variety of sectors are always coming to campus to discuss the topics of the day. Be on the lookout for exciting Ford School and UM events in the coming weeks!

Michigan Basketball 101

As March comes to a close, the NCAA Women’s and Men’s basketball tournaments are well underway. Our very own Michigan Wolverines have taken both competitions by storm. 

In the men’s tournament, Michigan entered as the #1 seed in the East region. The team went on to defeat Texas Southern in the opening round of 64 before sending the Louisiana State Tigers home in the round of 32. On March 27th, the Wolverines will face off against the Florida State Seminoles in the Sweet Sixteen. 

In the women’s tournament, the Wolverines came in as the #6 seed. They defeated Florida Gulf Coast University by 21 points in the first round before upsetting the #3 seed Tennessee Volunteers in the second round. Coming up, the women’s team will play the #2 seed Baylor Bears on March 27th. This marks the first time in program history that the women’s team has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

Now that we’ve covered March Madness, let’s go over some quick facts about UM’s basketball programs to help you navigate conversations about the Maize & Blue!

  • Michigan’s basketball teams, like the school’s other athletic programs, compete in the Big 10 Conference. This conference includes 14 teams (and two affiliates) from across the Midwest.
  • The Wolverines play their home games at the Crisler Center, a 12,707-capacity arena in Ann Arbor.
  • The men’s team is currently coached by former UM player Juwan Howard (of 1991 Fab Five fame), while Kim Barnes Arico is in her ninth season as head coach of the women’s squad. Coach Barnes Arico is the winningest coach in program history. 
  • The men’s team has historic rivalries with the Duke Blue Devils, the Michigan State Spartans, and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The women’s team has a storied rivalry with Michigan State. 
  • The Michigan men’s team has won the NCAA tournament once in program history (1989). The women’s team has not yet won a national title, but has appeared in nine NCAA tournaments. 

That’s all for this crash course on Michigan basketball! As we watch this season wrap up, we’re looking forward to being back in the Crisler Center to cheer on our teams in the future!

Meet a Fordie: Priyanka Panjwani (MPP ’22)


It’s the start of a new month, which means it’s time for another installment of our “Meet a Fordie” series! This time around, we’re introducing Priyanka Panjwani, a first-year MPP student here at the Ford School.

Where are you from?

I grew up about 20 minutes outside of Chicago, in the Western suburbs. I’ve been in the Midwest my whole life: I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Go Badgers!), and then lived on the North Side of Chicago for 2.5 years post-undergrad.

What were you doing before you came to Ford?

I was an Economics Research Analyst at Northwestern University, where I worked mostly in Stata and R conducting econometric analyses for professors at NU, working on literature reviews, and assisting with papers/presentations. I worked on a wide range of topics, from the economic history of immigration in the U.S., to the effects of marijuana legalization on recidivism rates. After developing my research skills, I was eager to apply them to policy areas I care about, which is why I pursued policy programs.

Why did you choose Ford?

I felt that Ford complemented my interests really well, being the top Social Policy program in the country. I am specifically interested in the social determinants of health, public assistance programs, and food policy. Professors such as Paula Lantz and Luke Schaefer are amazing resources to have in my area of interest. Additionally. I was impressed by the amount of research centers housed at Ford: Poverty Solutions, the Youth Policy Lab, the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy. I’ve taken advantage of these opportunities, and last semester worked as an RA for YPL and CLOSUP. Finally, I am interested in applying data analytics to policy solutions, and Michigan offers a graduate certificate in data science, for which I have been taking Python courses in the School of Information.

What do you want to do with your Ford degree?

Right now I’m not completely sure which sector I want to work in after graduating. I hope to use the summer internship to explore the public sector, through state or local government. What I am certain about is that I want to apply data analytics to evaluate solutions to health disparities and promote health as a human right.

Stay tuned for more spotlights of our incredible students here at Ford! 

Michigan Hockey 101

Athletics may look a bit different this year, as Yost Arena is noticeably empty of fans, but it’s always a good time to root for the Wolverines! Once things start to reopen, you’ll be eligible as Ford students to purchase tickets and attend home games. 

Some UMich Hockey basics:

  • The Wolverines play at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, a venue with a capacity of 5,800. 
  • Since 2017, Mel Pearson has served as head coach, replacing longtime coach and former NHL player Red Berenson. 
  • Like other UM teams, the men’s hockey squad competes as part of the Big Ten athletic conference.
  • The University of Michigan boasts an elite hockey program with dozens of alumni going on to play in the NHL, including about twenty current players.
  • UM’s main rivals in hockey are the Michigan State Spartans, with whom we play an annual game at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 

It’s hockey season here in Ann Arbor, and our boys in Maize and Blue are off to a roaring start. Currently sitting at 12-8 on the season, the Wolverines have faced off with Big Ten rivals such as Notre Dame, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Michigan State. Most recently, the team split an away series with the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus, dropping the first game 3-2 while emerging victorious in the second with a score of 6-0. 

Life at the Ford School can be hectic with plenty of assignments, exams, readings, and classes. Because of the fast-paced environment we inhabit, it’s important to take some time to destress. Setting your book aside and watching a hockey game on the Big Ten Network may be just the respite you need. 

Be on the lookout for future posts about life at the Ford School!

February in Michigan: Things to Do

Even in a year without a pandemic, it may seem tricky to find activities to do in Michigan during the cold months of winter. Luckily, the Great Lakes State is filled with natural wonders, exciting attractions, and plenty of other opportunities to experience the crown jewel of the Midwest. Whether you’d rather stay warm or brave the cold, there’s something here in Michigan for everybody.

For Outdoorsy Folks: 

  • Michigan is home to 103 state parks managed by the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Our state is home to numerous miles of hiking trails and breathtaking scenery. Adding to the allure, quite a few of the state’s nature areas are within a short drive from Ann Arbor. Visit the DNR website for more information on MI state parks. Be sure to bundle up!

For Those Looking to Stay Warm:

  • For fans of art, the Saginaw Art Museum, located an hour-and-a-half north of Ann Arbor by car, has an exhibit showcasing African-American fine art. The exhibit, entitled “WONDERFULLY MADE: THE ANTHONY AND DAVIDA ARTIS COLLECTION OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN FINE ART,” allows visitors to view the extensive art collection of Flint natives Anthony and Davida Artis. This collection will be on display through the end of March 2021. Masks and social distancing will be in place to protect visitors and staff. Tickets can be purchased online or upon arrival.
  • The Detroit Institute of Arts is offering visitors a chance to see “DETROIT STYLE: CAR DESIGN IN THE MOTOR CITY, 1950–2020.” This exhibit seeks to showcase the transportation innovation that has set Michigan’s largest city apart. For more information, check out this link.

These are just a few of the activities February in Michigan has to offer. We’re lucky to live in a state with so much to offer. Even while we’re doing what we can to keep everybody safe, Michigan still has plenty of avenues for adventure and entertainment. 

U-M DEI Strategic Plan

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are at the heart of the University of Michigan’s vision for student life and academic success on campus. The university is currently in the fifth year of its five-year strategic plan to promote these values. In addition to a campus-wide plan, every school, college, and unit at the University of Michigan drafted DEI plans specific to their own circumstances. Students and faculty alike complete yearly educational trainings on myriad topics including gender-based and sexual misconduct prevention. Each year, the university releases a report detailing progress made during each step of the strategic plan.

In year four, Michigan made progress as a campus community in implementing or continuing programs designed to make the university a more welcoming and safe place for all our students. Re-opened in 2019, the Trotter Multicultural Center resumed its provision of student support services and academic courses. This is just one of the many efforts undertaken by UMich in recent years to improve life on campus. Check out the report on year four here.

Be on the lookout for more information on the university’s DEI strategic plan and its progress.