Meet a Fordie: Conor L. Hicks (MPP ’22)

Hi! I’m Conor Hicks. I’m a first year MPP student here at the Ford School. This has been a year unlike any other, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the people I’ve met and the topics I’ve explored. 

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Redmond, Oregon, a small town about three hours southeast of Portland on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. My family has lived in Oregon for seven generations and first settled in the state after heading out west on the Oregon Trail in the early 1850s. 

What were you doing before you came to Ford?

I came to the Ford School straight from undergrad. Before moving to Ann Arbor, I received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. During my time as a BC student, I interned in the Capitol Hill office of Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and worked in political communications for a summer with the National Democratic Training Committee in Chicago, Illinois. I was also a member of the College Democrats and sang tenor in the University Chorale of Boston College. 

Why did you choose Ford?

When I started looking into graduate school programs, I wanted a school that offered a good combination of theoretical and hands-on approaches to understanding public policy. At Ford, I’ve been able to learn from faculty at the top of their respective fields about contemporary debates, gain historical context for the policies of today, and engage with my peers in a virtual policymaking simulation on climate migration (Ford’s Integrated Policy Exercise). On top of this, Ford’s Social Policy program is the best in the country. As someone particularly interested in education and labor policy, Ford was the perfect fit for me. 

What do you want to do with your Ford degree?

Once I complete my time here at Ford, I hope to work for a nonprofit organization or with the state or federal government on education equity. I’ve always been fascinated by the legislative process and would jump at the opportunity to work on public policy in the office of an elected official. 

I’ve loved my time at Ford so far. Ann Arbor is a perfect setting for me to pursue my passion for public service and I can’t wait for the semesters ahead. If you’re thinking of applying to join us here, I’m looking forward to meeting you.

If you’re interested setting up a time to talk to a current student, visit our student ambassador page to connect with a Fordie today. And stay tuned for more posts in our “Meet a Fordie series!”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Ford School

Four years ago the University of Michigan began a five year strategic plan to address issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion. The plan has many different parts but the goal is to make the university a welcoming place for people from across a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives.

One of the major pieces of the Ford School plan was the addition of our diversity, equity and inclusion officer, Stephanie Sanders. Stephanie creates programming related to DEI issues and also teaches classes for both the graduate and undergraduate students.

Stephanie also puts together monthly newsletters that detail activities related to our DEI plan. If you are interested in learning more about the ongoing work in this area, all of the newsletters are available at the Ford School website:



Fordies in D.C!

This February current Ford MPP/MPA students traveled to Washington D.C to explore internship and career opportunities across a variety of sectors from think tanks to federal agencies. The annual trip is an opportunity for the wider Ford community to come together as Ford alums connect with students through career panels, networking receptions, and lunch and learns.

Current students are busy this month securing internships and leaning on advice shared by the alumni network in D.C. First-year MPP, Taylor Rovin, noted that it was reassuring to hear the alumni network discuss their experience of being in the same shoes as a student and encourage students not to self-select out of internship opportunities. Alumni working in D.C reiterated throughout weekend never to hesitate reaching out to the Ford community for support or guidance when navigating career opportunities or moving to a new city!


Fall Break!

Every Fall Term, University of Michigan students get a long weekend known as “Fall Break.” Most Fordies take advantage of this extra time to explore our beautiful state and its spectacular falls colors and attractions. From the Upper Peninsula to Frankenmuth, there’s a lot to see and do in Michigan, and no better time to explore than during the month of October. Here are the Top 10 Fall Break Attractions from our Admissions team:

1.Go to an apple orchard and cider mill

Credit: John Gonzales,

Michigan is the third largest apple producer in the United States, and home to some beautiful apple orchards and cider mills all across the state. You can go pick some apples, eat some donuts, and try fresh apple cider! Some Fordie favorites include the Plymouth Orchards and Cider Mill and the Dexter Cider Mill, both of which are relatively close to Ann Arbor.

2. Visit towns along the Great Lakes

Credit: Brooke Slezak

The Great Lakes and Michigan are deeply intertwined – culturally, historically, politically, and literally (we have shorelines with all five lakes). There are lots of towns and cities along our lakes that are worth visiting – whether you go to Traverse City, Grand Haven, or make your way up to Copper Harbor, there’s a lot of beautiful lake views and beaches to check out before things get too cold (fair warning: the water is almost certainly already too cold for swimming, but it’ll be nice to look at).

3. Check out lighthouses

Credit: problogic

While we’re talking about the lakes, Michigan is home to some truly remarkable lighthouses! You could say that visiting them will be an illuminating experience.

4. Camp in Sleeping Bear Dunes Park

Credit: Pure Michigan

One of Michigan’s most popular attractions on the Lake Michigan coast, the Sleeping Bear Dunes are home to spectacular bluffs, beautiful forests, and incredible sand beaches. There’s camping, hiking, kayaking, and other activities – and you’re not too far from some of Michigan’s most popular lake towns.

5. Make your way to Frankenmuth

Credit: Click On Detroit

Also known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” Frankenmuth is home to the world’s largest Christmas store, Bronner’s, and two extremely awesome family-style fried chicken restaurants. You can also check out a riverboat cruise, petting zoo, and even a Michigan-style Oktoberfest.

6. Visit Michigan breweries


Credit: Experience Grand Rapids


Michigan is home to nearly 300 breweries, microbreweries, and brewpubs, serving local beers, meads, and more. From Detroit to Grand Rapids, there is no shortage of great local brews to try and breweries to visit.

7. Get over to Detroit’s Eastern Market

Credit: Life In Michigan

One of the largest and oldest year-round farmer’s markets in the United States, the Eastern Market, and the surrounding area, are home to some of the coolest shops and restaurants in Detroit.

8. Make your way up to the Upper Peninsula

Credit: Mikel Classen

Michigan got the U.P. after fighting an actual war with Ohio over Toledo,  and frankly, we think we got the better end of that deal. Full of beautiful forests, surrounded by three of the five Great Lakes, and home to Yoopers, there’s a lot of great camping and sightseeing to do in the Upper Peninsula.

9. Eat your way through Dearborn

Credit: Bill Addision, Eater Detroit

Part of the Greater Metro Detroit area, Dearborn is where Ford Motor Company started and is now home to the country’s largest population center of the Arab American community. That latter fact has contributed to an excellent Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine scene, including standards like Al Ameer and Shatila Bakery.

10. Or, just stay in Ann Arbor!

Credit: Kensington Hotel

Nichols Arboretum. Kerrytown Market. Finding the Fairy Doors. The Museum of Art. Ann Arbor is not a shabby place to spend a long weekend, with plenty of great restaurants and bars as well as all the museums affiliated with the university, so take advantage of your time here to the fullest.

Go Blue! Intro to Michigan Football

Credit: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Fall in Ann Arbor means fresh apple cider, wild swings between sort of hot and sort of cold, and Michigan Football!

As a Ford School graduate student, you’ll be eligible to buy student tickets each semester, and guaranteed at least six home games per year. Every game at the Big House is accompanied by tailgates before kickoff, which most Fordies take part in.

Credit: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Some things to know about the University of Michigan and our football program:

  • Michigan’s mascot is officially the Wolverine, but most of us stick to saying, “Go Blue.”
  • Our school colors are Maize and Blue. No, Maize isn’t the same as yellow. Yes, it matters.
  • Michigan began playing football in 1879! In fact, we taught Notre Dame how to play the game (this wasn’t our best idea).
  • The Wolverines were founding members of the Big Ten Conference at its inception in 1896, and other than a hiatus from 1907 to 1916, have been members since.
  • Michigan has won or shared 42 league titles, and, since the inception of the AP Poll in 1936, has finished in the top 10 a total of 38 times.
  • The Wolverines claim 11 national championships, most recently in 1997.
  • Michigan Football is the winningest program in college football history with a record of 944 wins to 340 losses and 36 ties.
  • Michigan Stadium, also known as, “The Big House,” is the largest stadium in the United States, the second largest stadium in the world with 107,601 seats (although our crowds are closer to 115,000).
  • We also have the best fight song in college football.

Obviously, there are a lot of good reasons to come to the Ford School and the University of Michigan – but we’d be misleading you if we didn’t include Michigan Football on the list. It truly is a special thing to enjoy games at the Big House after hanging with your friends at a tailgate.

Credit: Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Go Blue!

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.

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.

The International Economic Development Program (IEDP) – learning in action


This year, IEDP went to Greece. It was a particularly interesting destination, with well publicized challenges being faced in Greece related to their economy and the ongoing refugee crisis. For some of the meetings, the group of 22 students divided into 2 groups, one focused on economic development issues and the other focused on the refugee crisis. Each of the groups met with many stakeholders in Greece, learning first hand about the issues and interacting with government officials, community members and refugee groups.

National Bank of Greece

If you are interested and would like to learn more about the IEDP trip this year, the group put together a great website with pictures and blog entries about each of their visits. You can visit their site at:



Ford School DC trip

For more than 20 years, the Ford School has hosted a trip for masters’ students to travel to DC to explore job and internship opportunities. Held this year on February 9th and 10th, this trip enabled students to attend panels on various career fields, interact with alums at events such as the DC reception as well as informal lunch and learns, and schedule times to meet with potential employers. With panel topics ranging from careers in philanthropy and strategic communication to migration and refugee policy, students were able to meet and learn from practitioners in the field. In addition to illustrating the great support provided to students by the Graduate Career Services office, this trip also allows current students to connect with our alumni network in DC.

careers in domestic social policy
Careers in domestic social policy at the Center for the Study of Social Policy
DC trip intl opps group photo
Opportunities in international organizations at UNIC

Cookie day 2016!

To celebrate the end of the fall semester, each year the Student & Academic Services office at the Ford School hosts our annual Cookie Day. On the last day of classes, staff in our office and others throughout the school bring in dozens of delicious holiday cookies to share with our students, faculty and staff. Many folks refer to it as their favorite day of the year! Here are a few photos from the celebration. Good luck with finals to all of our students!

cookie day 2Cookie day tableCookie day