Just the facts
The Ford School is America's first graduate public service training program and among its most prominent. We're making a real and lasting difference in the world through game-changing discoveries; actionable policy solutions; rigorous, applied courses; and our powerful and growing network of alumni.
In 1913, reflecting Progressive Era frustrations with government inefficiency and corruption, Jesse S. Reeves, a nationally recognized scholar and chair of the University of Michigan's political science department, proposed America's first master's degree in public administration. While Reeves was primarily focused on international law (in 1930, he would serve as technical advisor at the League of Nations Hague Conference) he believed "that the University ha[d] a distinct opportunity, not only in offering a public service to the people of the state...but in leading the way in the training of municipal experts." In 1914, the University of Michigan approved Reeves' plan, inviting students to apply to its newly launched graduate program in municipal administration.*
In the mid-1960s, advanced analytic methods from the social sciences began to be applied to the understanding of public concerns, launching a comprehensive review of the University's public administration curriculum by an interdisciplinary advisory council. In 1968, the curriculum was refocused to provide students with an analytic toolkit and cutting-edge problem-solving methodologies. The longstanding public administration program gave way to the Institute of Public Policy Studies (IPPS), the nation's first public policy degree program. The pioneering interdisciplinary social science core emphasized economic and statistical analysis, an understanding of the political environment of policy, and the importance of organizations to successful implementation.
Recognizing the value of research and education in public policy and the academic excellence of its program, the University of Michigan established the School of Public Policy (SPP) in 1995.
In 1999, the school was named in honor of Gerald R. Ford, the 38th President of the United States and a 1935 graduate of the University of Michigan. For a more thorough history of the Ford School, view our interactive historical timeline.
The Ford School offers a variety of degrees and certificates:
- master's degrees in public policy (since 1968) and public affairs;
- formal dual-master's degrees with fourteen schools and departments across the University of Michigan (since 1914) and a number of other individualized dual-degrees;
- joint PhDs with economics, political science, or sociology (since 2001);
- an undergraduate liberal arts degree, the Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy (since 2007); and
- a graduate certificate in science, technology, and public policy (since 2006).
The Ford School is known for its strength in quantitative analysis of policy issues, economic policy, and social policy. The school is increasingly recognized for its policy–relevant research and action on education policy and energy and environmental policy.
Our Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy is a liberal arts degree, based in the social sciences, that gives students the substantive knowledge and analytical skills needed to understand policy problems—and help create solutions. Students work with some of the University's most outstanding faculty members—in classes that average just 24 students. In addition to their core coursework, bachelor's students choose focus areas—Middle Eastern policy, energy policy, U.S. foreign policy, and more--for intensive study and exploration.
Our Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Affairs curriculum emphasizes research, analytic, 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. All MPP students are required to participate in a policy-relevant internship in the summer between their first and second year of study. In the summer of 2016, 23 percent interned in Washington, DC; 18 percent at an international organization; and the rest in cities across the U.S.
Our joint-doctoral program—in which candidates combine their public policy studies with disciplinary work in economics, political science, or sociology—represents a unique approach. Pioneered here at the University of Michigan in 2001, the model is still shared with just a handful of other universities. All of our doctoral students complete a PhD in one of the University of Michigan's world-class social sciences, becoming full members of their disciplinary departments through a rigorous sequence of theory and methods courses. In addition, students become active participants in the Ford School's interdisciplinary and engaged public policy community.
Policy Talks @ the Ford School and other visitors
In addition to our core and elective classes, the Ford School makes Ann Arbor a destination for distinguished policymakers from around the world. These leaders give public lectures and meet with small groups of students to discuss substantive policy issues and offer career advice. Dozens of speakers visit the school each year, including 2014 speakers like Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager who inspired Hotel Rwanda; U.S. Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME); Carrie Hessler-Radelet, director of the U.S. Peace Corps; and U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). We also host prestigious policymakers-in-residence—both State Department diplomats and prominent policymakers—who teach courses, provide public lectures, and counsel students.
The Ford School's home, Joan and Sanford Weill Hall, was designed by Robert A.M. Stern Architects and opened in August 2006. The 85,000–square–foot building on the northeast corner of State and Hill streets offers state-of-the-art classrooms, event spaces, and comfortable niches for student–faculty study and collaboration. Weill Hall's highly visible location at a gateway to central campus positions it as a prime venue for public discussion of current national and international policy issues. Its stately facade of brickwork and stone complements the style of other longstanding University of Michigan landmarks including the Michigan Union, the Michigan League, Lorch Hall, and the Hatcher Graduate Library. The building's wings are arranged in a U–shape to maximize natural light inside, and they embrace an east-facing courtyard on the second level where students gather regularly. Throughout the building, alcoves and lounges of various shapes and sizes, including a comfortable student lounge with lockers and kitchenette, provide the informal meeting spaces that are crucial to faculty–student collaboration and community.
The Ford School's faculty is an interdisciplinary group. Our 70 faculty members hold joint appointments with a wide range of schools and units including economics, political science, sociology, math, information, law, business, social work, history, education, sustainability and environment, social research, and urban planning. Ford School faculty are not only excellent teachers, but are well–known in both the worlds of research and policy. Two Ford School faculty hold the highest appointment at the University of Michigan, that of Distinguished University Professor. Nine other faculty members hold named chairs. In academic year 2018–2019, our faculty offered more than 100 courses on a wide range of policy topics.
The Ford School's 89 staff members (Aug. 2019) support administration, finance, human resources, student academic services, graduate career services, research administration, communications and outreach, computing services, development, and alumni relations.
2019 demographics on our students (as of August 2019):
- Incoming class size: 80
- Students of color (U.S. only): 25 percent
- Female: 58.8 percent
- Male: 41.2 percent
- Incoming class size: 22
- Average age: 37
- Age range: 27-53
- Non-U.S: 36 percent
- Students of color (U.S. only): 21 percent
- Female: 41 percent
- Male: 59 percent
- Years of work experience: 11.2
- Countries of origin: 11
- Incoming class size: 99
- Average age: 27
- Age range: 21-42
- Non-U.S: 17 percent
- Students of color (U.S. only): 30 percent
- Female: 58 percent
- Male: 42 percent
- Years of work experience: 3.7
- Countries of origin: 11
- Current students: 35
- Non-U.S: 2.8 percent
- Students of color (U.S. only): 22 percent
- Female: 57 percent
- Male: 43 percent
Centers and initiatives
The Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies is charged with promoting cutting-edge, inter-disciplinary research, educational opportunities, and dialogue to improve the design and implementation of public policies in societies that are increasingly complex and diverse locally, nationally, and globally.
The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) conducts, supports and fosters applied academic research to inform local, state, and urban policy issues. CLOSUP conducts two ongoing surveys: the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) and the National Surveys on Energy and Environment (NSEE), and functions as an information resource for policymakers and practitioners, academics, students, the media, and the public.
The Center on Finance, Law, and Policy is an interdisciplinary center housed at the Ford School that draws together faculty and students from more than a dozen of Michigan’s nineteen schools and colleges to work on a broad range of research projects focused on creating a financial system that is safer, fairer, and better harnessed to the real economy.
The Education Policy Initiative (EPI) is a program within the Ford School that brings together nationally-recognized education policy scholars focused on the generation and dissemination of policy-relevant education research. EPI conducts rigorous, applied, policy-relevant, evidence-based research informed by challenging policy questions that are relevant to education practitioners and are necessary to improve educational outcomes.
The International Policy Center supports the faculty and students of the University of Michigan and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, creating new knowledge, fostering considered debate, and developing future policy leaders. The goal: demonstrating how in an interdependent world well-designed policies of governments and international institutions can improve the welfare of people, especially those in developing nations.
Poverty Solutions, a university-wide initiative housed at the Ford School and directed by Ford School faculty, combines the assets of the university toward the prevention and alleviation of poverty. This work can affect the lives of millions of Americans through partnerships with community groups and policy makers to test the most promising solutions possible.
The Program in Practical Policy Engagement (P3E) aims to advance public policy through engaged learning, policy research, and policy impact. P3E engages in deliberate and mutually beneficial interactions with people and organizations outside the University who are actively working on—and have the capacity for changing—public policy. Through their work, they hope to radically reshape the culture and purpose of a great public university, create profound policy change, and improve lives for people in the State of Michigan, the nation, and around the world.
The Science, Technology, and Public Policy (STPP) Program is devoted to interdisciplinary research and teaching on the politics and processes of science and technology policymaking. STPP offers a graduate certificate program for U-M master's or doctoral students. The program also runs a seminar series which includes talks from leading scholars and policymakers involved in science and technology policy issues.
The Weiser Diplomacy Center is a hub for engagement with the foreign policy community, bringing a diverse cadre of seasoned diplomats and foreign policy experts to campus and creating new opportunities for students and faculty through public events, conferences, internships and fellowships, and more.
The Youth Policy Lab, a partnership between the Ford School and the Survey Research Center, helps our partners use data to address specific questions about the populations they serve and the programs they offer, allowing them to deliver services more effectively.
The Ford School is a top-ranked policy school at a world-class university.
- #1 in social policy
- #1 in public policy analysis
- #3 in health policy
- #8 in public affairs (overall)
Source: U.S. News & World Report, ranked in 2019
The operating budget of the Ford School for fiscal year 2020 is $22.7M. This includes funding from tuition and fees, but also University allocations, overhead return from grants, expendable gifts, and proceeds from investment income. The school's active faculty research program generates significant resources, including $4.65M in research expenditures in FY2019. Our $48.3M endowment (market value as of 6/30/19) provides annual funding to support student scholarships, fellowships, and engagement activities; faculty research and policy engagement; and programmatic outreach activities such as our active lecture series, policy briefs, and more.
In December 2018, the University of Michigan closed out its successful Victors for Michigan Campaign. The Campaign's philanthropic priorities were for student support, engaged learning, and bold ideas, along with other presidential initiatives such as poverty solutions and precision health. During the campaign, the Ford School's generous alumni and friends gave over $47M to support Ford School students, faculty, and research and programs.
The Ford School is an active participant in the U-M Planet Blue energy conservation program, the Sustainable Computing Initiative, and a variety of waste reduction and recycling activities. Also, Weill Hall energy use is tracked monthly by plant operations. The school also has a committee dedicated to engaging the community in conversations about sustainability and working toward environmental and energy leadership. More information about University-wide efforts can be found on the Office of Campus Sustainability website.