Type: School event

Public service through serving on boards and commissions

Date & time

Mar 23, 2022, 11:30 am-12:50 pm EDT


This is a Virtual Event.

Open to the U-M community.

There are many ways to impact public policy at the local, state or federal level.  While the most obvious way is to be elected to public office, this event will explore how individuals can impact policy by being appointed to advisory boards and commissions specifically focusing on Ann Arbor as an example.  

Board and commission members serve in an advisory role to help to direct policy by making suggestions and recommendations to their local elected policymakers and government management. This system of commissions is intended to be representative of, and responsive to, the communities they serve.


  • Kayla Coleman: Community Engagement Specialist, City of Ann Arbor
  • Molly Kleinman: Managing Director, Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program and Chair of the Ann Arbor City Transportation Commission
  • Ember McCoy: Ann Arbor Energy Commissioner & U-M Ph.D. student
  • Sarah Mills: Senior Project Manager, Graham Sustainability Institute; Lecturer, School for Environment and Sustainability; and Chair of the City of Ann Arbor Planning Commission
  • Moderator: Neeraja Aravamudan, Director, The Edward Ginsberg Center

About our Speakers

Neeraja Aravamudan serves as Director of the Edward Ginsberg Center, where she provides strategic leadership and ensures alignment between the values and work at the Center and across U-M, and works to reduce barriers and challenges to equitable partnerships between students, faculty, and community partners.  She also serves on the editorial team for the Michigan Journal for Community Service Learning and consults with faculty and departments on their community-engaged efforts.  Neeraja has focused her professional career in higher education on promoting teaching and learning that is more human- and student-centered, inclusive, and equitable. Her commitment to social justice education is rooted in her personal experiences as an immigrant from India and her work in anti-bias education. Community-engaged learning brings together her interests in social justice, teaching and learning, and values-centered practices. 

Kayla Coleman is a Community Engagement Specialist for the City of Ann Arbor, who has led community engagement initiatives across a wide range of topic areas during her 12 years with the City of Ann Arbor. Notable initiatives include startup and staff liaison support to the City’s first Transportation Commission and helping to lead the city’s Equitable Engagement Initiative. Kayla is passionate about advancing opportunities for public participation in local government decision-making processes. Kayla strives to influence a more inclusive and welcoming public engagement environment where all voices can be heard, particularly those that have been historically underrepresented.

Molly Kleinman is the Managing Director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program. In this role, Molly oversees the day-to-day management and provides strategic direction for STPP. Molly brings over 15 years of experience across several areas of higher education, with much of her work centering on educational technology, access to information, and intellectual property. Molly serves as the chair of the Ann Arbor Transportation Commission and is an elected trustee of the Ann Arbor District Library. Molly received her Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy from the University of Michigan Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education, her M.S. in Information from the University of Michigan School of Information, and her B.A. in English and Gender Studies from Bryn Mawr College.

Ember McCoy (she/her) is a PhD student in the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) studying the politics of air pollution monitoring and regulation. She earned her master's in Environmental Justice from SEAS in 2017 and worked as a staff member for Dr. Dorceta Taylor from 2017-2020, where she supported research on diversity, equity, and inclusion in the environmental field and managed alumni programming for the Environmental Fellows Program and the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program. Ember is particularly passionate about community-engaged research, scholar activism, and inclusive teaching. Outside of academia, she puts her passions & skills to practice through climate, housing, and labor organizing with the University of Michigan's Graduate Student Union (GEO 3550) and service on the Ann Arbor Energy Commission.

Sarah Mills is a senior research area specialist at UM's Graham Sustainability Institute and a lecturer at SEAS.  She graduated with her PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from UM in 2015, and since then has continued her research into how renewable energy development impacts rural communities (positively and negatively), the disparate reactions of rural landowners to wind and solar projects, and how state and local policies facilitate or hinder renewable energy deployment.  She was appointed to the Ann Arbor City Planning Commission in the Fall of 2014, where she has served on the Ordinance Revisions Subcommittee and the Allen Creek Greenway Master Plan Advisory Committee.  She is currently finishing up her second year as chair.  


Program in Practical Policy Engagement, The Edward Ginsberg Center, Democracy & Debate, and the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy 

Related links

Have any questions?