Greetings from the Dean

May 27, 2009

Greetings! We are in the midst of a beautiful spring in Ann Arbor. Blooming flowerbeds and bright green leaves made a lovely backdrop for the 2009 Ford School Graduation Ceremony, our community’s annual rite of passage. You can enjoy pictures and read more about the 2009 commencement ceremony here .

Over eighty MPP/MPA students graduated, and for the very first time, the Ford School fielded a graduating class of BA students.

It was a tremendous undertaking for the school to launch a new degree program. A liberal arts degree for undergraduates is a very different endeavor from the professional, graduate policy education we’ve offered for so many decades. Under the excellent leadership of John Chamberlin, our faculty and staff literally spent years planning for the BA program and crafting its educational goals. The achievements of this first class both in and out of the classroom have exceeded our highest hopes. The 54 graduates were campus leaders. They played varsity sports, edited and wrote for the student newspaper, and were active in campus politics. The class included many Angell Scholars, seven Phi Beta Kappa inductees, and one Hopwood Award winner. The undergraduates have added a wonderful vitality to the school over the past two years, and set a high standard for future cohorts.

In this time of economic crisis, I am frequently asked two questions by friends and stakeholders of the Ford School. First, how are our graduates faring in the job market? I am pleased to report that fully one-half of our MPP graduates have already secured good jobs, putting us right on schedule with past years. But we know that the economy will pose a significant challenge for others. Now, more than ever, we need the help of our alumni to open doors and make connections for our students. Please visit our Graduate Career Services website  for more information about how your organization can tap into our pool of well-trained interns and graduates.

The second question I am often asked is about how the economic crisis has impacted the University’s finances, and specifically whether the downturn has compromised our ability to attract and retain top-notch faculty and students. Again, the answers here are reassuring. Thanks to its prudent approach to endowment management and thoughtfully focused cost-cutting, the University is in a relatively strong financial position -- not just compared with other public institutions but with private schools as well. U-M President Mary Sue Coleman recently issued an update on the University’s finances. Her thoughts can be read here. 

The Ford School, too, has worked to contain our costs without sacrificing the quality of our educational programs. Indeed, we have continued to hire excellent faculty, and will launch new searches as well as some exciting new initiatives next year. But the same economic pressures challenging our state will challenge us as well. So as we sharpen our focus on student support - keeping tuition affordable and competitive and matching students with the very best internships, even if low- or unpaid - we increasingly will need to rely on your generous commitment to our current and future students. You can learn more about giving opportunities here.

In other news, we are making excellent progress on the first full-scale review of the Ford School MPP curriculum in over fourteen years. We are committed to enhancing our already strong program in creative and forward-looking ways to make sure that Ford School students are fully prepared for the public service careers of the future. Teams of faculty, staff, and students worked throughout this past year, conducting surveys and focus groups with faculty, employers, and students; evaluating course participation data; and considering options. Our next steps include a survey of our alumni. Your responses will be very useful to our efforts, so please check your email in-boxes in July for more information.

We hope to see many of you back in Ann Arbor this September for our all-school reunion and 95th birthday celebration. Invitations will be mailed in mid-June, but you can read more about the plans here .

This is the second edition of The Ford School Feed – a new electronic publication designed to link our alumni and friends around the world to news and information about our community. Your comments and suggestions about The Feed are very welcome: please drop a note to [email protected].

Thank you for your ongoing commitment to the mission of the Ford School. Please, stay involved and stay in touch!

Best regards,