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Welcome to the new academic year

August 31, 2015

Dear members of the Ford School community,

As the streets of Ann Arbor start to fill with students, as the marching band takes the field down the hill, and as we open our doors for Welcome Week, I write with my warmest greetings to new and returning members of our community. Welcome!

I look forward to hearing your stories of work and travel from the summer—and to meeting and getting to know our new colleagues and students.

We’ve been busy here in Ann Arbor as well! I’d like to share with you some highlights from the work we have underway in preparation for what promises to be a terrific year.

A strategic plan for diversity

This month, University President Mark Schlissel will launch a major campus-wide effort to create a five-year strategic plan around diversity, equity, and inclusion. To begin, he has asked each school to create its own plan—one that is aspirational yet concrete, that is consistent with the wide variety of activities that occur within the school, and that engages all key constituents of the school.

I’ve formed a committee that will be charged in September to lead our efforts. The group, chaired by Shobita Parthasarathy and Susan Guindi, will move quickly to launch what will be a top priority for the school for the coming year. Each of you will be asked to share your perspectives and your vision. I hope that, like me, you’ll want to actively participate in this rare and very exciting opportunity to inform and shape the Ford School’s future.

Faculty news and growth

We have a great deal of exciting faculty news to share, including promotions, returns to campus from stints in DC, new and renewed administrative posts, and of course, significant growth in our faculty—including six additions to our governing faculty.

I’ll start with administrative leadership news. We were thrilled in July when Kathryn Dominguez was nominated by President Obama to serve on the seven-member Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Board. It remains unclear when the Senate will take up the nomination, and in the meantime, Kathryn has begun her service as our Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

Dean Yang has been promoted to full professor of public policy and economics. He and John Ciorciari will serve for another year as interim co-directors of our International Policy Center (IPC).

Sandra Danziger has been named the Edith A. Lewis Collegiate Professor of Social Work and research professor of public policy. She will continue to chair our National Poverty Center steering committee.

One of our new faculty members will serve an important post as well. Paula Lantz, a distinguished social epidemiologist, was previously professor and chair of the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University’s School of Public Health. She becomes the Ford School’s first Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement.

John Leahy, joins the faculty as the first Allen Sinai Professor of Macroeconomics. He was previously professor of economics at New York University, and will have a split appointment between the Ford School and LS&A Department of Economics.

Luke Shaefer, previously an associate professor of social work, shifts one third of his appointment to the Ford School. He is about to release a new book on extreme poverty in the U.S. Natasha Pilkauskas has a PhD in social welfare and has just completed a post-doc at Columbia University. Kaitlin Raimi is a social psychologist who completed a post-doc at Vanderbilt University. Megan Tompkins-Stange, previously a lecturer at the Ford School, will also become an assistant professor in September. Jonathan K. Hanson will be a lecturer in statistics for public policy.

We’ve strengthened our partnership with the University of Michigan Department of Sociology with the addition of six very distinguished courtesy appointments. Sociology Chair Alford YoungWilliam AxinnSarah BurgardJeffrey MorenoffAlexandra Murphy, and Jason Owen-Smith will all have courtesy appointments with the Ford School.

Three senior members of our faculty will return to campus this fall after service and research in Washington, DC.

Robert Axelrod, the Walgreen Professor for the Study of Human Understanding, completed a Jefferson Science Fellowship at the U.S. Department of State this spring. Jefferson Science Fellows serve for one year at the U.S. Department of State or USAID as science and technology advisors on foreign policy issues, enhancing understanding among policy officials of complex, cutting edge scientific issues and their possible impacts on U.S. foreign policy and international relations.

Betsey Stevenson has been one of three members of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers since fall of 2013. In the fall, Stevenson will teach two graduate level classes at the Ford School: Social Policy Making Through the Executive Branch and Topics: Federal Budget Process.

Justin Wolfers has been on leave from the University since the fall of 2013. He’s worked from the Brookings Institution and more recently, from the Peterson Institute. Wolfers has written, commented, and testified widely on economic policy issues. In the fall, he’ll teach the core graduate course Microeconomics A at the Ford School.

We'll host two Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation Policymakers in Residence this year. In the fall, Harold Ford Jr. will teach a one-credit course, Contemporary Public Policy Formation. And in the winter, Ambassador Richard Boucher will return for the final half of his residency and teach two full-semester courses.

Be sure to read about our new faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and staff members, along with brief bios. And click here for introductory Q&As with many of our newest arrivals. Please join me in welcoming all of them.

Welcome to our new students 

We’re joined this fall by another outstanding, diverse group of students: 72 new BA students, 88 MPPs, 14 MPAs, 5 PhDs, and 7 STPP certificate students.

Our incoming students had pictures taken during orientation, and have also written short bios about their professional interests and experiences. The Student and Academic Services team will be pairing photos with bios this week, so the directory for incoming students will be complete soon. In the meantime, we’ve created named table tents for our students to take with them to class. Please use these, at least for the first few weekss of classes, so we can all get to know each other.

Upcoming events

We have a terrific slate of Policy Talks public events coming up this fall. A more comprehensive list is attached, but I’ll draw your attention to the first few, which include:

  • JUST ADDED--September 2: The Ford School and IPC were chosen to host two White House officials for Explaining the Iran Deal, a presentation and Q&A. Note to incoming MPP students: this event is an unavoidable conflict with Service Day, which we very much hope you’ll participate in. We’ll videotape the Iran event for you to watch later! 
  • September 9: The Korbel School’s Erica Chenoweth will deliver the annual Rosenthal Lecture. Chenoweth is an internationally recognized authority on political violence and its alternatives. Her path-breaking research on the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance has earned her numerous distinctions for “proving Gandhi right.”
  • September 11: The International Policy Center (IPC) will co-host Ambassador Thomas Miller, who is currently the president and CEO of International Executive Service Corps (IESC). A 29-year career diplomat, Miller's experience in the Foreign Service spanned many continents.
  • September 22: A conversation with Roger Ferguson (CEO of TIAA-CREF and former vice-chair of the Board of Governors of the Fed), hosted by our own Justin Wolfers.
  • October 14: The National Poverty Center is delighted to host a launch event for Luke Shaefer’s new book$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, published September 1, 2015 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Luke will be joined by his co-author, Kathryn Edin. Their book, as Michael Eric Dyson writes, “deliver(s) an incisive pocket history of 1990s welfare reform—and then blow(s) the lid off what has happened in the decades afterward.”

Faculty, students, and staff will have a number of opportunities to meet and interact with our distinguished speakers. I hope that many of you find ways to have our Policy Talks series enrich your education.

And so we step together into the new year.

James Baldwin once wrote, “The paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.”

My hope is that each of us embraces that paradox, that we examine our Ford School and university society, that we constructively engage with it—that we each find ways to improve and enhance this community.

With your leadership, creativity, analysis, and teamwork, I know you’ll leave this school even better than you found it.

Go Blue!