A quarter-century on, celebrating the impact of the Ford School’s Alumni Board

April 30, 2016

A “window on the practice” of public policy

FIRST GATHERING. The first Alumni Board meeting was held in Ann Arbor June 8–9, 1990. Eighteen alumni, representing a range of professions and policy interests, met to discuss the curriculum, connect with students, and begin to carve out their role in the life of the Institute of Public Policy Studies (IPPS), predecessor to the Ford School.

THE CHARGE. “The advent of the Board is part of what I am coming to think of as the “growing up” of IPPS,” writes Paul Courant in IPPS News (fall 1990). “In addition to being a window on the practice, I hope that the Board will also serve as a door (or, perhaps, as a Star Trek-like teleporter) between IPPS in Ann Arbor and IPPS in the rest of the world.”

THE EVOLUTION. “While we continue to remain available to serve in the advisory role Paul Courant intended, we’ve evolved over time to become a service board,” says Paul Weech (MPP ’81), first and current chair of the Board. “We’ve chosen to lead by participating in a wide range of programs and activities that support the school and its success.”

BUILDING COMMUNITY. While Board members have always attended alumni events in great numbers and encouraged their classmates to do the same, they have also founded new events. In 2011, Board members launched Worldwide Ford School Spirit Day, which brings together alumni in cities around the world—New York, Tokyo, DC, San Francisco, and more—to celebrate the legacy of the school and its namesake, President Gerald R. Ford (AB ’35, HLLD ‘74).

Photo of Alumni Board Summer 2014

SUPPORTING STUDENTS. Throughout the years, Alumni Board members have supported Ford School students in many ways. They’ve demonstrated the career trajectories possible with a Ford School degree, and have helped hundreds of students explore their career interests by connecting with newly admitted students, attending networking events, identifying job and internship leads, reviewing student resumes, conducting mock interviews, sharing their professional connections, and more.

Photo of Rich Hughes

Alumni Board members have also contributed generously to student fellowships and internships and reached out to their classmates to ask them to do the same. In 2006, Jennifer Niggemeier, director of graduate career services and alumni relations, asked Board member Rich Hughes (MPA ‘61), a former vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, to evaluate the fairness of the school’s internship award selection process. “’This isn’t a process problem,’ he said. ‘you don’t have enough money,’” Niggemeier recalls.

Hughes started to fund internships in honor of his parents, Al and Flo Hughes, then suggested that his fellow Board members combine their gifts to do more. The first Board-funded internship partnership was awarded to Alana Ward (MPP ‘09), who worked with the Clinton Foundation in 2008. In subsequent years, Board-funded interns have served not-for-profit and public sector organizations in Detroit, Malawi, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Africa, and Washington, DC.

Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2016 State & Hill here.