Barr introduces fall 2017 S&H: The role of the university as "society's servant and critic"

December 30, 2017

I'm Michael Barr, and I'm pleased to introduce myself as the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of the Ford School. While I'm new as dean, I've been working collaboratively with Ford School faculty members for 20 years now. And two decades in, I'm still tapping into the wellspring of admiration I have for them, and for this great school.

In this issue, which coincides with the University of Michigan's bicentennial celebration, we're taking stock of recent work our community has done to address pressing social challenges. While these stories are just a small snapshot of current work by faculty, staff, students, and alumni they illustrate the capacity of public service—particularly when informed by evidence and insights from the sciences and social sciences—to make a meaningful impact in our world.

You'll read about a bipartisan effort to design an evidence-informed and politically feasible paid family leave plan for the U.S. You'll read about the research that inspired the University of Michigan’s new Go Blue Guarantee, which offers free tuition to low- and moderate-income undergraduates across the state. You'll read about the Big Ten Voting Challenge, designed to turn up election day turnout at colleges and universities across the nation. And you'll read about WeListen, a new student organization that's fostering civil, civic discourse here at U-M, and soon, we hope, at other colleges and universities across the nation.

Earlier this fall, a former student of mine came to the Ford School to speak with students and faculty members about what might seem to be a fabrication: cross-aisle collaboration in our nation’s capital. Although he served as a senior staffer to former Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA-7), he brought a colleague and friend from across the aisle, a senior staffer to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5). Together, they discussed one of DC’s best guarded secrets—that there are still ways to communicate, collaborate, and compromise across the aisle, and that relationships like these can yield important dividends for society.

While it's clear that we're living in challenging political times, and sometimes it seems as though we’ve lost the ability to talk to each other in meaningful, engaging, and thoughtful ways, my hope and ambition is that the Ford School community will serve as a notable counterweight to that divisiveness. You'll hear more about that in the years ahead, as well as other important objectives for my tenure: fostering interdisciplinary collaborations that will tackle policy challenges in powerful ways; growing the school's policy impact; attracting new resources for the school's diversity, equity, and inclusion goals; and nurturing the leadership capacity of our amazingly talented and civic-minded students.

While most of the stories we're sharing in this issue of the magazine are recent, they build on the legacy of the generations of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who came before. I am honored to lead this outstanding school, and look forward to our shared work ahead.


Michael S. Barr
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Fall 2017 State & Hill.