Welcome, and welcome back, Fordies!

September 3, 2019

A letter from Dean Michael S. Barr to the Ford School community

Dear friends,

Good afternoon! My warmest greetings as we officially launch the 2019-2020 academic year. I’m incredibly excited to see our community come back together and to welcome our newest members.

A wise mentor once taught me the importance of leading with our values. So as we launch our new year together, let’s start there, with what the Ford School values: Community, integrity, and respect.  Service. Inclusion, diversity, and equity. We aspire for our work to be excellent, relevant, rigorous, collaborative, engaged, and impactful.

And our mission? We are a community dedicated to the public good. We inspire and prepare diverse leaders grounded in service, conduct transformational research, and collaborate on evidence-based policymaking to take on our communities’ and our world’s most pressing challenges.

We’re so fortunate to have the opportunity each day to strive to live our values and to work hard to contribute to such a positive mission.

We’re fortunate, too, to be here at a time of such energy, excitement, and growth!

This fall, for example, we’re launching a major new initiative on leadership, and we’re growing our exciting programs in practical policy engagement and conversations across difference. 

Our research centers are working on a wide range of critical issues, including access to higher education for young Detroiters, support and resources for homeless students, making strategic use of the State of Michigan’s education data, building central banks that serve to reduce inequities in financial systems, promoting technology that serves the public interest, and contributing facts to emotional issues around wind energy on rural Michigan sites. Our centers are an incredibly lively source of work and learning for our students: get to know them!

We enter year 4 of our DE&I strategic plan with tremendous momentum thanks to the good work of the faculty, staff, and students who lead and serve on the DEI Coalition and our whole community. Look for new initiatives and new ways to get involved soon.

We welcome outstanding new core faculty, new courtesy and joint appointments that strengthen our ties across campus, and professors of practice and distinguished policy visitors, and we celebrate the promotions of our faculty as well; please see this news item for full details on faculty appointments and promotions

We’re hosting a terrific lineup of events, including an all-star roster of leaders in foreign affairs coming to Ann Arbor this fall to launch our Weiser Diplomacy Center. 

And we’ll welcome many alumni back to campus October 4-5 for Homecoming Reunion, as we celebrate 10 years since our first BA students graduated, 20 years since we were named for

President Gerald R. Ford, and 50 years since our first Master of Public Policy students entered the Institute of Public Policy Studies. We’ll have multiple opportunities for your involvement in the reunion activities, so stay tuned for details.

A welcome to our new students

We’re thrilled to welcome to campus the very first class of students in our exciting new Master of Public Affairs program. When we announced the degree last fall, we were positive that we had the right faculty and know-how to deliver a powerful nine-month midcareer educational experience. 

And now we’ve been floored by the response! The 22 students who have enrolled comprise a diverse and extremely impressive inaugural cohort. I can’t wait to see how they enhance the community and what they’ll go on to do with their Ford School MPAs.

Ninety-nine new Master of Public Policy students join the school. The average age of our 121 total masters students is 28. Twenty-five are international students--hailing from 14 different countries. Our domestic students come from 18 different states plus Washington, D.C. 

We welcome 80 new Bachelors of Public Policy students this fall. Thirty-six percent are Michigan residents and 25% are students of color. These students are already leaders within networks and groups from all over campus; now, they’ll become an integral part of the Ford School community as well, and their ideas and energy will be a force for good.

We welcome an excellent, very promising duo of PhD students as well: one pursuing a joint degree in economics and one in political science.

Collectively, our new students are mission-driven people who have come to the Ford School wanting to change the world for the better. Welcome! I am eager to get to know each of you, and learn why you are here and where you want to go next. Information about my office hours for the fall semester was shared earlier today with students, and I hope you’ll come visit me then. I’ll also host an event in early November with free cider and donuts and a chance to connect with me and the Associate Deans. I encourage you to look out for more information closer to the date and attend!

Go Blue—and go vote!

UM is launching the nonpartisan Big Ten Voting Challenge for 2020 this fall as we head into an important year for local, state, and national elections. 

Each of us is here at the Ford School because we’re committed to improving our communities and our world. Participation in the public policy process at the local, state, and federal levels is core to that commitment, and it all starts with voting.

I encourage every eligible student, faculty, and staff member, of any political persuasion, to register to vote. Students can vote at their permanent address or their local address. Thanks to nonpartisan citizen activism over the last two years, Michigan has new laws that make registration and voting easier for students and other eligible voters.  

We’ll have a team of students, faculty and staff helping this fall with forms, stamps, etc. Please look for more information soon about how to join that team (which would welcome help from all students regardless of their eligibility to vote).

Ford School Fall Launch

I hope you’ll join the entire community this Thursday, September 5 at 4:00 pm in the Annenberg for the Ford School Fall Launch: All-School Assembly & Ice Cream Social. I’ll tell you more about the things I’m so excited about, and then we’ll have a good old-fashioned ice cream social—featuring faculty and staff scoopers!

Welcome, and welcome back to Weill Hall. Let’s get to work!

Best regards,

Michael S. Barr
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy