Letter from the Dean

December 9, 2020

The November 2020 elections marked an historic moment for our country. In the chaotic, scary months leading up to it, as a global pandemic raged, we’ve experienced deepening divisions in the U.S., horrifying evidence of racist police violence and white nationalism, threats to our democracy, and climate events around the world. Intertwined, complex, and painful issues: a seemingly endless series of hard moments. 

And also, we’ve experienced hope that what we’ve seen aren’t just hard moments, that they’re also leading to positive movements in progress—people coming together with a sustained, shared commitment to building change, to insisting on meaningful change.

Millions of Americans took to the streets for weeks this summer to demand racial justice. In the sheer numbers and the diversity of people involved, the widespread awareness and acknowledgment of systemic racism, maybe we see an opportunity to “get to those in high places,” as the late, great Congressman John Lewis said, “to get men and women of goodwill in power to act.”

And in November, despite obstacles, millions of Americans from all across the political spectrum voted in record numbers. Deeply committed state and local officials managed a complicated, high-pressure election and diligent public servants counted each and every ballot. 

I co-chaired the University’s Democracy and Debate theme semester, which was a key catalyst for learning, dialogue, and action around the election for our campus community. So many members of our University community were active participants in the election, and we should all take pride in how our community stood up for our democratic institutions.

We face serious, existential public challenges. Each one of us has a responsibility to engage and make the kind of world we want the next generation to live in. Here at the Ford School, we’re preparing courageous, ethical, public leaders; I hope you take heart from that, as I do.

In this edition of State & Hill, you can read about our Leadership Initiative, and about some of the ways our faculty, students, staff, and alumni helped to boost voter turnout and promote understanding of our electoral processes. We share stories that reflect on urgent issues during this challenging time, about inequality and taking collective action to promote change. You’ll read about how the Ford School has worked to come together throughout the year.

May the new year bring you hope, joy, and good health. Let us be thankful for the many ways we are working together to fight for a more just, equitable, and safe world. 


Barr Signature






Michael S. Barr
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy
Frank Murphy Collegiate Professor of Public Policy
Roy F. and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law

Below, find the full, formatted Fall 2020 edition of State & Hill.

Click here to return to the Fall 2020 S&H homepage.