International Policy Center Home Page

Letter from the Dean

May 22, 2020

In this edition of State & Hill, you’ll read stories of our growing strength in teaching diplomacy, international development, and international politics, and stories of how we’re tackling inequalities in the financial system, access to voting, early childhood education, and college preparation. The education we provide is needed now, perhaps more than ever before.

Our world is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic collapse threatens our community, the country, and our global society. As the dean of our great school of public policy, I see three lessons:

First, this pandemic reminds us that we are a global, deeply interconnected society. Our students must learn to lead and communicate across differences, to navigate barriers, and to understand themselves in relation to people from different parts of the world. No scourge--not pandemic, poverty, nor climate change--can be defeated without international cooperation, without diplomacy, and without a shared commitment to the global public good.

Second, the crisis has tested government, corporate, and nonprofit leaders at all levels. It has thrown into stark relief the importance of our core values: that expertise, evidence, and courageous public service based on our shared humanity matter.

And finally, we know that while the virus touches all of us, its public health and economic impact is disproportionately felt by the most vulnerable people and communities. This crisis has laid bare once again the deeply pervasive inequalities in our society.

I’ll note, with much pride, that over these difficult weeks, Ford School faculty, staff, and students found so many ways to improve our world. Even as we turned quickly toward virtual classes and remote work, we stayed engaged as a community dedicated to the public good.

Just a few examples (with many more here)

  • Luke Shaefer is advising Michigan’s Governor on how to reduce the impact of the crisis on low-income families and successfully advocated to waive work requirements for TANF, to put in place an eviction moratorium, and to increase SNAP benefits.
  • Our research centers are providing resource guides for small businesses, local governments, and others about how they can access help during the crisis.
  • Paula Lantz and a team of MPP students are providing real-time research and policy analysis for the State of Michigan.

We’re gathering stories of the many ways our alumni have helped in this crisis, and we’ll share those over the summer. I’m deeply grateful that many alumni have contributed to our Student Emergency Fund to support our students who need extra assistance with family dislocations, lost wages, travel, rent, internet connection for learning and work, and more.

I am proud of the Ford School community’s leadership during this crisis. We truly are a community dedicated to the public good.


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 is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2020 State & Hill.