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Bentley gift bolsters MPP internships

June 28, 2021

Thanks to a generous gift from Ann Bentley and the Alvin M. Bentley Foundation in 2020 and in 2021, 10 MPP students were able to secure required summer internships without worrying about costs or income. 

“Funding support enables Ford School students to pursue and explore a wide variety of policy interests,” explained Peter Vasher, associate director of Graduate Career Services. “This includes sectors that may not be in position to provide financial support (especially true during the ongoing pandemic), but are in a position to provide a robust learning experience and growth opportunity where students can develop policy skills and make an impact in the field.”

This summer, Rebecca Mendelsohn, Cassidy Uchman, Ben Levine, Alex Baum, and Bethany Haddad are completing internships with organizations based in Michigan and in Washington, DC. Mendelsohn is a public policy intern for the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) DC location. The other four students are interning with the state of Michigan — Uchman at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Levine at the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), and Baum and Haddad at the Executive Office of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, within the policy team and as a policy and research fellow, respectively.

“I’m very grateful to the family for their generous contribution that allows me to continue my interest in early childhood policy, which I might not have been able to do, and enables me to get another taste of public service at the state government level,” Baum said. 

The 10-week required internships allow MPP students to apply their knowledge to significant problems in a real world situation. Within LARA, Uchman has been compiling data sources that the department uses to identify challenges and barriers to access and affordability of quality childcare. 

“Beyond some of the basics skills that I’ve taken from my methods courses, the ability to really dig in and try to understand how many different stakeholder positions there are and really try to think through the logistics of how any one decision is going to ripple out is something that I’ve definitely exercised in for my core classes and then really have needed to use here at LARA,” she said.

Baum has also found himself drawing on his Ford School skills for his internship.

“I’ve had an introduction to what relationships between the public sector and private sector look like,” he said. “I get a front row seat to how that actually plays out in real time. Every decision that’s being made has to have several lenses to it, so my boss and her colleagues are always thinking about the economical impact of thinking about the political implications, the social and emotional impacts that each of their policy initiatives will have, and all of those things are the underpinnings of every lesson or concept that we learn about in the Ford School.” 

The funding provides an opportunity for students to clarify their career direction and cement their future careers in public service.

“The internship actually fits really perfectly. I’m hoping to work in state government after graduation,” Uchman said. “I really like the middle space of having a high level look of what’s going on but still being a bit more in-tune with communities and having a sense of how your work is impacting people. I’m finding this really hits that niche for me.”

Baum is finding that his experience in the governor’s office is confirming his desire to continue in public service after graduation.

“This internship is helping reaffirm my interest in education policy more broadly,” he said. “I think right out of school, I’d like to work in public service, I’d like to be in the public sector working for a government somewhere. Right out of the gate, I think it’s a really important thing to see how these things are going to get done and a great way to make a tangible impact and work really hard and meet other interesting, smart people.” 

The Bentley family have long been supporters of the University of Michigan and its students.  The Alvin M. and Arvella D. Bentley Scholarship was established in 1983 to support 6-8 LSA undergraduates. The scholarship was created to recognize and encourage public service among in-state students. The University’s Bentley Historical Library is the namesake of Alvin M. Bentley, in recognition of a gift from Arvella Bentley to honor her late husband.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support Ann Bentley has provided to our students over the past two years,” Dean Michael S. Barr said. “She recognized a real need for funded internships during a particularly challenging time. These internships give our students the flexibility to pursue issues they care about and provide invaluable experience in service of the public good.”