Dean Barr welcomes the Ford School community back for an exciting fall semester

August 30, 2021

A letter from Ford School Dean Michael Barr

Dear friends:

It’s my great pleasure to welcome our community back together for the 2021-2022 school year.

Let me start by acknowledging that this won’t be a “normal” year for the University of Michigan or beyond. The pandemic is far from over, and we’ll be taking meaningful precautions to keep all members of our community safe. We’ll need to be vaccinated, wear face coverings, follow potentially shifting public health directions, and give each other respect and grace as we all navigate what will feel at times like a strange new world.

The COVID-19 crisis continues to unfold at the same time as ongoing and urgent problems of racial injustice, threats to democratic institutions, catastrophic climate change, and tragic violence in conflicts around the world.

Our world is in desperate need of smart, ethical, service-driven leaders, and that makes our teaching, learning, and policy engagement at the Ford School as essential as ever before.

And so, I’m beyond excited that we’re back together again to continue working together for the public good.

Ford School Fall Launch

Please RSVP and plan to join us for our Fall Launch and Ice Cream Social tomorrow -- Tuesday, August 31st from 4:00 - 5:30 pm EST in the Weill Hall Courtyard.

If you can’t make it to the Fall Launch, please know that you’ll be missed. And you can get into the Fall Welcome spirit by watching our 2021 Welcome Videos: here’s the first in the series! Whether you’re in Weill Hall this fall or working and learning remotely, we’re in this together.

Health and safety

As I wrote last week, we'll be guided by science and by our core values in all we do this year. The safety and wellbeing of people in our community are paramount and we know that the pandemic has differential effects on members of our community.

Here, you’ll find our plan for Fall 2021. You can read about our approach to classes, events, our supportive and dynamic community, our research and engagement, and public health in our building.

A reminder that masks are mandatory anywhere at Weill Hall (except in  a solo-occupied private office with the door closed). Daily ResponsiBlue checklist completion is also mandatory. If you’re feeling sick, stay home. Your teachers and colleagues will understand, accommodate, and appreciate it.

You’ll find our FAQs document for the fall semester here (Kerberos login required); we’ve been keeping it up to date. Please send questions or suggestions to [email protected].

Faculty and staff, full details on Weill Hall health and safety can be found here in our ‘21-’22 Return to Work Guide.

Students, please be sure to also check the Campus Maize and Blueprint site: for the latest campus guidelines and resources.

Our new students

A very warm welcome to our diverse, accomplished incoming students!

We welcome 5 new PhD students: two pursuing joint doctoral degrees in Public Policy/ Economics, two in Public Policy/Political Science, and one in Public Policy/Sociology.

We welcome, too, amazing classes of graduate students: 117 Master of Public Policy students and 22 in our Master of Public Affairs program. International students comprise 14% of the incoming graduate classes; they hail from 12 countries: Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Pakistan, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, and the U.K. Of our domestic students, 43% are in-state, 57% out-of-state, and 31% are from underrepresented backgrounds. They include 3 Fulbright students, 8 Peace Corps alumni, 10 PPIA alumni, and 7 with U.S. military service.

Eighty new undergraduate juniors are joining the Ford School. Forty percent are Michigan residents, and 60% are out-of-state residents. Fifteen percent are underrepresented minorities. We also have 26 new students pursuing our BA minor in that program’s second year.

Our new faculty

Over the spring and summer, we welcomed an incredible group of new faculty members. They bring new expertise in education and social policy, national security, and racial justice, and they will help build students’ leadership and negotiation skills. In addition, visiting faculty with significant policy and leadership experience will be on campus to teach and mentor students. I hope you will get to know them well in the coming weeks.

A busy fall semester

It will be a busy semester.

As I hope you’ve heard, we’re excited to be launching a new Center for Racial Justice, led by associate dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes. Over time, the center will play a key role in our work to advance the vitally important cause of bringing racial justice to our policy structures.

I encourage all faculty, staff, and students to join as the Center hosts an event series this fall on the racial foundations of public policy, along with a Master Class in Activism event featuring Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole. The series was designed specifically for members of our community, and will be accompanied by a number of conversations intended to help integrate new knowledge into the school’s coursework and services.

At the Fall Launch on Tuesday and in the weeks to come, associate dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes will share a bit more about her vision for the Center.

Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion lead Stephanie Sanders has organized another outstanding series of events on public policy and institutional discrimination. See the full list here.

Our Leadership Initiative has ramped up over the past several months, with new gifts to support the work and the addition to the faculty of the dynamic Professor Morela Hernandez, who is now the faculty director for the Initiative. Undergraduate and graduate students will have expanded opportunities to build their leadership skills within and alongside the Ford School curriculum.

We’ll have a number of events focused on democracy, starting this Thursday, September 2 as CLOSUP helps to host an amazing event at the Michigan Union Ballroom: public meetings of the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commissioners as they do their nationally significant work of redrawing Michigan’s congressional districts. Students can meet with commissioners that morning for a “Donuts for Democracy” event hosted by Turn up Turnout.

We’ll host two significant events on this, the 20th anniversary year marking 9-11. Our Rosenthal Lecture on September 9 will include reflections from journalists Beth Fertig of WNYC and Nancy Youssef of the Wall Street Journal. They both covered the attacks and their aftermath, as well as the U.S. response at home and abroad. The event is co-sponsored by Wallace House and will be moderated by Lynette Clemetson, Director of Wallace House.

As the U.S. withdraws its forces from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years, three experts will give their views on key developments in counterterrorism and national security since 9/11. Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security; Farah Pandith, foreign policy strategist and first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities at the Department of State; and Eric Schmitt, journalist at The New York Times, will join the Ford School’s associate professor of practice Javed Ali, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council. The event will take place September 13, 4-5 PM, and will be streamed live. Learn more about both 9-11 events here.

Don’t miss the 4th annual Policy Pitch Competition on September 14.

Many more outstanding public events are in the works.

I’m especially excited to announce that on October 20 Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, will visit virtually for a Policy Talks event on the global fight against COVID-19. The event will be presented in conjunction with the School of Public Health, and Dean F. DuBois Bowman will moderate the conversation.

So much of the school’s good work happens in our research centers. Seven of our dynamic centers launched beautiful new websites this summer, making it easier for students and community members to get involved. Read more about the new research center websites and find a list of links here.

A more inclusive Weill Hall

We’re excited to let you know about some notable improvements to Weill Hall, including a renovated student lounge, gender inclusive restrooms, new study nooks, and a personal care space for nursing mothers. The updates make Weill Hall a more inclusive and welcoming space for our community. Learn more about the renovations and new spaces here.

Sunday evening emails

All through last academic year, I wrote weekly messages to our community. Those messages and your replies and responses really helped me feel connected through a hard and exhausting time, and I hope they helped you as well.

After a break for the summer, I’ll be sending weekly emails again this fall, each Sunday evening.  The emails will be a mix of updates for our community as well as a bit of the personal, and I hope the communications will help keep our community together throughout the year.

Our community

The community we’re so proud of is simply, our people. I couldn’t be more grateful for the people of the Ford School. Over the past eighteen months, our faculty, staff, and students alike rose to the challenges of the moment. You worked so hard: redesigning coursework; learning new platforms; innovating; serving communities around the world; and continuing to teach, learn, and deliver services at the highest levels. I hope that many of you were able to rest and recharge this summer, and that like me, you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and get back to our good work together.

Welcome, and welcome back to our community, dedicated to the public good.

Best wishes for the first week of classes,