Letter from Dean Michael S. Barr

December 13, 2021

For 18 months, while the Diag was calm, Weill Hall stood mostly empty, and the Big House was quiet, our community was hard at work to address urgent societal challenges from the pandemic, racial injustice, assaults on democracy, climate change, and so much more. With a focus on bettering people’s lives, the research and policy engagement of our faculty, students, staff, and alumni made a tremendous impact on communities. Our teaching and learning continued as well: we found new ways to do our jobs and support each other.

Our work didn’t stop, but we were missing a spark. And so I was thrilled to safely welcome back students, faculty, and staff to in-person activities this fall. For me, being back at a busy Weill Hall has been energizing. I’m inspired by how hard our faculty and staff are working to deliver on our mission, and by the dedication and creativity of our students. 

In this edition of State & Hill, we share stories and lessons learned from the Ford School’s partnerships with communities—and how as a university we can continue to do it better. 

You’ll read about the work Associate Dean Luke Shaefer has done to advance the most significant national anti-poverty policy in decades. Shaefer is the first professor supported by the Kohn Collaborative for Social Policy, which we’ve established with a transformative $17 million set of gifts from Harold and Carol Kohn and the Kohn Charitable Trust. 

A highlight of the semester was an in-person gathering celebrating Luke, the Kohns, and our collective commitment to social policy for the public good. 

You’ll find other highlights in this edition: the launch of the new Center for Racial Justice, led by new Associate Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes, and an expanded Leadership Initiative, led by dynamic new faculty member Morela Hernandez. You’ll also read about two important programmatic milestones that have influenced hundreds of lives: 40 years of our PPIA Junior Summer Institute and 20 years of our joint doctoral program with political science, economics, and sociology. We are so proud of all of our alumni and their accomplishments.

I remain deeply grateful to our amazing community—and now in person, more often than not.  


Barr Signature





Michael S. Barr
Joan and Sanford Weill Dean, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Frank Murphy Collegiate Professor of Public Policy
Roy and Jean Humphrey Proffitt Professor of Law
University of Michigan


More in State & Hill

Below, find the full, formatted fall 2021 edition of State & HillClick here to return to the fall 2021 State & Hill homepage.