Weill Hall buzzed with excitement this week as the Ford School kicked off the 41st year of its Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute – a program designed to build diversity in public service. Hailing from coast to coast, 24 rising undergraduate seniors will spend the next seven weeks in Ann Arbor honing skills critical to the public policy field.
Ford School Dean Michael S. Barr and Associate Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes sat down with the students over lunch for an informal Q&A.
“I’m really proud that the Ford School has supported the PPIA program for the past 41 years,” Dean Barr told the students. “The Ford School is only one of a handful of schools to have hosted the program since its inception. PPIA is critical to our school’s mission–we are a community dedicated to the public good. PPIA students have a strong track record of pursuing a master's degree and going into public service.”
“Diversity and excellence go hand in hand,” said Watkins-Hayes as she described the Ford School’s efforts to integrate DEI into public policy education. “To be an excellent researcher, an excellent policymaker, you have to have a holistic view and a dexterity in thinking about the issues from different perspectives.”
Fellows bring interests ranging from healthcare, infrastructure, and climate policy, to migration and international development. Several of the students say they are eager to learn from guest speakers as well as their peers. Others are excited about the courses offered through the program.
Students will dive into relevant policy topics like African diplomacy with former Ambassador Susan Page and health equity with Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence Abdul El-Sayed. They will sharpen quantitative analysis skills with political scientist Jonathan Hanson and budgeting expert Stephanie Leiser. Writing instructor Molly Spencer will provide one-on-one consultations and Sharayna Pai of the Ford School’s Center for Racial Justice will lead student discussions about urgent issues.
“Gather all of the tools you can, this summer and throughout your career,” Watkins-Hayes urged the students. “Some people will be persuaded by storytelling, others by legal argument or quantitative analysis. Being able to use all of these tools is powerful.”
The Ford School has proudly supported the PPIA Junior Summer Institute (formerly called the Sloan or Woodrow Wilson fellowship) for 41 years and is one of a handful of schools to host the program every year since its inception. Recent gifts from Tom Tuft (LSA ‘69), Ann Branston (MPP ’91), and the Ford School PPIA 40th anniversary alumni challenge have allowed for expansion and sustainability of the program.
- Read alumni reflections on PPIA’s impact and their favorite Junior Summer Institute memories from the last 40 years.