MPP students explore Michigan’s state and local government

October 31, 2023

Each year, approximately 20 percent of Ford School master’s students explore policy at the local or state levels through their required 10-week internship, and this summer was no different. Ford School faculty and staff helped students find opportunities in Michigan’s state and local government, working with state administrators and legislators, in mayoral offices, or with county executives.

Alexandra Stavros (MPP ‘24) served as a policy and research fellow for the Executive Office of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. 

Prior to this summer, Stavros hadn’t seriously considered a career in state policy. While she received her Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of Michigan and has continued to focus on foreign policy at the Ford School, Stavros saw the Governor's Office fellowship—a competitive program in collaboration with the Ford School's Career Services—as an opportunity to explore something completely different.

As a research and policy fellow, she focused on education policymaking from an administrative perspective.   

“The day-to-day was my favorite part,” Stavros says. “I was working on a project about financial aid policies in Michigan, and it was like my baby. I think it was the best of both worlds. I was researching financial aid systems in the state, but at the same time, I was able to go into events with the Governor or the policy team to see the bills we were working on get signed” 

Stavros says her fellowship shifted her perspective on today’s political climate.

“Working in government has given me a lot of hope. You can see that [state government] is a lot more cohesive than you think it is. There are so many issues that people agree on the end results and they’re just trying to figure out the best way to get there.”

Stavros encourages other students to explore similar opportunities in state government, even if they may not directly align with career interests.

“This was an opportunity to try something that I would not probably have tried if I had the high stakes of this being a full time job,” she says. “Do it for a summer and see how the process works, which can be transferable anywhere.”

Arron McDonald (MPP’24) also served as a research and policy fellow this summer with the Governor’s Executive Office.

This summer, Elizabeth Gelman (MPP ‘24) explored county-level policy through her internship in the office of Yousef Rabhi, Washtenaw County Commissioner. She had the chance to work closely with Rabhi and learn about the most pressing issues affecting Washtenaw County, such as public housing and budget allocation.  

Gelman focused on education prior to her time at Ford and saw this as an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the policy process, specifically at the local level.

“I came into the internship not knowing really anything about county government. I think most people don’t really understand what the county even does and what their jurisdiction is, and I came out with a lot more clarity and definitely more questions,” she says. 

Gelman credits the Ford School’s career office with helping her find the internship and supporting her through the process.

“The Ford School’s Career Services staff were really great. Ultimately they helped me connect with [Rabhi]. During the internship, I participated in Ford leadership coaching, and received Ford School funding which was really helpful.”

As she wraps up her time at the Ford School, Gelman encourages Fordies to consider involvement in local government, especially through a low-stakes internship. 

“Even if you’re interested in the federal government, I think there’s a lot of value in local policy, especially here in Ann Arbor. There’s so much going on and people are so involved. To be living here for two years as a graduate student, it’s important to be involved.”