I’m proud of making the shift to the public sector, but I still have so much left to learn!
Prior to the Ford School: Ann Arbor based start-up May Mobility.
Why I chose an MPA: I decided I wanted to make a more intentional career switch into policy, ideally within the transportation and/or sustainability realms. I chose the MPA path because I wanted an opportunity to work and attend the Ford School at the same time, and the MPA track allowed me to make that a reality (with help from the incredible staff at the Ford School!).
Best advice to an experienced applicant trying to decide whether an MPA is right for them: There were a few relatively un-exciting questions I asked myself. Do you want to focus on leadership development or do you want to go deep into analysis and technical skills? Do you need to take two years off from your career to achieve your goal, or does the one-year program provide what you need? Do you want to have the option to work full-time during your tenure at Ford? Depending on how you answer these questions, an MPA may make sense for you.
Tara Lanigan (MPA ‘21) was working for a mobility start-up and wanted to focus more intentionally on transportation or sustainability policy. She was awarded a Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF) in 2022 and serves as a policy advisor for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology.
What do you work on now as a PMF?
I support the Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation (SMART) Grants Program, which is a transportation technology and innovation program for local governments that came out of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Soon I’ll join the White House Council on Environmental Quality, where I’ll do a 6-month detail before closing out my fellowship. I’m proud of making the shift to the public sector, but I still have so much left to learn!
What was your favorite course or memorable project?
Having been in the private sector for my whole career, I’d never written a policy brief before I arrived at Ford, so Policy Writing with Alex Ralph taught me tangible skills that I particularly appreciated once I arrived at U.S. DOT. Stephanie Leiser made Economics digestible and even bearable, which I intend as an enormous compliment.
I completed a landscape assessment for Sister District. I analyzed how conservative factions move money and ideas through state politics as a way to demystify the process for progressives.
What role did the Ford School play in helping you land your first job out of the program?
Ford School staff (Jennifer Niggemeier and Peter Vasher) made navigating the relatively mysterious PMF process feel far less intimidating. They held a thorough information session for Ford students who were finalists and connected us with PMF alumni.
What is your best memory of your time at the Ford School?
Because my classmates and I were at Ford in the thick of COVID, we had to get creative with our in-person meetups. I will fondly remember the bonfire in Stephanie Leiser’s backyard and several Bill’s Beer Garden sessions that helped get me through our virtual-forward semesters.