Yazier Henry, Rusty Hills, and Alex Ralph have been promoted and will have the newly-created title of “teaching professors,” beginning in fall term 2023. The University of Michigan created the new designation for long-serving lecturers in its labor agreement with the Lecturers’ Employee Organization in September 2021. Henry, Hills, and Ralph are in the first cohort at the Ford School and the University to receive the titles.
In nominating the three for their new status, the Ford School extolled their proficiency, standards, methods, and creativity as lecturers, as well as their contribution to University service and to inclusive teaching that advances the diversity, equity, and inclusion missions of the University.
Henry began lecturing on international human rights issues in the fall of 2008. His current courses include “Social Activism, Democracy & Globalization: Perspective of the Global South”, “Values & Ethics: Social Justice & Political Conflicts,” and an undergraduate seminar on “Apologies.” His excellence in teaching has been evidenced by his numerous student nominations for the University’s Golden Apple award. He has also been voted by students as the Ford School’s faculty commencement speaker three times.
Much of his work is guided by his commitment to social justice, equity, and inclusion for vulnerable populations. He describes how he has developed a pedagogical approach that is best suited to this task—for example, by attending explicitly to the way traumas outside the classroom can make it difficult to learn and explore challenging topics within it, and by focusing on the conceptual resources needed to understand this specific set of issues.
He is currently working on two book projects related to administrative violence and political systems, international humanitarian law, and transitional justice.
Before coming to the Ford School in 2005, Hills had a long career in Michigan politics, including serving Governor John Engler and Attorney General Bill Schuette, as well as chairing the state Republican Party twice. His courses on “Elections & Campaigns” and “Political Campaigns and Tactics” take students into the real world of current politics.
For almost two decades, Hills has shared his wealth of experience and knowledge—and his commitment to working across the political aisle in service to the public good—with Ford School students as a lecturer.
Hills remains well-connected and informed regarding Michigan and national politics and state policymaking, and utilizes his ability to leverage connections in the Michigan government and political circles at the local and state level across political parties to provide a wide variety of knowledgeable guest speakers to his classes and Ford School students.
Ralph has taught writing at the University of Michigan for 20 years, 9 of them at the Sweetland Writing Center, and 11 as a lecturer at the Ford School.
During his time at the Ford School, Alex has taught over thirty sections of our core MPP writing section; worked with hundreds of MPP, BA, and PhD students; and taught in the summer Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) program for 8 years (including this summer). He has made major contributions to our writing curriculum, including co-designing the Ford School’s main writing courses for Master’s degree students, and he has been active as a teacher and practitioner of policy writing outside the Ford School.
Former students highlight the profound impact that Ralph had on their policy career through giving them critical skills they will use for years. Throughout his time at the Ford School he has continued to reflect on the craft of policy writing and develop new techniques for teaching that craft. Additionally, his emerging concerns about conventional “policy memo” assignments led Alex to explore new pedagogy and eventually develop a new course, “Storytelling in Policy Writing: People and Numbers.”
During the 11 years he has taught for the Ford School, Alex has made important contributions to the Ford School’s mission, both through his service to the program and through his own policy activities outside the school.
Congratulations to Professors Henry, Hills, and Ralph!