Series: Admissions

Alumni Panel Webinar

April 7, 2020 1:02:16
Kaltura Video

Ford School alums talk about how their Ford School education prepared them for the workplace and beyond. Featuring Grace Evans, Sam Geller, Latesha Love-Grayer, and Prathap Kasina.


Welcome, everybody. My name is Rebecca Cohen. I'm senior communications and outreach strategist at the Ford School. I'm also an 09 MPP alum, and I'm so excited to welcome you to our alumni panel today. We have a great group of alumni to share their experiences with you. We're just gonna dive right in. I wanna introduce Jennifer Niedermeyer, the Director of Graduate Career Services at the Ford School. Jennifer? 

Hi, everybody. Welcome to our alumni panel. And so, I've two things to ask you before we jump right in. One is if you can just introduce yourself in the Zoom chat with your name and where you're coming in from, and where you're located right now. And then the other thing that I would like to do is a poll and have you respond to this question to give us a sense of what your policy areas of interest are. So I'm gonna launch the poll and give it a few minutes while folks are still entering the room. You can answer more than one, but it will give us a sense of sort of a little bit about your areas of interest as you think about coming to the Ford School.

So for today's program, we really hope to be able to answer a lot of your questions. But two of the big questions that we'd like to address with this program is really what can you do with a Policy degree, and learning a little bit more about the specifics of how some of our graduates are putting their skills to practice, what is a policy degree, how do you... How are they using what they learned at Ford in their work? And then the second piece is really their perspectives on what they see as the competitive advantage of the Ford School, why they chose it, what they feel like they got from it, and some of the things that they think are really special about the place. And then we're gonna open it up to questions. So looks like we've got folks from lots of different places. So welcome again. And with that, I'm gonna start by asking all of the panelists to first introduce themselves, their grad year, and where they're currently working, what their role is, and then we'll cycle back for more questions beyond that. So I'm gonna start with Latesha, if you wanna kick us off. I think we can't hear you.

So sorry about that. I was having some trouble unmuting. I've never had that before. But thank you, and thanks for being a little patient with me as I worked that out. So I'm Latesha Love. I graduated from the Ford School in 2002, which means I was five, and I have loved every minute of it. While was at the Ford School, I also was a part of the Public Policy and international affairs fellowship there. I currently work for the Government Accountability Office. I'm in the senior executive service there. If you've never heard of the Government Accountability Office, we're in the legislative branch. We're the arm that evaluates every program, every policy that's executed by the federal government and helps to identify ways to make those programs work more effectively and efficiently.

I've been there for 17 years, and I'm currently a director over our International Affairs and Trade team. But I've done quite a bit of work across the government on a wide variety of other policy issues. So we'll talk about this a little bit more later. But the Ford School helps you be prepared to evaluate any kind of policy. So I've done taxes in the economy, I've done work on regulatory issues, inter-governmental relations. I'm currently doing work on international policies such as International Human Trafficking, Women's Rights and Trade, our efforts to support peacekeeping and reconstruction in other countries. So we'll, we'll talk more about that later, but I've, I've had many careers and one is what I like to say, and I think that's because I had such a great skillset that was developed at the Ford School.

Thank you, Latesha. Sam, you wanna share a little bit about what you're doing? All right. We're having some trouble unmuting people. Let me try with Grace. Let's... All right. Sam, are you...

Hello. Can you hear me? 

Yeah, let's go with Grace. She's unmuted.

There was... Jennifer, just as an FYI. I think Chris is managing the muting and unmuting, so we can't do it really quickly on our own. Hi, everyone. My name is Grace Evans. I am a 2016 graduate of the Master of Public Policy program, at Ford. I am currently a Senior Program Associate at the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which is a private philanthropy based out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is my hometown and where I currently live. We are a regional place-based philanthropy that supports Quality of Life programs in Southwestern Pennsylvania about the 10-county region which ranges from our cities to very rural areas. I currently work in our economic development work, and so a lot of my day-to-day is engaging and interacting with our government and non-profit partners, who are advancing things like small business development and entrepreneurship support, as well as business attraction and diversification for our region. Happy to talk more about why I think a Policy degree is a really exciting and important background in the non-profit world and in philanthropy, specifically.

Great. Prathap.

Thanks Jennifer. Hi everyone. My name is Prathap Kasina. I am an MPP graduate 2009. So same cohort as Rebecca who spoke earlier. I work for Innovations for Poverty Action called IPA. I'm the Regional Director overseeing IPA's work in Asia and Latin America. IPA, what we do is we do program evaluations of social science programs in developing countries. We have offices in 16 country offices around the world eight of which are in Asia and Latin America and I supervise these eight country offices in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Dominican Republic, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Philippines. So each of these countries has a whole office, a country director and full-time staff working on program evaluations and I manage all of these country directors, so my work is really at the intersection of program evaluation and international development but over the course of the last 10 years since I graduated from Ford School I have graduated from a research-only position to a policy position and now to a management position, where I'm largely in an executive role here. Thank you.

Great thank you so much. Sam.

Okay, good to be here. Hi everyone. My name is Sam Geller. I graduated from the masters department of Ford in 2017. So pretty recently. Before Ford I worked for several mission-driven non-profit organizations in Boston focused on affordable housing, election law reform, education reform, and also spent several election cycles as a fundraiser for political campaigns at the state and federal level. I came to Ford, I think looking for a career pivot and to explore opportunities in the public sector, and now I work for the City of Detroit's and the Mayor's Office of budget as an analyst and project manager. I was initially hired to oversee the residential demolition program here with the City of Detroit just one of the largest of its kind in the country but I've actually since the spread of COVID-19 been focusing a lot on program evaluation benchmarking and efficiency analysis within the city as a way to ensure that our services are still provided in the most effective and efficient way as the city budget is probably gonna be a little bit different in the next couple of months, once this pandemic has subsided. So looking forward to talking about local government, talking about the Ford School and all the different opportunities that can come through it.

Great. So Sam why don't we stay with you and I wanna run another question through about how you use what you learned at the Ford School in your work right now, what classes what concepts are really key for you in your work? Yeah.

Sure. It's... I'd say just speaking for myself, as a budget analyst taking accounting courses and public budgeting course at the Ford School were necessary but I think it's also all the additional kind of leadership development and project management courses that I took that really prepared me to take on challenges outside of just the general sort of accounting and budgetary work that I do. Public management, I think, is a course that I draw on a lot, understanding how to think critically about my divisions and agencies and how we can do what we do more efficiently. I even took a course on public communication at the Ford School, which I found has been really helpful in writing talking points and budget memos, but aside from what happens in the classroom, I do think it's the opportunity for applied experiences that have really made my education so much more effective in what I do now. The opportunity to work for real-world clients through the strategic Public Policy consulting course various fellowships that brought me not only to Washington DC, but also to local non-profits in Southeast Michigan, those have all kinda given me different pieces and perspectives on how to understand how my work mostly operates within policy and politics, but also broadly throughout a much larger community.

Awesome, thanks. Grace, do you wanna answer that question and then also like in that, Gauge asked a question about if you were back at Ford now, what classes would you make sure to prioritize in light of the work that you do now? 

Wow such a good question, Gauge. And also, Sam gave such a good answer to that last question. I feel daunted by trying to follow it up with anything insightful. So yeah, I... In terms of the coursework and experiences at Ford that really impacted me. I really have to agree with Sam that something that is kind of a harder... A little bit more of an intangible takeaway and then I'll talk about all the important stuff like economics but some of the intangible takeaways that I think really looking back now, I'm four years out of the Ford School, that I'm gaining a deeper and deeper appreciation for as I kind of move through this part of my career are those applied experiences.

So, like Sam noted, the internship of course, that we're all required to do, but the different extracurricular experiences that are available through the Ford School but also through the university more broadly. I was involved in some of the work done by the Center for Social Impact which is housed at the Ross School of Business, but it's a collaboration with the policy school as well. And that program has shifted some over the last several years. But it really is rooted in sort of a cross disciplinary learning between students from different schools with, from my perspective, the idea being that that's how of course the world works is that you have to understand how different entities and individuals who make up those entities are motivated towards a specific outcome.

Even if we all want the same thing, there's different motivations that might advance it. And so those nuances that you gain from trying to turn what you're learning in the classroom into something that's valuable for yourself or for a client or to advance a goal of a club or some other activity like that I think is really valuable. In terms of hard skills that I use on a day to day basis, this is the writing practice is just number one for me. I write stuff a lot as part of my work, largely for folks internal to my organization to read and understand and then act upon.

And so as someone who came to the Ford School with very limited writing background, my undergraduate was in math, it was like a boot camp to the extreme, which was awesome. And then also while I don't do program evaluation in terms of, from my own perspective, running new or novel program evaluations, I read and understand a lot of program evaluations. And so those... Even if you're not someone who imagines yourself going into a really data heavy role or you don't know yet, that ability to understand how analysis and research methodology works and parse out what is good and what is not good and how does it help you advance your understanding of a particular area of work was really important.

I've already talked for a while, but I didn't answer your second question yet, Jennifer. So I'm gonna do that quickly or Gauge's question I should say, which is if that if I was back at the Ford School now. I would do a lot of the things the same. So there's coursework. I think something that I would do maybe a little bit more of is I might take another economics course. So you take the two standard classes, but I think as I try to now self-educate myself on even... As I delve deeper into the world of trying to understand some things it's something that I think I could have taken advantage of.

I also think I would have... I took a lot of classes in other schools outside of the Ford School while I was there and I think I would do that now too and I might take a few more in areas that are relevant more to my work. I took one or two classes at the Urban Planning School. I might take a handful more because I'm really working at the metropolitan level of policy around economic development, as I mentioned earlier. So having that lens now I might dive into that a bit more deeply to supplement the Ford curriculum as well.

Awesome. Thanks so much Grace. Prathap, do you wanna tackle that question? 

The question that Gauge has asked, what classes would I take? 

Yeah and what classes do you use in the work that you do now? 

Yup. Yup. So I would second answer that pretty much a lot of the folks who have spoken to Lou have given, which is program evaluation. So my primary line of work is program evaluation. So that course has shown me the pathway for my next decade and it's not an understatement. So what I did in Ford School is literally what I do on a day to day basis and what I've been doing for the last 10 years. But what has helped me be better at it compared to the rest of the folk when I first started the job is the Stata training that I've gotten in Ford School.

I think I have taken a Stata course in one way or another in pretty much every semester for the four semesters that I've been at Ford. First one was introduce Stata and there's advanced Stata and there's a program evaluation and advanced program evaluation course that uses septum of Stata. So we learned a lot of Stata and I had no idea about the statistical software Stata before coming before coming to Ford and that's a very tangible skillset that has helped me Excel compared to the rest of the folk in my profession and in my company when I first started the job.

Another class that has really, really helped me, especially me as an international student coming into Ford School are the writing classes. Ford School makes you do a ton of writing. I was not very good at it in my first semester, but I became better and better and better. And by the time I got out, I could see myself writing sentences and paragraphs that I never would have imagined writing before. And mind you, it's not as I was a bad English speaker beforehand. I was a pretty good writer. I scored very well on the GREs and on the writing test there and all, but Ford School really drives it in you how to write crisp concise memos that are so useful in the line of just professional work. Not just policy work, but when you are communicating with folk on email, especially in this new social world or online world where need to do a lot of communication in writing, being able to convey your message tells other people who you are and they measure you by how you write.

And I think it has evolved over the past few years, but Ford School, it's not just classes where you write, but there's professional help that Ford School makes... Provides for you, where you can go show your memo to someone who's a professional writer, who has an office, and I think that's called the Writing Center now, Jennifer. You can join in immediately after I finish. And there were two people with whom you have to make appointments, they won't write it for you, obviously, but they'll make suggestions on your draft and all. And that's such a valuable tool. And I've used them pretty much every other week for my two years there.

Okay. Latisha, anything you wanna add to what our panelists have already shared.

I would... Just a few things I would add. And I think the points that they've made have been excellent. But I would like to add just a few things from my own experience, but also from the perspective of what I look for when I go back to the Ford School to hire students, which I do very often for these reasons. So it was already touched upon, the quantitative analysis skills. I think Prathap talked about using Stata. But I think overall, the critical thinking that goes behind that, that you're taught to develop, and thinking through what the issues are, what the problems are, how to pick them apart and put them back together, and examine them using qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis is, I think, one of the really strong points of the Ford School. And when you learn that skill, it doesn't matter what software package you're using. I have teams that use Stata, that use SAS, that use Python, and R. And these are all different programs, but they understand how to think about the issues and how to look for, how to research, how to pick apart what's happening and then understand it, and then be able to identify ways to develop solutions.

And I think that's a skill the Ford School really helps you develop. And it's just... It's invaluable. The other... My colleagues talked about writing, I agree with what they've said completely. I also agree though that the Ford School does a great job teaching you how to be concise, because if you're... When you're in the position of providing information to decision makers or you are the decision maker, you have to get those ideas across cleanly, clearly, succinctly, and with the bottom line up front. And I think they do a great job teaching you how to take really complex topics and break them down and communicate them very directly and very succinctly to people who need to make decisions. And then two other things I'd add is working in groups. When you graduate, you almost never do anything on your own, you are almost always going to be developing, working on projects, doing whatever it is that you end up doing your job in groups.

So the practice of learning how to work as a team to accomplish tasks and to develop solutions and to write papers and to do all of that was invaluable, because you may think you're good at collaborating with others, but until you're put in a position where you have a lot of people with different points of views, who wanna do it differently and have a different way of approaching it, and have to work together to make one product together, you learn that there's an art to it that you may not have naturally walked in the door with. So I think that's a really valuable experience that you get in most of the classes at the Ford School. And just working with the people with diverse backgrounds, that's really important now. And you do definitely get that in the Ford School. So just jumping on top of what my colleague said, but adding a few little additional notes from my perspective.

Awesome, thanks so much, Latisha. Okay, so I closed the poll and I'm sharing results. You can see what the folks that are in today's session... What some of their policy interests are. And thank you for the three of you that admitted to being clueless about what your policy areas are, 'cause we know that a lot of people who think they know what they want their focus to be. It's going to evolve over the time that you're here because of what you're gonna learn, the people you're gonna meet, the opportunities that are available to you. So this is all awesome. Okay, let's shift gears a little bit and... We know that a lot of the tool kit that Ford offers is a similar tool kit to some of the other policy schools. So what, in your opinion, stands out about the Ford School experience, that you think makes the Ford School a little bit unique or special, and that was particularly important to you in your experience? And Prathap, is it okay if I start with you since you're the one I see on my space? 

Okay, Jennifer. So when I was admitted to Ford School, I did have a few other options as well. And at that time, to be honest with all of you, I really didn't know how to choose. And I wish I had attended the spring preview. I did not because I was in India then, and this online, virtual world was not as good then as it is now. But what has really helped me at Ford, that I'm not sure that I would get elsewhere, is the... Two things: One, the individual time with faculty. So I've had a lot of one-on-one time with faculty. And at the beginning, I was not sure whether I would be able to get that because I was a student, these are really high-profile professors who are teaching these amazing courses, whether they would have the time or not. But the time, either they or the graduate student instructors created for students when we go to their office hours. And if the office hours are out, they spend big time outside of office hours with you. So it's really a community that wants to work with you and help you. And to me, that was invaluable.

I have a question on a problem set, I sit on a problem and I was given 30 minutes by graduate student instructor, sometimes more than that. So when I became a graduate student instructor later on in my second year at Ford, I did the same, which is I gave a lot of time to students coming in. I was a graduate student instructor for the Micro-Econ course, that's a course, core course, with two of us. We did a lot of office hours, and we were always on top of email when questions were asked, I expect that tradition has continued. So you'll get a lot of one-on-one attention from professors or graduate student instructors who are there to walk with you all the way. That's one, two is I want to just add to what Latesha spoke a little bit and which is the diversity of backgrounds that people come from. I don't mean ethnicity, race or anything but the diversity of work... Experiences that people bring to the table because I came into the Ford School as an engineer, wanting to do a dual program between the School of Environment and Public Policy.

And after I came in, it was so obvious to me that pretty much every conversation I was having with someone was teaching me something new. And, and you cannot find that, which is what... I don't know if I would have found that elsewhere because I don't know how other programs balance students in terms of their backgrounds they come from, but I was one of the few engineers in the class, and there was every conversation that I went to, I learnt, I learnt a whole lot and I'm sure it's the case with others as well, who are not engineers. And not just diversity in terms of different streams of work experience people were coming with but also the amount of work experience they have had. Some people have had fewer number of years of work experience so they were very fresh, some people were a little older than usual, and they brought in their own management experience to the table. So, working in groups was actually fun, it was not work. I used to be looking forward to going in the evenings working together on problem sets. We used to stay till like 9, 10:00 PM, 11:00 PM in the computer lab, all working together, trying to solve the same issues. I don't know if it brings back memories for the rest of you guys but, 10, 11:00 PM easily, during exams it was 1:00 AM but it was all fun.

Thanks, who wants to jump in next? Latesha, anything stand out for you? 

Sure. Sure, first of all, I think he hit it the nail on the head. Those were exactly the two things that I initially had in mind. The accessibility of the professors, the hands-on... You just don't expect to get that from the caliber of people that you, that you're learning from. And they were just there to learn from directly, and to just, they extended their time in such gracious ways but also the network of students. When I started at the Ford School, I started with a six-week-old child and I somehow did really well. And I joke and say I don't know how that happened. [chuckle] How did I not drown in this process, but I know how, I had an incredibly supportive Ford School network. It wasn't just the teachers, the classmates. I remember going to study sessions afterwards, and my infant would be in the room and he was like the class baby, you know. He grew up with us by the time I graduated, he was two, but they were such a supportive network of students. We leaned on each other, we learned from each other for all the reasons that Prathap mentioned with all these different backgrounds that by itself was an education, but we were just... It was just a close knit family.

I'm still friends with the people I went to Ford School with, personal close friends with, and I still have connections to some of the same professors that are there. And those who have left I've been like "No," because I really built such a bond with them and it was more than... I wasn't a transaction, I was really... They cared about who I was and about my growth and about my ability to succeed, and it gave me just the world of confidence. So I think that's one of the intangible things that set the program apart. It's a high-profile program, but once you get in it, it feels like a support of family that's there to help you achieve your goals. And that to me was intangible and just, and invaluable.

Awesome, thank you, Latesha. So Grace anything you wanna add to that, and maybe if you could address Sam's question about how the Ford School and U of M Alumni Network has been a valuable resource for you? 

Yeah, that's right. The only thing I'll add... Agree with everything everyone was saying, I was getting nostalgic thinking about late night problem sets as we went through this conversation. The only thing that I think hasn't maybe been touched on that I think is important is the context of the Ford School within the broader University of Michigan, and this is kind of related to that alumni question, so, you know, as Latesha was mentioning, the Ford School is just a family. It's small enough that you know who everyone is but big enough that you don't have to hang out with people you don't really like. That's a little bit of a joke, but it's also true. But the real benefit too is that you're within the University of Michigan, which is, of course, just has incredible resources and is, you know, I don't need to tell you how, how the University of Michigan is recognized throughout the country and the world as a leader in so many different, so many different spaces. So to kinda translate that to the... Transition that to your question, Jennifer, I think, or to Sam's question I should say...

So immediately after the Ford School I served as a fellow at the Government Performance Lab at Harvard's Kennedy School for a year before then moving into my current role at the foundation, which I mentioned earlier. My ability to enter into the government performance lab, I think was, a lot of it was because of the Ford School name and brand. And I hope, a little bit myself and my skills and experiences too. But at that point in time, the Ford School or I'm sorry, the Kennedy School's government performance lab was still mostly Kennedy School students and they had graduated from the Kennedy School Program and had moved into this fellowship role post graduating. And they were just kind of in the early year or two of starting to actively recruit or look for students from other schools or maybe it's the third year of them doing that or something. And the Ford School was on the short list of the groups that they were they were looking for candidates from because they knew that the quality of student would be what they were looking for as they had already pre-screened of course all the alums from the Kennedy School.

So that was sort of one very tangible manifestation of the Ford and the Michigan name of really being important, as I then moved into my current role, I'm in Pittsburgh, which is, there are certainly Ford Alums, in fact I connected with a few of them upon Jennifer's recommendation actually when they've moved to Michigan after graduation. But it's sort of not the hot spot for Ford School alums in the way that a DC or New York, or a Chicago might be. That said immediate recognition of the value of the University of Michigan name and then of course, the Ford School as part of that has really helped me to, helped me kind of open a door into my current role because I was coming in not really knowing anyone and they were looking for folks who had, who had backgrounds and within a certain kind of set of experiences and pads. And the last thing I'll say is that now in my current role, in my just day to day work and world I talk to and call upon folks I know in the Michigan and in the Ford School network regularly.

My friends who I went through the Ford School Program with who are now all working and doing awesome things in awesome places, I call on them to say, "Hey can you help me understand this little... I know you work in Health Policy Research. And this thing came across our desks and I'm trying to understand it. Can you just like... Do you have an explainer?" Or like, "Can you just get on the phone for 20 minutes?" Those kinds of things. As well as my ongoing connections with some of the Ford School faculty with whom I had close relationships whom I've continued to stay in touch with and there's a range of relationships but some as close as, "Hey I need career advice. Can you help me talk through this issue or this thing I'm thinking about?" Or ranging to, "I'm working on this specific issue at work, and I know that you have worked on it in the past what would you... Are there resources you would recommend?" So I think that... Just the real connection folks have and closeness of the Ford School community is just a really, it's a very parallel and important piece of that broader alumni connection as you move after graduation.

Awesome. Thank you. And Sam anything you wanna add to that? And maybe kind of addressing that also in the context of sometimes students ask, "Well, if I wanna work in DC or I wanna work elsewhere, I'm concerned about going to Michigan." And that most of the graduate staying in Michigan versus the reach of our alumni around other cities and so I'm wondering if you could talk about that in the context of the Riecker fellowship and your experiences with the Ford School network there.

Yeah. Absolutely. So I don't live in Washington now, but I did as you mentioned I was the Riecker Michigan delegation fellow, which we can talk a little bit more about later where I served with US Senator Gary Peters for seven months in 2017. So that's a position that's only available to Ford students, so it's a unique opportunity and I really loved every moment of it. But for folks who are wondering whether Michigan alums are in DC, I just tell this anecdote. So, I was interviewed for the fellowship by the chief of staff for the senator who was a Michigan alumni, when I went and accepted the Fellowship I went to work and directly reported to the Legislative Director who was a Michigan alumni, and then when I was detailed to a committee with the senator, the staff director was a Michigan alumni. And when we needed to hold or when we chose to hold hearings on election security, we tapped an election law expert from University of Michigan law school.

So the Michigan name and the Michigan network is just very deep and very thick in DC. It's everywhere. At least that was my experience. And even when I was looking for positions here in Detroit, I tell everyone that I found my current job through the Ford Alumni network. My second year, the Office of Career support started the Detroit career trip where I met the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for the City of Detroit who was not a Michigan graduate herself, but was coming to recruit from the Ford School. So she wasn't hiring for her department but she knew of a department that was, passed my information along and I had an offer to start working for the City of Detroit, before I even graduated from Ford. So the reach of the UM network is just hard to overstate. I experienced in Washington DC as well as San Francisco and here in Detroit. And I guess, best of all is that if you're not comfortable or an experienced networker right now, career services will help train you, Jennifer will help teach you what you need to know and how to best market yourself and best market the degree.

So that's another reason why I stay connected as an alum is because I wanna be part of helping connect other alumni to opportunities. I'm trying to recruit as many of you to come to Detroit as possible, so it's definitely part of my mission here on the Ford Alumni board.

That's awesome. So let's stay on the alumni piece just very briefly a little bit longer, but why do you all stay engaged with the Ford School? Some of you been out more than 10 years. What's the drawback? Maybe Letisha? 

I was just trying to unmute. Yeah, I have actually been out 18 years. I know that's... Yeah, I'm only 18, so I don't know how that happens, [chuckle] but I stay engaged for a couple of reasons, and I'm on the alumni board, but even if I were not, I've even before then, I've continued to remain engaged with the Ford school and partly because where I work we need people, we need really strong analysts, we're trying to fix the government, [chuckle] we're trying to do things better. And I know what caliber of students we get. So I've been recruiting since I left. I'm currently our executive campus manager, so that's my official. But before it was official, if there was a chance to go back to U of M and recruit, I did. And then I loved going back and engaging with the students, but also engaging with the professors and just the feel of the campus. It's... There's something so special about all of that, you never really wanna leave it. And also I find it important, because the Ford School is also a leader in discussing some really, really critical policy issues.

And the wealth of people that they bring in as speakers, the events that they host, as alumni we want to still continue to engage and learn from all of that, but then the caliber of students that are coming in are also expanding our own network. So we wanna hire them, we want to connect with them in the future, we wanna provide job opportunities. But even if they go somewhere else, that's not where we work, we consider them a part of the network. They are another branch of networks that we can reach out to in our professional careers, and vice versa. So that's one of the reasons I stay engaged. And I'm from Michigan originally, so I'm just all die hard Michigan everything. [chuckle] But it's a pleasure and I don't foresee a future where I'm not gonna be continuing to engage with the Ford School and supporting it in some kind of way.

Awesome. Who wants to jump in next on that? 

I can quickly add Jennifer. So for me it's, I think Letisha all the professional reasons why you want to stay engaged with the Ford School. For me, it also comes back a little bit to relationships and if you haven't already heard or don't already know what will, at least from my perspective, the single most thing, beyond your person's skillset and all that will help you advance your career and in general, professional or personal life are relationships, relationships, relationships with people. And I know that when I was at Ford, I was helped by people not just because I was a student there, but because they wanted to help me, as an individual, right? So I carry that... And when you are shown love you always show love back. So I remember one instance this was Summer after my first year, Jennifer helped me secure not just an internship but also funding for the internship for the summer with the City of Ann Arbor actually. Okay. Well it was a little late in the process for some reason, things didn't go well as planned with my other internship and she really switched gears and really helped me out there, which she didn't necessarily need to do and that the amount of help that she did for me then was way beyond her job description. Right? So to me more about relationships.

And that since that I was helped there, so whenever Jennifer reaches out to me or any Ford School student reaches out to me saying that they want to chat with me about my career or career in policy development, even though I'm busy, I never say that I'm busy for calls. I'm like, "I will do a call." And people at my work wonder I'm taking a call in this extremely busy time, I'm like, "No, that's... "There's obviously family that comes first, but then before work there's other stuff that you make priority for and Ford School is one of them for me.

Awesome. Thank you so much. Anyone wanna add on that, on the...

The only thing I'll just briefly add 'cause I agree with everything that was said, and I think it was touched on that sense of service back to the Ford School for all it did for me. But the selfish twist on that is I learn every time I talk to someone from the Ford School. And that was kind of touched on it in a different context earlier. But whether that's current students, that's other alumni on the board or otherwise, or an opportunity to reconnect with some of the staff like Jennifer or the faculty, it helps me feel as though and truly do ongoing learning about other stuff that's happening in the world, other ways of thinking about things. So that's sort of the selfish twist on the giving back to the Ford School piece.

Awesome. Thanks. So let's shift gears a little bit. Obviously we're in the midst of a pandemic, and that has implications for decisions about graduate school, decisions about jobs and what kind of jobs are gonna be available, what's the impact on this? And so I'm wondering if you all can give some thought to how students can best position themselves for what may be a challenging economy in the next couple of years and how to think about that. Grace your face is in the screen. So do you wanna add to that part? 

I was doing my thinking face too, 'cause I don't really have a very good answer yet. Yeah no it's a great question, I think the answer that's maybe not super-actionable but that I think is true and real is that it's like kind of the... We need smart policy thinkers now more than ever. And so, if you're debating for those sorts of reasons, this is the right step. I think the opportunity to engage deeply and sort of apply some of the things we're learning in this crisis environment that we're all acting, that we're all working within currently to learnings. It's actually like a, kind of again maybe the selfish take, it's a really great opportunity. There's lots of talk in different policy circles now, about how emergency-related response initiatives that are underway are revealing to us things that maybe could happen or should have happened in regular times. And I don't just mean crisis response things, but how do we release restrictions on things to make it easier for folks to access services that they need or businesses to access services they need or otherwise? It's a real learning laboratory out there right now.

And so I think that's... It's less of guidance about how to navigate what might be a tough economy 'cause I think it's hard, it'd be hard for me to make a suggestion about how to navigate that because everything is so unknown right now. We know that there will be challenges at all points of our economy over the next foreseeable future, we just have no sense of how that's gonna manifest or what the timelines are gonna be. And so maybe my recommendation is more so that, that's just the world we're living in and we have to deal with the uncertainty, and that it's probably maybe, it might be a difficult thing to base a decision off of right now, although it makes sense that it's part of your thinking of course, and in fact the learning that we're all doing now could be really informative moving forward.

Great. Thank you. So Prathap and Latisha you graduated in '09. Well no, not you Latisha you graduated earlier than that. Prathap graduated in '09...

And Rebbecca too.

Yeah. So I would love for you to comment on this from that. Obviously it wasn't a pandemic, but there will be some similarities.

Yup. Thanks Jennifer. So a few things here. One, this batch which is the in coming batch, you're going to graduate two years later. So you'll be graduating during what is likely the time of a... I wont say hiring spree, but whatever it is, we'll go through it and a bust is always followed by a boom. So in that sense, you're better off than classes graduating this year or the next year. You're one or two years away from it. So the way I would encourage you to think about this is, yes you should think about a job, yes you want a job after graduating, but what you wanna think about is, what other kind of jobs that will be available two years from now, and what are the kind of jobs where you can add value two years from now. Right? That's the framework, you wanna think about it rather than a framework where, will jobs be available. Smart people will always be hired. And even in the midst of a recession, right now for example, I work at Innovations for Poverty Action.

Yes, we have slowed down a bit of hiring, but we're still hiring for key positions. And the smart people always get hired. If anything during a recession or during a downturn, is when the smart people are given a much higher preference than the rest of the group, Right? And that's where you begin to see some of these differences even in companies where people are letting off people and all, the average people and all, people who are not willing to work that hard, they are the ones who are let go first. So as long as you're willing to work hard, and just because you cleared the step and are already here, that speaks to your level of smartness.

I wouldn't necessarily say there's much to worry about beyond the normal uncertainty that you're all in. Because you're not going to graduate for another couple of years. You want to think about the kinds of jobs available two years from now, and the kinds of skillsets you want to have that will, that are a little bit more flexible rather than getting into one thing and just sticking to it. I guess that's my take of advice here. Which is given the uncertainty, hedge yourself a little bit in terms of the courses you take and don't just say "Okay I want to do local policy," and just stick to local policy because we don't know where it is. Maybe take one or two streams simultaneously in terms of your course work.

Awesome. Thank you. Latisha.

Yeah, I'll jump right back on what Prathap was saying, which I think was awesome. When I graduated, my second year at Ford School was when 9/11 happened. After I graduated and I went to work for GAO. One of the first jobs that I had an opportunity to work on was looking at intergovernmental coordination for responding to emergency catastrophic events. And one... And out of the gate one of the first things I worked on shaped the way that looks. So it's one of my proudest moments. It's the way the federal, state, and local government are interoperable now, I had a direct impact on what that looks like. And I think this creates as was mentioned, I think by Grace, it's unfortunate, but an opportunity right now to make a difference. So you will be coming out of this or graduating right at the time where we need to think about, how do we prepare for the future, how do we address what's happened and how do we operate in sort of the new environment? Because it's still, it will be a new environment, even two years later. So many things will have changed both from the economy, from the workforce.

There's so many policy and not just policy but programmatic implementation challenges that we will be facing that the skillset that's developed here is exactly what is gonna be looked for. And I know for my job because of that, because this is when we need the folks who do what we do the most, we are still hiring, full-fledged hiring and people working virtually and learning virtually because we can do what we do without having, in many cases, without having to physically be present. I think it's just the catalyst for change and we get to be people who help inform what that looks like. And so it's a... When we think about how to prepare yourself, I'd agree with Prathap that you need to think about what skillsets are gonna allow you to help... Allow you to be problem solvers. Because that's what we will need now and that's what we'll need in two years from now. So I think the Ford School sets you up well for that, but as you think about that, how to make yourself a problem solver, how do you enhance your skillset to think critically about issues that we maybe never had to deal with before. And so I think you're, you're actually in a good position, better than you might think, and certainly better than many others who are in other fields.

Thanks Latesha. And Sam, I'm wondering if you might speak to that question around Detroit. And, you're in the budget office, you see what, what all the costs of this is going to have on many levels, and thoughts about ways somebody at Ford can get involved in that during the time that they're in the program? 

Sure. I mean, there's... I just wanna to take a quick detour, because I know I can't really speak to what jobs are going to be available in two years. But if there ever was a experience or a situation that demonstrates the need for committed public servants better than what we're all going through right now, I don't think you could have designed one. I mean, does anyone think that we should put people who don't believe in government in charge of government anymore? I mean, we need more committed analysts, more committed project managers, more committed people who believe in the power and potential of public service to make the world a better place, I mean full stop. So, I just, I wouldn't feel right. I wouldn't be able to sleep if I didn't at least make that statement while we had this platform.

So back to the sort of ways to get involved. I think Grace made the best case, which is that I think there's obviously gonna be a correction following this. I mean I work for the budget office, our revenues are not going to be what they initially were projected to be for this quarter or for this year. We at the city of Detroit gain $600,000 a day in revenue from casino operations. They've been closed for three weeks now. So we're looking at many millions of dollars that we're just gonna have to forego because of the quarantine and the shelter in place in the pandemic. There's gonna be an added emphasis, there already was before, but there's gonna be an added emphasis on innovation and how we can deliver services more effectively than before. In previous times, we had to do that because they were self-imposed, now it is necessary.

This is just going to be the new way that cities and governments operate because they can't deficit-spend. So they have to operate with what they have, unlike the federal government. There's going to be a real hunger I think, for a skillset that understands how to deploy technology, how to demonstrate impact, how to work collaboratively with the private sector and the public sector. All things that, you know, just so happens you can, you can gain valuable applied experience through a Master's in Public Policy. So the opportunities are going to be there, I don't know what they'll look like. But I agree that the timing is selfishly ripe for someone who's looking to join the workforce, maybe in the next 18 to 24 months.

Thank you, Sam. All right. So we are winding down. We have five minutes left. I'm wondering if there are any last thoughts from the panelists about anything related to this. Why Ford? Anything you wanna say that you haven't said? 

Is that a question there Jennifer, we have to look at or...

There is a question. It's pretty niche about the direct impact COVID has had on innovative environmental solutions within their organizations, I'm not sure if that's the work of you guys.


But I know some alums that can answer that. So David touch base with me later. So final thought Prathap, to admitted students about their choice to come to Ford? 

First of all, congratulations that you're already at this stage, you're already done... Which means that you've already done a lot. In the end, everything boils down to your personal set of preferences. Again, a lot of which you will learn about in the Ford School Econ classes. To me Ford was an invaluable experience, something that is central and core to my career that I'm always thankful for. Relationships that I have developed then have helped me throughout the course of my life. But then again, maybe it would have happened elsewhere too, we don't know but in the end, what I can say is about, talk about the life that I have lived which is through Ford and experiences from Ford. And I cannot imagine things going better for me. So it's been a very positive experience for me, great relationships with people. I still visit Ann Arbor a couple of times a year. And relationships last a long time. So I'm very happy with Ford. So in the end, it's your personal choice, but you've seen the kind of people that we are on this panel, you've seen the kind of people that Jennifer, Elizabeth, Rebecca and other staff are, and you get a sense of how the community begins to look like.

All right. Anyone want to add? We have two minutes left. Anyone want to add something to that? A beautiful response.

I'll add something to it real quickly. So I often tell people who are interested in the Ford School. Why? What makes it so unique and special? I tell people that, I think my time at the Ford School helped me understand the kind of impact I wanted to make in the world and equip me with the skills and experience and professional network to do it. I met some incredible friends there. I can't think of another program and I have a ton of friends who went to all other different policy programs where I could have interned in Washington DC, spent time working with a local housing authority, helped to design a massive 200 person role-playing simulation situated in the state of Michigan for my classmates and leave with the type of professional experience that I have now, and also just as a sort of a cherry on top, I met my fiance at Michigan, I mean, things you would never expect, things I wasn't prepared for. Great things happened to me in my life by virtue of making this decision. I'm sure if you're at this stage wherever you go, you'll be able to gain a fabulous experience in, in professional education. All I'll say, you'll sort of know it when you feel it with Michigan. I didn't anticipate moving to Ann Arbor when I did to go to the Ford School, but I'm sure as hell glad I did.

Awesome. Alright, I just wanna thank the panelists so so much, I'm getting weepy. You guys were so awesome and it's been a privilege to work with you as students, and it is absolutely a privilege to have you engaged and so actively engaged as alums, and benefiting the whole Ford School community. The polling results, I think you probably can still see them, right. This is really reflective of everyone's, the broad range of interests in the class and what some of the panelists were speaking about, of the diversity of thought, the diversity of policy issue and the different approaches and lenses. And so, that's part of who we are. So I'm gonna just wrap up as I did the career session last week that we really know and believe that you can be successful here, and it really is now your time to think about where is the right fit. Our hope is that you will become part of the Ford School community and be like these guys, a few years from now actively engaged alums and making an incredible impact in the world. And so I wish you the luck in all... Best of luck in your decision and hope to see all of you in the fall. Thank you. Show of hands to all of the panelists. You guys were amazing, thank you so much.