Join faculty leaders from the Youth Policy Lab and the Education Policy Initiative for an in-depth look on how students can engage in youth and education policy during their time at the Ford School—ending with an interactive Q&A.
Hello everybody, my name is Rebecca Cohen, and I'm the Senior Communications and Outreach Strategist at the Ford School. I'm also an alum. I'm so excited you are considering joining the Ford School community. As we get started, please use the chatbox to tell us where you're joining us from, and what areas of policy you're most interested in. As you may have heard, we'll be hosting a virtual spring preview this year on April 3rd. Please check back to the Future 40's website often for updates and recordings of the webinars that we've held already.
Today, we have two special panelists who will share information about two of our research centers doing leading edge work that affects educational institutions, youth and families. We will leave lots of time for questions. To ask a question, please don't hesitate to use the Q&A box on the right-hand side of your screen. And if you would like to ask your question live on this webinar, please indicate that by using the word "live" and we will unmute you to ask your question. Otherwise, I will pose your question to our panelists. With that, I want to introduce Kevin Stange, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Faculty Lead of the Education Policy Initiative. We also have Brian Jacob, the Walter H. Annenberg Professor of Education Policy and Professor of Economics at the Ford School and Co-Director of the Youth Policy Lab and Education Policy Initiative. So as we get started, can you two please share a bit about what education policy looks like at the Ford School, and in particular, how the research centers tie into this?
Sure thing. Hi, everybody, it's great to not see you, but I look forward just seeing many of you in person. So we thought we'd give a little overview of education and youth policy at the Ford School a bit more generally, the courses, the faculty, what it's like here, and then also talk more specifically about some of the research centers that focus on that. So, I'll jump right in. So there's a number of faculty that are doing education, either exclusively or as part of their broader research agenda at Ford and throughout University of Michigan. Myself and Brian Jaccob are two people that focus on education and youth specifically, along with Sue Dynarski, who focuses on higher education and also K-12, and Chris Wyland is also another faculty lead at the Education Policy Initiative, who's powers mostly the school of education though is courtesy appointment at the Ford School.
But there's a number of other faculty around Ford in campus that I just wanna mention; Natasha Pilkauskas focuses on poverty and the social safety net and family structure, has a research agenda related to how that intersects with education policy and human capital development. Megan Tompkins-Stange is doing fantastic work in a more qualitative sense on the relationship between philanthropy and education policy and, say, focus on right now on a book on teacher value-added. I think it's incredibly great work. I'm biased because she's my wife, but she is also one of faculty that focuses on education. Around campus, we have close connections with the education school, Steve DesJardins and Brian McCall are two faculty of the education school that focus on higher education, particularly financial aid, that many of our students interact with in various ways. And Awilda Rodriguez is a faculty also with the School of Education that teaches courses in education policy related to higher education access and diversity that, again, many of our students interact with.
There are many names I'm sure I'm missing some of. But to just give you a flavor of the breadth of faculty that are working on education policy and its interactions with many other fault policy arenas. I'll just give an overview of some of the courses at Ford. And again, realizing this is just gonna be a taste of what you might be able to do at Ford, given the breadth of opportunities around campus. So I know that this coming year, so most pertinent for you all, Brian and I will be teaching an introductory education policy class that's gonna be aimed primarily at first year MPP students, covering both K-12 and higher education. I teach, won't be next year, but maybe the year after, it's a class on higher education policy that's a bit more focused on some of the methodological issues in addition to the policy issues. We also offer a year-long sequence that'll be most likely offered not this coming year, but the one after when many of you would be second years that is focused on causal inference in education.
You take a semester on K-12 and then another semester on higher education. So right now, Sue Dynarski and I are teaching that course. It's a great opportunity to work really, or interact very closely with faculty because there are only seven students in it right now. And then I should say, kind of reflecting faculty's interests, education issues, education policy are an ingredient in so many courses I couldn't possibly name. So, Betsy Stevenson teaches a public finance course, and education is a part of that, right? 'Cause education is a big part of what the government does. In the classes on social safety net, education comes up. So many courses at Ford that touch on it, and then not to say this is in the entirety, so there are any courses outside of Ford that are also in education, whether at School of Education or more broadly around campus. I think that's what I was gonna say about faculty and classes. I don't know, Brian, if you want to add anything that I missed.
Well, I can talk a little bit now about the concentration areas. I think you may have heard in some other webinars or reading the material that in addition to the core required classes, we have a series of policy concentration areas at Ford. Some are substantive areas like social policy or international policy. One is kind of a methodological focus on policy analysis, and I am the faculty lead for that. So basically, the concentration areas are just like a organized way for students to get more in-depth training in a particular field. And so, students are interested in methods and quantitative analysis in particular, often do a concentration in this area. And this involves taking all the required courses and then three other policy analysis methodology-related courses. One of the courses that's required is this kind of third semester in our own sequence that Professor John Hanson had been teaching. But then students have flexibility to choose any course throughout... Any other courses throughout the university. And a lot of students will take like a data science course in the School of Information or the Department of Computer Science. Some take statistics courses.
Some take courses on geographic information systems and mapping. And, so this policy concentration gives great training and is actually a really nice credential to take with you on the job market once you leave. Just to give you a sense, I think Kevin and I wanted to talk about where some students that we've worked with that have been in this broad education social policy methods focus, where they end up. And, let's see. Some recent students that I've taught had ended up, some have been working in the Chicago Urban Labs, the Chicago Crime Lab, which is a non-profit organization in Chicago and actually has a sister organization in New York City that does a lot of really cutting edge applied policy evaluations. Some have worked in Mathematica, which is kind of another... It's a bigger research outfit. But some have gone to work in non-profits that do this blend of advocacy and policy analysis, like the education trust, both nationally and Midwest. Some have worked at the Congressional Budget Office. Kevin, what are some other students that you have worked with? Where have they gone?
Sure, yeah. It didn't take me long to write... Start coming up with a list that's too long to even talk through, but I'll just share a few people that I've interacted with both as students and have continued to. Actually when I was teaching my higher education class last semester, we had Colleen Campbell who now runs loan servicing for federal student aid, so in the department of education and trying to make the loan system more responsive to students' needs. She's basically running that. [chuckle] She spoke to our class about a week before she transitioned to that position from the Center for American Progress where she was I think second command in terms of higher education policy for CAP. And there are number of folks like her that have a similar path. CJ Libassi also was at CAP when I was at college board doing policy analysis work for them. I would say a number of our students are going into... Or actually do some programmatic work or working in school. We've got alums that are working for an organization called Achievement Network out in Denver. We've got alums that are vice-principles that worked in policy and then now are in schools. Brian mentioned a number of the folks working in evaluative work.
One of our alums, the Program Officer for the Walton Family Foundation doing grant-making related to youth and education. And then a number of our alums actually went and did things and now are kinda back at UFM because this is home. Some of our alums are just too recent that I interacted quite a bit with are working in advance UFM. That is a group at UFM to help advance women and minorities and other initiatives within the university. Another of our alum that I work quite closely with and did an independent study with is gonna be helping to run the international education programs for University of Michigan. I could go on and on. And then a number of our alums used the MPP as a launching pad for, and they discovered a love of research and go on to get a PhD in many fields, but in education. A number of our alums are doing that right now at... In wonderful institutions. There's many paths away from... That go through Ford, that lead you into education policy and youth policy more broadly.
Yeah, and I think there was... Just when Kevin was speaking, reminded me of a number of other students. We have students who are working in public school districts, working in the Washington DC Central Office, some in teacher development and human resources, some in evaluation. There's folks working in the Michigan Department of Education. And some folks who have gone in actually to like more of the political arena. We have a recent grad who is working for a congress person, a city council person accused me in Detroit. And then others have worked for like Congress people, and others like in the legislative branch. So it's really a whole wide range of things people can do. Let's see, what was... Oh, so next on our list, we're gonna tell you a little bit about some of the research centers that are at the Ford School and the University of Michigan. So the two that Kevin and I want to talk about are the Education Policy Initiative, and the Youth Policy Lab. Those are two kind of applied, we'll call them research centers, but they do a lot more than just research that revolve around education and youth issues.
All of the faculty that Kevin mentioned before, are affiliated in one way or another with these two centers. And they're closely related, the way... The Education Policy Initiative has been around for about 10 years. And it started as a collaboration between some faculty at the U of M, and state officials of the Michigan Department of Education, and some colleagues at Michigan State University. And the goal really, is two-fold, one is Michigan-focused, and so it's working with state officials that help them analyze Michigan programs and policies to better support the students, and the teachers, and school districts in Michigan. But the other objective is kinda more broader nationally, to do research on and speak out on important issues. Kevin and Sue Dynarski have done some nationally recognized work on higher education and student loan debt. I have done work on teacher labor markets, on charter schools, and on career technical education at the high school level. And then the Youth Policy Lab is a little bit newer organization, has a bit of broader focus, not just education, but lots of areas that focus on youth. And the goal there is really much more collaborative research, and technical assistance between the U of M faculty and public agencies.
So there it is less kind of doing kind of research on some broad issue like charter schools. But it would be, for example, working with the Department of Human Health and Human Services in Michigan, and helping them analyze youth who are at risk for placement in foster care. And actually working with them and their data, partly in like a consulting capacity that kind of blends research and actual program implementation. Kinda consulting to help them make programs and policies that operate more effectively. And so these two research centers are really active and involve a lot of faculty, and they also involve a lot of students. And create a lot of opportunities for students to engage. So they do that in a few different ways, one are events. So both of the research centers host events that are gonna be open to the public, focused on university community students and faculty. Then there are other opportunities kind of to work on some of the research projects that are going on. As research assistants, or as students, who are taking research findings from different projects that we've done, and writing non-technical policy briefs that will circulate to legislators, both in Michigan and abroad. Let's see, so I think the... Kevin, why don't I... I'm gonna pause, and let you jump in on the research center piece.
Sure, you know, I also... I remember, I actually, just... When you think about alums, we sort of forgot to mention two alums that we are probably most connected to that are doing it. So our Director of EPI actually is a Ford MPP alum.
And actually Governor Whitmer's, chief policy advisor on education policy is a Ford MPP alum.
Is it Brandy Johnson?
Who which we, you know, interact with quite a bit, both through EPI, but also in some of the policy engagement Brian was mentioning.
She took our classes way back when it was in like '06 or '07, I think. Maybe '07-'08.
So yes, we guarantee positions. If you come here, and take our class, we will guarantee that you have a job as the chief policy advisor for state governors, presidents, prime ministers, etcetera.
I'm not gonna make that guarantee. But... So let me... There was... I wanted to mention just a few... A couple of examples of ways that I've worked with MPPs through my research. Just recently, I've got a project... So you may have... I don't know, some of you may have heard about a big initiative by U of M to increase its economic diversity by reaching out to low-income students that are high-achieving throughout Michigan and giving them a scholarship and telling them, "Hey, if you get into Michigan, you'll be... You won't have to pay." Sue Dynarski led an evaluation of this outreach that has had a big impact on the policies at U of M; basically U of M adopted this program. So in writing up the results, so one collaborator on that project actually was a Ford MPP student who had just started working temporarily at EPI after graduating, and then stuck around to help with this evaluation.
For my own work, so I've been involved in a pilot initiative that is modeled after the same... In the same vein, which is looking at community college students and using them... Trying to find community college students that would be successful at U of M if we could help them navigate the labyrinth of transferring from a community college to U of M. Community colleges are a place where many people start college, they're particularly accessible, they're low-cost, they're geographically more accessible than big public universities. And so there are many students that I think would be quite successful at a place like U of M who start at community colleges, but many of them don't know that they could be successful here. And so we're doing some of the preliminary analysis to figure out how would we reach them and where are they.
And this is with Professor Dynarski, and a postdoc at EPI, a master student that I met through class, I guess, probably micro maybe it was program evaluation, who is interested in education policy, we kept in touch. She took another one of my classes and she's been co-authoring basically a policy memo with me that is laying the groundwork for this intervention at community colleges. That's an example. I think Brian could probably give you another couple of examples, Professor Dynarski, the same. And so I think that is typical of the kind of interactions that you can have at a place like Ford.
I see. What...
Do we talk about examples of big events, or is that something we could...
Yeah, why don't you guys talk a little bit about... Sorry, Brian. Why don't you all talk a little bit about some of the speakers and the events that are held in conjunction with the research centers, particularly about education policy?
Great. You wanna take this one, Brian?
Sure. Let's see, we had a bunch of different topics. Sue Dynarski put on a big one on student loan forgiveness and student loan debt a few years ago. I'm forgetting off the top of my head who are in all these panels and... Let's see... We have had ones in the past about charter schools. We had a few that were being planned the spring before the Coronavirus. One event that we are planning that gives you an example of the type of things we do is on early literacy instruction and especially early literacy policies. So Michigan, as some of you may know, passed legislation a few years ago, similar to other states, that is trying to revamp the way that early literacy is taught, but also more controversially, imposing a rule that students who don't meet a minimum threshold in third grade of reading proficiency are held back, they'll be retained in grade.
And this is some... We have a project working with some folks at the state to monitor this and do some evaluation and research around this, and we have a panel that we have been planning that I think will be postponed to the fall, which is good for all of the new incoming students. That was gonna bring together some school district administrators and teachers along with an academic, Chris Wyland and Nell Duke at the university who focus on early childhood and early literacy, and then some journalists, national journalists that had been writing on the topic of literacy instruction and what's happening in the states and how this has been changing over time. So that is, I think that's one recent example that I can think of.
And I'll just add that there's almost too many to remember. 'Cause I would say every year there's... I see that we just posted the EPI speaker series video chat.
Okay, yes, this is good. I was gonna try to go look online, but I figured then I would be distracted here.
Yeah. Yeah, I would say every year, we probably have one or two really big events. They're sort of different sizes, scope of events, one or two really big events. I would say a handful of moderately big events with, that are a little bit more specialized, the example would be... So I was on a panel, actually that was House of the Ed School that, but EPI's sort of co-sponsored it on college initiatives to bring college into prisons and policy related to that. So I think it was fairly specialized but with a pretty robust and great conversation with policy makers, researchers, practitioners. And I'd say we have a number of those, maybe a handful of those every year at Ford or in our broader network, an example of bigger flavor of events. So Thomas PKT was coming to Michigan, maybe today, I think he was supposed to be here today. Obviously, it's not happening. But this was part of a big event on inequality, but so EPI was gonna be one of the co-sponsors of that event. Just an example of the ways in which education sort of touches many social policies that people are interested in at Ford, but also more broadly around campus.
Right. There's actually another... I just saw on the chat function, this is great, this is reminding me of other things. So one of the pieces of the education policy environment here is there's a weekly seminar that is really kind of a student-focused and student-led seminar primarily for doctoral students, but given the fact that we have so many Master students at Ford in the School of Ed who are really interested in policy issues, they play a big role in the seminar as well. It's called CIERS with the C. Causal Inference and Education Research Seminar. And so typically, that's weekly and typically we have students who are presenting their own research and progress, doctoral students on just a huge range of issues. We have had students this year, some presenting on contracting and privatization in public school operations. And the trying to understand how many school districts are now contracting with private vendors, for things like bus service, or meal service, or even some ancillary educational services and what the potential impact of that would be.
We've had students that have presented on kind of performance-based budgeting in the community college sector and doing some work on that. Students who have presented on your vocational education projects, recent students who was presenting on kind of more education in the labor force and how the changing nature of jobs and the tasks and skills they're gonna require influences what people, how people should be majoring in and returns to different majors and college. And so that's a really interesting seminar and we've kind of, each week we usually have a few MPP students who attend just 'cause they're really interested in the topic, but then we also have usually once or twice a semester we'll bring in an outside speaker, which is a faculty member typically from another university who study education policy and presenting some of their their work. So I think that's a really nice opportunity, even though it's kind of focused around doctoral students, the topics are applied enough that MPP students often find them of interest and end up attending these regularly themselves.
And Brian I know a big part of the research centers is that training aspect of students at all levels. I know CIERS is part of that. Are there other examples of that training aspect that you all wanna talk to?
Yeah. I'll say I think that's an excellent point. Obviously, the MPP and MPA program are sort of biggest at the Ford School, but I would say there is a quite a bit of interaction at all levels between doctoral students, Master's students, and even undergraduates. Our undergraduates are fantastic. And so I've been involved in a number of projects that had doctoral students working with Master students and also undergrads involved in various ways. And so I think there's both an opportunity to learn for those that are interested in learning a bit more about doctorate level approaches and methods there certainly are opportunities to interact with students and particularly in education actually at Michigan. And opportunities for teaching right? And mentorship to some of the undergraduates, that happens both in the courses and outside and on research projects and research centered work.
Right. But one other thing, I guess that kind of blends the training but also the education piece. So the Ford School has classes that are called applied policy seminars and faculty kind of rotates who teaches them. Rebecca I assume, didn't Cindy Bank and Liz Gerber today do webinar earlier this week on that?
They did. They did on Monday and so for those of you who have, were not able to participate that webinar's video is on the future '40s website for you to check out, but yes please go ahead, Brian. And talk a little bit more about some of those consulting or engaged learning opportunity.
Right. So this kind of engaged learning. And these are courses where small groups of students, two, three, four, maybe five at the maximum are paired with kind of an outside organization, 'cause a non-profit government agency to work on kind of a discrete semester-long consulting project. These are... And these are often kind of put together, these are put together by the faculty. And we really do kind of utilize all of our connections and expertise and experience to find really I think exciting and interesting and practical experiences for students. And these are great training, and many of them are in the areas of education and youth policy. So last year, I taught one of these courses and we had a few different... Like I put together one on kind of a more international policy topic and one on some kind of government finance. But two of the groups were working on education policy issues. One group was studying special education funding formula and rules and to what extent, they can disadvantage certain school districts or certain student populations. It turns out in most states and including, Michigan counties have a huge amount of leeway in how they structure funding for special education students.
And they can structure it in some ways so that the money is really targeted to the most at-need students or it turns out there are other ways where it's kind of just spread equally based on population size. And so you end up, I think unintentionally with funding that is regressive, that is not helping the most disadvantaged students and families in the state. And so students actually worked with school district and county leaders to study their financial aid formulas for special education students, and how they compare to different models across the country and what the implications were for equity, and then they ended up making recommendations of how the districts could change their formulas. The students loved this. This was actually a class that brought together under graduates and master students and they both participated in, they learned a lot about different statistical methods and financial accounting methods but they also got real experience working with schools and districts and they have something that they can take to the job market to show what they've done already as a student. And so these applied policy seminars are really a great kind of combination of training and more pure educational experience.
So that's great. So we have about 25 minutes left, we have a couple of questions. Are you two ready to take a couple of questions?
Okay, so we have Anuj from Ann Arbor. DO you wanna ask your questions?
Hi, you guys can hear me clearly?
Oh hi, I'm from... So I'm from India, I moved to Ann Arbor and I'm excited to join the MPA. And my question is, Brian and Kevin talked about the implications toward nationally, what I'm looking at is how much Ford School's involvement in obviously, developing nations like India and Africa, and of course opportunities with UNESCO or role of education in cultural affairs. And any... Have you guys... Had Ford School had the opportunity to work with any issues with those developing nations in past? Thank you.
Yeah, thank you for your question, Anuj. Great question. So we've certainly been focused today talking about domestic education policy. That happens to be what Brian and I personally focus on. But I think... And so we will not be giving a good representation of kind of the breadth of international engagement by faculty and students at the Ford School. I will say that I think I saw your question pop up earlier and it reminded me when I was talking about faculty at Ford and around campus, that do education policy work. There's a whole host of, a whole number of people that are doing education policy work, in the international development context, that I did not mention. So Dean Young, is a development economist who is doing terrific work, one stream of his work and his students work and is in education.
I think there's probably not a development economist around that doesn't have at least something related to education that they work on. And so... And there's a number of folks around campus that I did not mention that I think are working on many of the issues that you described. Actually... And often how health and education kind of intersect and reinforce each other, both in the household, but also in a policy space. So I'll say that that's not the area of my focus, though in class I've had a number of MPP students that is their interest, and so they... That comes out in their projects that they work on. So for instance, I had a student in my higher education policy class that was from South Africa, that was really interested in expansions, in college access in developing countries, and she did a terrific study on that, in the sub-Saharan Africa context. And so I think that, though that is not sort of an expertise of my interest per se, but I think a number of our students are able to pursue that.
And again there are other faculty that are more internationally-focused. I will say that the international dimension that I've worked on, and I think this is probably true of Sue as well, is internationally, in a developed country context. So I've done some work with the OECD and some work related to education policy in Latin America, with the World Bank. But that's a little different than kind of what you're describing.
Yeah. So I think Kevin is right. There are... So the... We have been kind of talking with a domestic focus, and I think it's certainly right, kind of the research projects and that we are doing, many of them are domestically focused, but in a number of the courses we do try to bring in international evidence and experience, and I think it actually is quite natural, because a lot of the topics in education are universal. And thought I'd give you a few examples. So in the K-12 context that I mostly do research on, a big topic that we always cover is school accountability and kind of school testing. And how does one incentivized teachers in school or should one incentivize teachers in schools to improve student academic achievement, and then if so how does one incentivize teachers and schools to do so? And a lot of the work that we read comes from studies of let's say teacher-performance paid programs in Africa and India. That have been done by a variety of NGOS as well as kind of domestic accountability programs in the US, in Great Britain, they have a system of school inspectorates which is a different framework of accountability.
So within the accountability space that's definitely one. Within the school choice and public versus private schooling space, when I'm talking about that in my classes, we talk about the evidence from Pakistan. There's some really good research on private schooling and kind of the small alternative, very small private schools that crop up in villages and how they compare to the government run schools and evidence on that. There's some good work in India on that as well. And then even in charter schools, there are some interesting examples of companies that have started to develop kind of international charter schools. One is kind of called Summit. I think it's Summit Academy or Summit Schools that are international. And then kind of provide local governments, an alternative to government run schools. Not clear whether it's a good alternative or not, but there's a lot of research and discussion about that. And so that's... We bring that into the class as well.
So I think in the courses, you will find kind of international examples and ways that kind of the broader issues of literacy instruction, teacher professional development, accountability systems, how they can apply a cross-country. In terms of the actual research I think Kevin is right that there it's not us as much as some of our International colleagues who are doing that, although I have to say that sometimes it overlaps. It was just literally three weeks ago Dean Young, our colleague who Kevin mentioned, who's done a bunch of research on economic development in the Philippines and has done some education work in Malawi and other countries emailed me and said that the Philippine Ministry of Education has approached him and really wants his help in kind of doing some work to try to revamp different parts of the Filipino education system. And he brought me in and he's bringing in some other faculty at Michigan, kind of on a broader team, to help work with the Filipino government on that. That literally is just... The first conversations were just a few weeks ago so I have no idea where that will go. But that's an example of real world, interactive work in education and developing country context, that I think we are, kind of Ford is doing.
Thank you. Thank you both. Yes, I just wanna also mention the IEDP program, International Economic Development Program that's often thought of as a very international focus. Oftentimes those groups are learning about the educational systems of those countries in which they're visiting. So very interdisciplinary throughout the foreign school. So we have Selene do you wanna ask your question and let us know where you're logging in from?
Hi thanks. Yeah, this is Selena calling from DC. I'd interested in hearing more about the public policy analysis methods concentration and the core sequence and whether there are any prerequisites for the main methods courses? And then to add to the previous question asked, if there's, I think you mentioned Rebecca the being able to have this interdisciplinary collaboration, but if I were to concentrate on the methods, could I also do some IEDP courses? Is there a way to mix those? Yep. Thank you.
Yeah. So the method sequence. So there's no prerequisites for the main core Ford School sequence, so that's required for all students. That's gonna be, the first semester is Probability and Statistics and kind of Data Analytics in general. The second semester is kind of titled program evaluation or quantitative Methods and program evaluation. And that focuses on regression analysis and some other quasi-experimental techniques to evaluate policies and programs. So that's required for everybody and that's what students typically take in their first year across two semesters. Then for the policy concentration, there's three additional courses, one of which is kind of advanced program evaluation or econometrics, that students will take in the fall of their second year. And then the two remaining courses, there's a whole suite of courses across the university that students can choose to take, that will meet the requirements for policy analysis but students can pick to tailor to their interests. So I've had students who are really interested in data science for example, might take these, their next two courses focused on data science and machine learning in the School of Information or the Department of Statistics.
If you or a student interested in international issues, there are actually courses like there are international development courses, but really focus on methodological aspects of studying international development policy that can actually count for both your methods requirement, but also for a like an elective in international policy. Or would just be something that you would be interested in taking for the substantive aspect of the course as well. And for example, if you're a methods person, interested in domestic education policy I would recommend and work with you to take a certain set of courses to meet that. If you have a different kind of interest area in addition to the methods or policy analysis I would work to kind of figure out, well what would make most sense for you in that case. Yeah. I'm happy to elaborate if that, if you have other follow-up questions.
Great. Thank you. So we just have a few, about 10 minutes left. And you both mentioned a little bit of the different policy makers involved in the EPI and YPL efforts and how students can be involved. Do you wanna talk just for a few minutes more? Do you have other examples that you'd like to share? I think that that's the one of the areas that can be most impactful for students in their experience in this engaged learning is working with policy makers directly. One of you had any other examples.
I guess, one hesitation that you might be getting is the question about like how much do we give? How much do we share? 'Cause there's... I'll just share you know one... There's a whole lot of interaction between you know say EPI and policy makers. And the question is, how much detail do I get into? So just to give one example. So EPI now... And Brian touched on some of this, but I'll just make it a little more concrete. You know, EPI now is acting as a interface for researchers that are interested in studying education in the state of Michigan to use administrative data from the State of Michigan to answer policy relevant questions. And so you know EPI faculty and staffs sort of are regularly interacting with the Michigan Department of Education on various levels on some policy questions that we get from the superintendent Dr. Rice.
And then more sort of technical questions about like data, and its availability, and how different things are measured. And we are sort of, we meaning our staff, who's very capable is basically putting together sort of the... Has put together these amazing datasets that now can let researchers in a fairly straightforward way answer important and timely sort of questions about education policy in Michigan. Like, you know how has graduation rates changed from high school over time? How does that differ across different school districts? As an example. And so that's one way that we are kind of directly connected with policy makers in Lansing to take a sort of state example.
And that's the education data center, correct, Kevin?
Yeah. I mean, I think, really they're really... There are lots... I mean, one... A project that some MPP students have been helping me on was to evaluate a program in Detroit that was aimed at providing support for community college students. So Detroit has a program called The Detroit Promise, which provides free tuition for students entering community colleges from Detroit public high schools. But what the, you know, city leaders and business community had found is that a lot of the students were struggling academically even once they got in. So like the tuition alone was not enough. So there's a program kind of a mentoring and kind of coaching program called Detroit Promise Path, and we've been helping the people who are administering that to do some evaluation of it. And we have... One of our current MPP students, Katie is like a lead person on that group. And so she is talking with people from the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Detroit Mayor's Office. And is on meetings and talking with community college leaders, and having a lot of interaction with kind of important policymakers in the Detroit area. We have similar sort of interactions like I had mentioned earlier in the webinar with the Michigan State Department of Health and Human Services around their child welfare programs. And so students have been involved in those. Lots of things like that.
Yeah, that's great. So this is how you can have your guarantee Brian. [chuckle] Expand your network engagement. Alright, so we just have a few minutes left, and one thing we'd like you both to do is to make your pitch to our admitted students. Why should they choose the Ford School over other places? And why is this an exciting place to be right now?
I guess, I'll go first since Brian is not saying anything. So I think, I mean, Michigan... In talking broadly about Michigan, 'cause I think that's how you should think about... The decision to come to Ford is really a decision to come to Michigan. And it's broad community of scholars, and students, and activists interested education and youth issues, is... You know, Michigan has an incredibly large network of people that are passionate about these same issues. I think... And that's... I will say that's gonna be true to a lot of other... A number of other places not a lot, but a handful. I think, what makes Michigan, and Ford in particular, distinct is just how accessible those people are to students.
So the fact that say Brian, and me, and Sue Dynarski, and Chris Weiland, live within a mile of each other, and are basically here every day. And teaching classes, and engaging with students, I think, is unusual at a place as... That has that level of density of scholars and experts on a given topic. You know, other places, I think have people that come in and sort of leave in a way that doesn't happen here. So I think sort of the opportunity to really connect on a every day, and every day basis, and that scholarly level with people that share the same passion and interest as you, I think is something that makes us unique.
How about you Brian?
Yeah, and I think it really is the people and the accessibility. I mean, I have to say I kinda feel well placed to speak to this. I was a student many years ago at the Harris School of Public Policy in Chicago, and I was a faculty member at the Kennedy School. And they are both fine institutions, and I really do think they're both good, but I mean Michigan is much more of a close-knit community. I mean, partly based on it's size, it's smaller. The Kennedy School is a huge place, and a lot of folks associated with it are back and forth between DC and Boston. And I mean it's really a kind of a close-knit community here. I also think, in general, like the State of Michigan, and you know the City of Detroit are really interesting, and important, and vibrant places to be now.
I mean, a lot of the key issues facing our country whether it's in education, or the economy, or public health, I mean, for better or worse [chuckle] Michigan is struggling with a lot of the issues that are forefront in the country. And I think that that puts the Ford School, and the faculty, and the students really on the front lines of a lot of interesting, and important, and challenging problems, whether it's the water safety in Flint, or the financial struggles of Detroit, or these education policy changes at the state level of Michigan, or the manufacturing economy. We're really... This is like the hub of a lot of things that are central to the next challenge of our country.
Can I add one thing to that Brian? I completely agree. And I'm sort of struck by the contrast. You know, a number of years ago when the current administration came to office and people, particularly our students, and those of us that actually think that policy analysis is important were quite fearful that like maybe policy analysis doesn't matter anymore, right? And that that would certainly seem to be the sentiment of the current administration. I think, in Michigan, I think, what we're seeing is the... Right now, as Brian was saying is the opposite of that. These are... The leaders of the states and local areas really do value policy analysis and policy evaluation, and in evidence. And that is a wonderful environment to be in. And it just so happens that they have close connections with University of Michigan specifically, and even the Ford School and many of our alums. And so I think the opportunity right now to have an impact on kind of local and state policy in Michigan, which then bubbles up to national influence, I think is just is extraordinary.
Great. Well, thank you both for joining us this afternoon. I wanna also thank attended students for participating in our webinar today. As I mentioned earlier on April 3rd, we will host our virtual Spring Preview, and we hope you'll join us for those exciting panels. And of course we hope to see you in Ann Arbor, this fall. Go blue.