Welcome, and welcome back, to the Ford School

September 1, 2014

Members of the Ford School community—welcome, and welcome back!

Summer tends to send us all around the globe—for family vacations, for research projects, for service engagements, for internships and jobs—but I love this time of year, when we reconvene with new energy, new stories, and a new sense of purpose.

This fall is even more special than most—a milestone year to be a member of the Ford School community. We’re celebrating 100 years of public service training, and celebrating our legacy as America’s first graduate-level training program in public administration, with a much-anticipated Centennial Reunion (special invitations will be sent to faculty, staff, and students within the next two weeks, and I hope you'll all register once you receive them).

The highlight of our reunion, of course, is the return of dozens of our alumni—alumni who have made impressive service and leadership contributions throughout their careers—and I hope you’ll all take some time to connect with them during the celebrations. We’re also looking forward to our centennial lecture by Steven Levitt, best-selling author of Freakonomics, and sharing Levitt with the entire University of Michigan community during his talk at Rackham Auditorium.

The Centennial Reunion will mark the public launch of the Ford School’s Victors for Michigan campaign, which will help us enhance our financial resources for student support, our top funding priority, in our next century. We have been busy meeting with alumni, friends, faculty and staff of the school, and have been inspired by their generosity. I look forward to sharing more about this endeavor, and announcing a number of gifts, in the fall.

As we look back at our first century, and lay the groundwork for our next, one thing is clear: Great people have been at the heart of our success from the very beginning, and that will be the case going forward. Whether students, staff, faculty, or alumni—people have provided the leadership, passion, and muscle that have fueled our growth as a school.

So to those of you who are new to the Ford School, welcome to this tradition and to this community! Get to know your school’s people and heritage, and make your mark here in wonderful ways. And to those of you who are returning, thank you for all you do, and all you’ve done, to shape and lead our community and school.

Leadership transitions

Speaking of leadership, I’d like to draw your attention to a few leadership transitions in our research centers.

I’m delighted to announce that John Ciorciari and Dean Yang will be interim co-directors of our International Policy Center (IPC). I have no doubt they will do a terrific job of shaping our international policy programs while helping students engage in meaningful ways with international concerns.

Brian Jacob is beginning his service as director of our joint-doctoral degree program, and we’re thrilled to have him in this role. Please join me in extending heartfelt thanks to Kathryn Dominguez, who has done a wonderful job of leading the program for the past two years. And Sandy Danziger will continue to chair our National Poverty Center steering committee. Members of that important committee include Mary Corcoran, Kristin Seefeldt, Luke Shaefer, and Bob Schoeni.

New community members

We have a number of new postdoctoral students and visiting faculty members to introduce. The full list has been sent to you with brief bios. You’ll also find their profiles and contact information in our online faculty directory and in our printed faculty directory, which has just been released.

Our incoming students had pictures taken during orientation, and have also written short bios about their professional interests and experiences. The Student and Academic Services team will be pairing photos with bios this week, and the directory for incoming students should be relatively complete very soon. In the meantime, we’ve created named table tents for our students to take with them to class. Please use these, at least for the first few days of classes, so we can all get to know each other.


If you haven’t noticed already, I’ll draw your attention the fact that our website has been completely overhauled. We’ve added an improved tagging system that allows users to quickly sort content by their policy area of interest. We’ve ensured that the site will be viewable on a wide variety of mobile devices. We’ve added a password-protected intranet that allows us to better share content with internal audiences. We’ve added an online historical timeline so we can share more, and more detailed, stories about our community. We’ve added impact story carousels that call out stories relevant to important audiences like policymakers, employers, prospective students, etc. The list goes on.

I want to thank the communications team for spearheading this effort, and I want to thank all of our staff for reviewing, editing, and improving upon their departmental pages—this has truly been a group effort. We’ll be hosting a launch party later this week, so expect an invitation. In the meantime, we’re still kicking the tires of the new website, so I encourage each of you to review it and submit comments and suggestions over the next several weeks.

Upcoming events

In keeping with tradition, we have a terrific slate of events coming up this fall. While a more comprehensive list is attached, I’ll draw your attention to the first few, which include:

  • September 17: Alejandro Castillejo-Cuellar will provide the annual Rosenthal Lecture, speaking about the long-term effects of violence on communities struggling to rebuild in the wake of conflict.
  • September 18: The International Policy Center (IPC) will host a screening of The Prosecutor, a film that examines the successes and failures of the International Criminal Court in seeking to prosecute some of the world’s most notorious human rights offenders.
  • September 24: The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) will sponsor a talk on climate change and cooperative federalism by Kirstin Engle, a national expert in environmental law.

Many other events are outlined in the attachments, and I expect that we’ll add a few others as additional details are fleshed out in the weeks ahead.

Diversity and inclusion

Last semester, partly in response to student suggestions, I appointed a Diversity Committee. Outcomes of that committee’s work include the development of a three-hour community building simulation for new Ford School students and the development of a diversity statement from and about the school—prominently featured on our new web site.

This fall, I’ll name a few Ford School faculty members to act as ombudspersons for students (faculty with whom students may discuss issues of identity and inclusion), and will be using several of our upcoming faculty meetings to discuss ways to address identity and inclusion in the classroom. Another Diversity Committee will be charged for the 2014-15 academic year, to suggest ways to continue to improve the Ford School climate.

New courses

We have extended a number of invitations to high-level policymakers to spend a semester at the Ford School, offering courses for students and giving public presentations. While details are still being worked out, I can announce one of our visiting policymakers: Ruth Browne (MPP/MPH ’83), CEO of the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health, who will join us in the winter semester.

Browne is not only a Ford School alumna, she also leads an internationally recognized nonprofit that pioneers community-based health interventions for economically disadvantaged communities of color and poverty. We will announce details about her class as the time for winter registration approaches, but I wanted you to look out for her elective course when the time comes.

In addition to the courses offered by our visiting policymakers, we’ll also feature “Working in an Embassy,” taught by Michelle Jones, our U.S. Department of State Diplomat in Residence. Jones has worked for a variety of embassies—most recently the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan—as a cultural affairs officer and public affairs specialist. Her other embassy placements include Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Bangladesh, and Poland. I encourage you to consider her one-credit elective, PubPol 750.005, for the winter 2014 term.

As always, we will highlight these and other academic offerings later in the semester. In the meantime, please accept my heartfelt welcome, and welcome back, to the Ford School community. We’re delighted to share our centennial year with each of you.



Susan M. Collins

Joan and Sanford Weill Dean of Public Policy

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