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#2023APPAM Spotlight: University of Michigan, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy


The #2023APPAM Fall Research Conference will feature some fantastic sponsors from across the policy research spectrum. Today we're shining a spotlight on University of Michigan, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.


What types of programs does your school offer?


MPP: Our renowned 2-year graduate program recognized for its excellence in analytical methods, leadership development, and a wide variety of public policy fields. We offer formal dual-master's degrees with fourteen schools and departments across the University of Michigan and a number of other individualized dual-degrees.

Joint-PhD: Our highly competitive and pioneering joint PhD program combines public policy studies with disciplinary work in economics, political science, or sociology.

STPP certificate: Our specialized Science and Technology in Public Policy graduate certificate program provides students with tools to analyze complex science and technology policy issues and explore the political and policy landscape of specific science and technology areas.

MPA: Our nine-month MPA degree is designed to enhance the analytic abilities and communication and management skills to advance your career.

BA Major: Our Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy provides University of Michigan students with knowledge and skills to analyze policy problems, understand the stakes, and create viable solutions.

BA Minor: Our Minor in Public Policy opens the door for a University of Michigan student to layer a current degree—engineering, sociology, business, or organizational studies, for example—with perspectives from the lens of public policy.

PPIA: Our Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Junior Summer Institute is a 7-week summer program for juniors across the U.S. to prepare them for graduate programs in public policy and international affairs.

How has your school changed in the last ten years?


The Ford School has grown significantly over the last 10 years!

We had a great deal of success in the important work of recruiting new faculty to join the Ford School, adding to our strengths in diplomacy, education policy, environmental justice, racial justice, and more. They include new tenured and tenure-track faculty, as well as practitioners with significant policy and leadership experience.

We now are home to 10 dynamic and interdisciplinary research centers that leverage the knowledge and expertise across the University of Michigan. They serve as a resource for policymakers and practitioners, academics, students, the media, and the public. They offer numerous engaged learning opportunities for students. And they identify and solve complex challenges facing our communities.

We have expanded the number of applied learning opportunities for our students to engage with real-world policy issues in the classroom and through research, activities, and workshops. And we offer a wide range of opportunities that allow students to use what they've learned in the classroom through hands-on, practical policy experiences. 

Courses and independent study projects provide opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to engage with community partners in dialogue, research, and service as they conduct program evaluations, policy research, grant writing, and more. Some of these opportunities have been nationally recognized: In 2021 we were awarded APSIA’s Innovation Award for Professional Development Programming for student-driven  international research opportunities and in 2020 were honored with NASPAA’s Social Equity Award for outstanding contributions in research, teaching, and service.

Our dedication to the public good is grounded in our core values and inseparable from our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including efforts aimed at addressing key policy issues relevant to racial justice and antiracism.  As a discipline, public policy occupies a unique place within society. If we aim to prepare diverse leaders to take on our communities' and our world's most pressing challenges and conduct transformational research, we must do better at explicitly examining the forces at work that create systemic and structural inequalities. We have made significant progress since we launched our first DEI strategic plan in 2016, and we recognize there is still much work to do.

Why should students choose your school or program?


If you're eager to lead, to find creative solutions, and to make a big impact on your communities, the Ford School is the right place for you—at a most urgent time.

Housed at one of the world’s premier universities in one of America’s best college towns, the Ford School is America’s first graduate public service training program and among its most prominent. We are respected for the excellence of our faculty, our grounding in social science research and quantitative analysis, the real-world policy issues woven throughout our curriculum, and the careers of leadership and impact forged by our alumni.

The Ford School's consistent top-level rankings reflect deep and long-standing strengths in and commitment to research and public policy engagement related to poverty, structural inequalities, educational disparities, and vulnerable populations. Our world-renowned faculty and dynamic research centers continue to shape policy across a wide range of domains, including health care, energy and the environment, access to education, smart cities, labor markets, and science and technology policy.

Our curriculum is rigorous, relevant, interdisciplinary, and hands-on. We train students with a broad range of interests for a wide variety of jobs, providing a toolbox of research, analytical, and management skills that are highly transferable across sectors and issue areas.

We prepare students for success through best-in-class support outside the classroom as well. We place a high priority on the career development of our students. We offer students access to a seasoned team of strategic career counselors, a deeply committed alumni base, and faculty with policy connections all over the world. Our best-in-class writing center works with students at every level, our professional career services team and our Leadership Initiative provides students with tools to make a positive impact on the organizations, communities, and people around us.  

With a Ford School education, you will be leading the institutions and organizations that will shape our public policies for decades to come.

If you are hiring, what makes your school a great place to work?

The Ford School is one of the nation's foremost policy schools, housed at one of the world's great public universities. We are a community dedicated to the public good. We inspire and prepare diverse leaders grounded in service, conduct transformational research, and collaborate on evidence-based policymaking to take on our communities' and our world's most pressing challenges. Our faculty and staff frequently cite our close-knit, collaborative community as one of the best on campus.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

The Ford School values many different things about an applicant, and considers all candidate credentials in making decisions about whom to admit. ​​We strongly encourage graduate students to gain work experience before applying. Students tell us that they find classroom discussions livelier and more productive when there is an exchange, not only of theoretical ideas, but examples from their peers' real-life experiences. Furthermore, work experience makes it easier to see the value of your public policy degree. Learn more about our admissions process:

What is your teaching/research divide? 

Our amazing faculty are accessible teachers and mentors. They are also nationally and internationally recognized experts in vitally important policy areas. Our faculty use cutting–edge analytical methods—causal inference, demonstration trials, complex–adaptive systems approaches, mixed-methods studies, historical analyses, elite opinion surveys, and more—to make transformational discoveries.

They are finding ways to reduce structural inequality in health, education, and economic prospects. They're identifying new methods for fostering cooperation in the midst of intractable conflicts, slowing the spread of life-threatening diseases, and designing low-cost methods to reduce poverty in developing nations and right here in Michigan.

And they're deeply engaged in the world of practice, whether it is working in cities like Detroit or on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. In partnership with communities, our faculty help to turn their insights into actionable policy solutions. Students have opportunities to be involved in nearly all of these activities, as research assistants, interns, and more.

What is your undergraduate/graduate divide? 

We welcome approximately 110 graduate students each fall. This year’s MPP class includes 38% international students who hailed from twelve different countries: Azerbaijan, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tanzania, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan. Of our domestic students, nearly a third are underrepresented minorities. Four students are Fulbright Scholars, and 4 are PPIA alumni. 

We welcome approximately 110 outstanding U-M undergraduate students pursuing our BA major and minor degrees each year. This year, 40% of our BA majors are from Michigan, and 40% are students of color.

What is something unqiue about your institution or program?

President Ford's legacy is very much alive here at the Ford School, and we are proud to bear his name. The values that distinguished him remain so relevant to policy students: his lifelong commitment to principled public service, his integrity, and his ability to reach across the aisle to forge consensus.

Our competency-based curricula for all students include a strong focus on management and leadership skills. All of us have the capacity to lead—to make a positive impact on our organizations, communities, and the people around us. We believe that leadership is a behavioral process, and that learning it is a critical part of the preparation we offer to policy professionals. Our one-of-a-kind Leadership Initiative develops and offers a growing suite of graduate and undergraduate student leadership courses and extracurricular programs that build on and complement the school's excellent, rigorous curriculum. All graduate students have the opportunity to work with a certified executive leadership coach during summer internships and select courses.


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