Farewell interview: Dean Michael S. Barr

July 11, 2022 0:05:25
Kaltura Video

Outgoing dean Michael S. Barr on what he’s learned, what he’ll remember, and what he’s most proud of from his five years leading the Ford School.


In my first week on the job,

I thought would be really
fun to have a food truck

come to serve our
students pizza.

So the food truck came and

it parked right between

the Ford School and
the Law School.

They turned on the
wood-powered stove

and we immediately
saw this billow

of smoke get sucked
into the air handler

at the Law School.
Alarms went off.

The provost came, the fire
marshal came, the police came.

That was a good start
to the five years.

First day on the job to

now, what have you learned?

I've learned humility.
Each time you

encounter a problem, a situation,

or even an opportunity,

you can use that to learn
from other people around you.

I've been very fortunate in

my job to be able
to learn every day.

And that's a real gift.

What are you most proud of?

Well, I'm proud that we
lead with our mission.

We're a community dedicated
to the public good.

And it shows in our work,

it shows in our research it shows

in our teaching, it shows in
our public engagement.

And it really shows in
how we treated each

other and how we navigated
the global pandemic.

We stayed focused on

the ways that we can
serve the community.

We had honest and
open communication

and we stay true to our values

in terms of our decision-making.

And so I'm most proud of,

of that basic way

of conducting the work
of the Ford School.

At the same time, we
also got a lot done.

More is more! We did a
leadership initiative.

We launched a new Weiser
Diplomacy Center.

We launched a Center
for Racial Justice.

A Program in Practical
Policy Engagement.

And most recently, the Kohn

Collaborative for Social Policy.

So I'm really proud of
getting all that done.

I'm also proud of our work
on diversity, equity,

and inclusion that we've infused

throughout the Ford School,

made it really an
important part of

the institution at all levels.

And integrated it into our
research, into our teaching,

into our engagement and

to the staffing structure to make
sure we got the work done.

Now, what will you miss about being
dean of the Ford School?

I would say the people,

I really love my job.

I've loved the senior
staff team and

the associate deans working

with the staff
across the school,

our amazing students who
I learn from every day.

So I'd say the people.

If you were going back to grad school
again to get another degree

why would you pick the Ford School?

0h, I would definitely come here.

It's a warm,
embracing community.

First of all, it has

the interdisciplinarity
that keeps you learning and

brings new techniques to bear on

problems. It's a community
that combines

the highest level
of scholarship and

genuine engagement
in the community

on the basis of mutual respect.

And I think those
things together are

an extraordinary combination.

You know, I came to the
University of Michigan

21 years ago because one of
my mentors, Ned Gramlich,

spoke with such love
and affection for

this institution that I
knew was the right place,

the right intellectual
home for me.

And it has been for this
last more than 20 years.

What parting advice do you have?

Well, I think the Ford School

plays such a central role in

the future of our country

and really policy
around the world.

It's an amazing institution.

It has amazing
staff and faculty,

wonderful students
who come here.

And I think they really can make

a huge difference in making
the world a better place.

So I would say keep at it,

work hard and now and forever,

Go blue.