Hire An MPP, Student Profiles

Hire An MPP: Chunyu Guo

Many of Michigan State University’s second-year Master of Public Policy students will be graduating this May. They have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion that will allow them to put the skills they’ve acquired to good use. We’re posting profiles of all our soon-to-be graduates so you can get to know them—and maybe find the next addition to your firm or organization!


Name: Chunyu Guo

Ideal Job Location: United States

Ideal Job: Chunyu has a passionate interest in the environment and natural resources management. She plans to work in policy evaluation in the public sector or for a non-profit organization. Her ultimate career goal is to earn an executive position in an international environmental management and cooperation program.

Work Experience: For the past two semesters, Chunyu has been engaged in an internship at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). This internship has allowed her to explore numerous environmental policy issues in Michigan, from water sampling in Flint to brownfield redevelopment along the Detroit riverfront to understanding mercury pollution trends.

“These experiences have not only given me a greater understanding of practical policy implementation and internal government operations, but also make use of my knowledge in policy analysis,” she says.

This internship and work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources inspired her capstone project, an analysis of recreational passport sales that has important implications for Michigan’s state park funding system.

Skills and Academic Training: As Chunyu notes, the MPP program gives students systematic training in policy analysis and evaluation. She has completed three policy- focused courses in Quantitative Methods and also elected to take rigorous courses in cost-benefit analysis and natural resource economics.

Her favorite courses include Policy Evaluation and Policy Development and Administration. As she puts it, “My eyes have been not only widely but also deeply opened by seeing policy issues in different areas.”

“I regard public policy as a trigger to balance the relationship between our nature and society. Sometimes our society cannot achieve the goals of economic development and healthy nature at the same time. I was born in a place where I’ve seen dramatic development, but meanwhile its environment deteriorated across the years.”

Chunyu shares, “To study in the program of Public Policy has not only enriched my knowledge in policy analysis, but also trained me with a critical and creative thinking structure when looking into different kinds of policy issues. I hope to devote myself to building up a better connection between people and nature in the future.”

Chunyu is well-prepared to take on the challenges of policy analysis and implementation.

MPP Speaker Series

MEC Policy Director James Clift Shares Insights on Energy and Policymaking

jamescliftLast Tuesday, the MPP Speaker Series featured James Clift, Policy Director for the Michigan Environmental Council. The MEC is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations that have an interest in influencing environmental policy in Michigan. Its members are diverse and represent a broad range of groups and associations.

Mr. Clift has spent 18 years at the MEC and has also worked as a lawyer, university instructor, and as a policy director at the Michigan Senate. He originally studied Business Administration and later graduated from Wayne State University with a law degree. His career illustrates the many different paths that lead individuals to policy work.

Among other activities, the MEC and Clift educate legislators about environmental and energy policy issues. They also keep track of passed legislation and administrative rules to ensure that they are being implemented as intended.

As Clift explained, the Michigan Environmental Council has cultivated a reputation for pragmatism, nonpartisanship, and solution-oriented work. He emphasized to students the value of building relationships with many people, particularly across party lines.

Earlier in the day, for example, Clift had given a presentation on energy issues to the Michigan House Energy Committee. Activities like this are an important of the MEC’s work. Clift noted that policymakers and others involved in industry and political decisions come from a variety of backgrounds. As a result, he explained, it is important to be able to listen to different perspectives and understand how they think about issues.

The energy industry is changing rapidly and involves many challenges as well as opportunities. As Policy Director, Clift makes it a priority to emphasize shared goals to his audience.jamesclift2

Three of the MEC’s major interests are protecting ratepayers, environmental protection, and securing a strong energy economy. Clift sees renewable energy as a way to both achieve environmental health and reduce costs to Michigan’s citizens. He explained that new technology, like advanced meters, can give more control to consumers while also benefiting the company and the state as a whole. This proposal involves a range of policy matters that MPP students have studied, including economic practices, policy trade-offs, and program evaluation.

Clift pointed to waste reduction as another way to reduce harm to the environment. He described how those working in any policy field may need to wait for the right political timing and work on getting public support in order to have their ideas heard. Given their limited resources, he said, organizations must choose what to spend their time on carefully. At times, it may be  easier to try to do things through the executive branch administratively under current law  than trying to get new policy adopted by the legislature.

He also noted that in Michigan it is very beneficial to relate issues to the health of the Great Lakes given their near universal importance and the concern the public and legislators have with preserving them.

Clift’s presentation was an interesting look at how those working with legislators can approach their work both at the Capitol and around the state. His expertise in this area gave the students valuable information about the workings of the energy and environmental policy fields.

The Michigan Environmental Council offers internships throughout the year. Interested students should visit their website at http://www.environmentalcouncil.org/.


Hire An MPP, Student Profiles

Hire An MPP: Zach Polselli

Many of Michigan State University’s second-year Master of Public Policy students will be graduating this May. They have a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion that will allow them to put the skills they’ve acquired to good use. We’re posting profiles of all our soon-to-be graduates so you can get to know them—and maybe find the next addition to your firm or organization!

blogzachName: Zachary Polselli

Ideal Job Location: Detroit, MI

Ideal Job: Zach aims to use his considerable knowledge of the policymaking process to improve program development and implementation in a large city or county in Michigan. Ultimately, he would like to become a city or county manager.

Through the MPP program and his experiences, Zach has developed the skills and understanding necessary for these demanding roles.

Work Experience: Zach has performed valuable policy work related to both program planning and legislative processes. Over the last three years, he has completed four internships with his state representative. As he explains, “I have seen all steps in the process of turning policy into law. This has helped me see what is politically feasible when trying to implement a policy. The policy content is as important as the political environment in which it is introduced.” He believes he could use his knowledge of the state legislator in his future policy work.

Last summer, Zach completed another internship in Detroit with the Wayne County Health, Veterans & Community Wellness as part of the InnovateGov internship program. This was one of his favorite and most valuable experiences in the MPP program because he was able to assist with policy from creation to evaluation.

Skills and Academic Training: Zach’s training in the MPP program has allowed him to combine analytical skills with his insights into the real world of policymaking, as he did when making plans to fulfill the needs of Wayne County’s citizens. He credits MPP faculty members Dr. Valentina Bali and Dr. Josh Sapotichne with inspiring and strengthening his knowledge and passion for policy.

His Policy Evaluation course was particularly valuable in helping him understand how to design and conduct sound program assessments. This type of work requires the thorough understanding of politics and policy that he has demonstrated in his previous roles.

Zach is well-prepared to take on the challenging policy needs of Michigan’s urban areas.

Student Profiles

MPP Student Profile: Jonathan Berman

jonathanThe MPP program at MSU allows mid-career students the flexibility they need to complete their degree. Jonathan Berman is one of several MPP students who are already engaged in full-time policy work. An Environmental Quality Analyst and Senior Project Manager at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, he entered the program in Fall 2015 with over a dozen years of real-world experience.

Jonathan has long had an interest in environmental issues. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Environmental Policy and Behavior in 2002. Prior to working at the DEQ, he was employed by the Washtenaw County Department of Public Works Solid Waste Program.

Jonathan’s current work involves the review and management of a variety of water infrastructure projects in several municipalities. These include reviews of important water and sewage projects and approval of applications for plant upgrades, water mains, and relief sewers. He manages an impressive forty-one Stormwater Asset Management and Wastewater (SAW) grant projects. His work administering state grant and loan assistance programs includes checking eligibility guidelines and ensuring adherence to statutes that protect the health of Michigan’s citizens and its environment.

Jonathan’s work requires attention to detail. This is particularly true when reviewing grant and loan applications for infrastructure projects. Writing is another vital skill he practices both at work and within the MPP program.

The program also allows Jonathan to explore key policy questions related to his work. He found PPL 806, Policy Evaluation, to be one of the most interesting and useful classes so far. This course examines many aspects of policy evaluation as well as program design, implementation, and monitoring.

“After taking this one required class, I am better equipped to make recommendations to my superiors for better program administration as well as to manage my projects from a policy perspective,” Jonathan says.

He has also taken advantage of his specialization courses at MSU’s Institute of Water Research.

“[These courses] have been very helpful to me in building my knowledge of watershed management which is very relevant to the storm water infrastructure projects that I review.”

He plans to further develop his organizational skills as well as improve his knowledge of data analytic software. He notes that prior to his career at DEQ, he did not fully appreciate the utility of computer programs, including commonly used applications like Excel and Access. He recommends that students become familiar with tools like these.

Jonathan’s desire to improve his management skills is reflected in his plans to become involved in a public speaking organization. He has also considered participating in a leadership program.

“I plan to volunteer locally on watershed management issues,” he adds.

Jonathan plans to complete the program in Fall 2018. He hopes to advance along his current career path to a higher specialist or management position. Jonathan’s commitment to his work and initiative in gaining new skills is an excellent example for all our MPP students.

MPP Speaker Series

MPP Students Learn that MSU Extension Is Much More than “Cows and Plows”

ivanLast week students in Michigan State University’s Master of Public Policy program had their eyes opened to a career path many had not been aware of, thanks to a presentation from Dave Ivan, director of the Greening Michigan Institute at MSU Extension.

MSU Extension is a branch of the university that seeks to put MSU’s vast research experience and expertise to service by helping communities across Michigan to improve their quality of life. The agency is nearly 110 years old and has a presence in every one of Michigan’s 83 counties. Many Michiganders are familiar with MSU Extension’s agricultural work, but as Dr. Ivan explained to a gathering of MPP students and faculty members, MSU Extension also does a tremendous amount of work with local governments.

The Greening Michigan Institute, which Ivan oversees, takes the lead on governance projects for MSU Extension. Ivan supervises approximately 70 field-based staff and works with 20 tenure-stream faculty in five academic units that merge academic expertise with practical action.


From explaining ballot measures to “crunching numbers” on municipal bankruptcies

Ivan described an impressive array of areas the Greening Michigan Institute (GMI) works in, many if not all of which intersect with the interests of MPP students:

  • Ivan’s staff train government officials in Michigan—and in many other states!—in leadership, civic engagement, and other skill areas. They also train local planning commissions, provide training for every newly elected county commissioner in Michigan, and help newly elected members of the twelve federally-recognized tribal governments in Michigan to learn key governing skills.
  • GMI creates educational materials to help Michigan voters to understand the complex issues addressed through ballot measures.
  • GMI works closely with the Pure Michigan campaign and with local governments to build the tourism industry, and to incorporate the principle of sustainability into these plans.
  • GMI has 15 staff members who help municipal administrators to “understand and unpack meaning of their budgets.” According to Ivan, MSU Extension staff, especially Dr. Eric Scorsone, the Founding Director of MSU Extension’s new Center for State and Local Government Policy, played a key behind-the-scenes role in the Detroit bankruptcy by “crunching numbers” that helped city administrators to make informed decisions.

Capstone Ideas

Ivan shared several ideas for capstone research project topics that could be of interest to current MPP students—and that GMI could help provide data for:

  • Fiscal distress in Michigan cities
  • How do policies create or impede access to food (“food deserts”)?
  • Tribal governance challenges
  • Natural resources
  • Regulatory staff’s role in civic dialog (Do State officials talk with the populations they interact with in ways the population can actually understand?)

Now Hiring

Ivan also mentioned that many positions with GMI will be opening up in the coming months and years due to current staff members retiring. A Master’s degree is a prerequisite for working with MSU Extension—so MPP students will be well-positioned to apply once they graduate. Ivan said the institute will be hiring for at least two positions in every region in Michigan over the next four years, and will be hiring for several on-campus positions this coming spring.

“If you want to return to your home but still work in public policy, this is a good opportunity!” he said.

MPP Speaker Series

Spartan Mark Hoffman Shares Wisdom from Three Decades in Michigan Government with MPP Students


“The people who understand process are the ones who get things done,” MSU alum Mark Hoffman told students in Michigan State University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program on Tuesday. Hoffman should know. Currently the Chief Administrative Officer for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Hoffman has over three decades of experience in state politics and government.

In a lively talk with MPP students and faculty at Marshall-Adams hall, Hoffman shared some of the wisdom he’s acquired through working with the Michigan legislature, the Michigan Lottery, the state’s now-defunct Department of History, Arts and Libraries, and the DNR. “Knowing the process” was one of Hoffman’s key messages. In the legislature, said Hoffman, knowing the process means understanding how bills get through committee and are brought to the floor and how coalitions among lawmakers are built. In executive branch agencies such as those where he’s spent the latter part of his career, knowing the process means understanding procurement procedures, knowing how to get along with unions, and learning how to balance the interests of multiple stakeholders.

Another Day, another Problem to Solve

IMG_6224Hoffman was interested in politics and government from a young age. It took him six years to get his bachelor’s degree in history from MSU, because, in his words, “I kept dropping out to work on political campaigns.” His enthusiasm for working on statewide policy issues has not waned. Hoffman painted a picture of creating and enacting state policy as a dynamic, creative, challenging, and rewarding process.

In his current post at the DNR, Hoffman said he and his staff must constantly balance the sometimes competing demands of environmental protection, recreation, and economic development. He’s proud of the creativity his agency has shown in finding that balance. For example, he noted that by planting  jack pine throughout the state and harvesting it responsibly, the DNR helps sustain an important timber industry while also preserving the habitat of the Kirtland’s Warbler, a rare species of bird that lives only in jack pine forests in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

Balancing opportunities for both “quiet” outdoor recreation like hiking and camping and “loud” recreation like snowmobiling, combatting invasive animal and plant species, fighting forest fires, and providing rural law-enforcement services are among the many challenges Hoffman and the DNR address every day, he said.

Calling all Spartans

IMG_6216Hoffman invited MPP students to consider a wide range of opportunities for getting hands-on experience with the DNR during their course of studies, from writing a research paper for a class about a DNR-related topic to interning for a semester or summer with the agency. He said the skills MPP students are acquiring could be put to good use to help answer pressing questions about managing Michigan’s natural resources.
For example, one Spartan alum currently working at the DNR is using data analytics to try to improve the agency’s understanding of what motivates Michiganders to purchase fishing licenses and make use of state campgrounds and other recreational facilities.

He even pitched a potential capstone project topic to the students: “Michigan will be doing a lot of road repairs in the coming years,” he said. “How do we quantify the extraction of sand and gravel from state lands in Southeast Michigan for road construction? What role does DNR play in being a source of sand and gravel for road construction, and doing that in a way that’s respectful of the land they manage?”

MSU’s MPP program prides itself on providing students not only with academic training, but with opportunities to interact with people working in the field. To this end, Hoffman’s presentation was a great start to a school year that will also include presentations from a member of the Michigan House of Representatives, representatives of the Governor’s Executive Office and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and MSU alums working in international development and other fields.