New U-M course brings political leaders to campus to find common ground, real world solutions

October 11, 2017

ANN ARBOR—Can Republicans and Democrats agree on anything at all? That’s one of the questions being explored in a new undergraduate course at the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

“Beyond Partisanship,” the brainchild of political scientist Arthur Lupia, aims to find common ground on issues that matter to most Americans and collaborate to find workable solutions to those problems.

Lupia was recently given the U-M President’s Award for Public Impact, which honors individuals who have offered their academic research and expertise in tangible service of a major public sector challenge.

“The aim is to find issues on which 70 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats agree,” Lupia said. “We want to identify those problems, as well as real solutions, in both the private and public sectors, and bring them to the table.”

The goal, he says, is to go beyond typical party divides to improve the lives of all Americans.

To do that, the course will bring high-profile leaders to campus to inspire students, share lessons and answer questions about leadership in the public sphere.

Leaders include:

  • U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), who will discuss the opioid crisis.
  • GOP strategist and former Mitt Romney campaign manager Beth Myers, who will focus on homelessness and housing security.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.), who will speak about how to inspire commitment to public service.
  • Craig Ruff and Bill Rustem of Public Sector Consultants, a public policy firm, who have come together from opposite ends of the political spectrum to work together under Gov. Snyder to tackle issues important to the state of Michigan.

Together, these leaders and students in the class will work in conversational, closed-door sessions to identify ways to improve quality of life for vulnerable populations across Michigan and the nation. The emphasis will be to identify tangible solutions that could be executed in either the public or private spheres.

“Our charge as a public institution is to serve all the people of Michigan,” said LSA Dean Andrew Martin. “This is an ideal state to seek shared solutions, with our rich mix of political perspectives, urban and rural populations, and challenges that unify us all.”

At the end of the semester, students are expected to produce reports on these issues and solutions. This content will be shared with the general public, with the goal of taking concrete action.

The speakers were invited based on their long experience and effectiveness as public servants, and on their ability to reach across party lines to find creative solutions to critical problems that matter to students and the state.

The course is the cornerstone of a new university effort called the Michigan Initiative for Shared Values, which aims to uncover issues important to most Americans regardless of political affiliation and work together to create workable solutions through community engagement.


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