Mar 10, 2008

Molding future leaders in Michigan

LIVONIA –- Whatever happens with Michigan's presidential primary, there's another primary just five months away in August. It's the one for candidates for everything from mayors and county commissioners to the state House and the U.S. House.

It will be a pretty good bet that many of these candidates will be alumni from the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) at Michigan State University (MSU), part of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), a nonpartisan public policy network at MSU dedicated to connecting legislators, scholars and practitioners through survey, evaluation and applied research, policy forums and political leadership briefings.

Once a month from February through November, 24 diverse individuals from the entire political spectrum meet on Friday evenings and all day Saturday for an intensive course that will equip them to be the state’s and country's future leaders, including hands-on training developing personal skills, such as public speaking and team leadership. Past alumni of the annual program that began in 1992 includes House Minority Leader Craig DeRoche, R-Novi; Rep. Ed Clemente, D-Lincoln Park; Detroit City Council President Kenneth Cockrel, Jr.; Macomb County Sheriff Mark Hackel: Rep. Robert Dean, D-Grand Rapids; and Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland.

The program is open to Michigan residents who are committed to public service and are interested in running for public office. Applications are available in May and due in August. To be selected as a program fellow, the applicant must submit two letters of recommendation, two essay statements and employer support and approval.

The course is free to attendees, and each scholarship is valued at over $12,000. It covers course materials, overnight lodging and meals. Only travel expenses and some parking fees are the responsibility of the participant. The cost of the program is covered by MSU, the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. There are also various fundraisers held throughout the year that alumni are encouraged to attend, such as the 13th annual fundraising dinner held Thursday that featured former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro and Weekly Standard editor and conservative pundit Bill Kristol.

“I wish I had something like the Michigan Political Leadership Program when I first ran for public office,” Ferraro said. “It was a very tough race in a conservative district.”

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