About Us

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The Work We Do

Our mission and current events in and around higher education have guided and focused our efforts through the years of our service to higher education and society.

These descriptions and exhibits will offer further insight into the unique structure and culture that surrounds our organization. We work through a wide range of partnerships and in the context of many funded grants and contracts to meet the demands of our mission. Our strategic focus changes with needs within our communities and society, but the underlying commitments expressed in our mission and the tools we use to approach our work have not changed.

In the period 2016-2018 we have adopted three specific areas on which we are directing our efforts:

Current Strategic Focus Areas 

  1. Secure access and improve support for undocumented students
  2. Change expectations held about leaders, leadership, and leadership development in higher education and society
  3. Assert and advocate for the public good contributions of higher education within a changing democratic society

Our work in each of these areas is described within labeled sections of this site, along with an elaboration on at least one program or activity that we believe offers a good example of what we are trying to do and how.  I hope you will visit other parts of our site and return from time to time as we provide other examples of the work we do.

Overall, the work we do is built on capacities and talents that have evolved as our staff and graduate students have grown and changed. Our relationship with the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education and the National Center for Institutional Diversity, indeed with collaborating faculty and students from across the University of Michigan, has influenced both our growth and our approach.

Examples of Our Work

  • We provide leadership in the sophisticated use of deliberative forums to frame and examine educational issues in the public sphere. Our designation by the Kettering Foundation as an affiliated Center for Public Life continues our longstanding focus the role of public dialogue in engaging various publics in a shared democratic process of learning together.
  • We produce highly respected research analyses used by policy makers to guide decisions. Based on a frequently cited report on federal, state and institutional policies related to undocumented student access, we published Recommendations for Admissions and Financial Aid Administrators on Working with Undocumented Students. This translational research, moving empirical findings into the field of practice offers one example of how we approach our work.
  • We do original investigations on issues that shape the ways colleges and universities relate to their communities. Recently, we studied Hope Village, talking with residents and looking for opportunities to bring greater growth and higher education levels to several neighborhoods on the edge of Detroit’s resurgence. This effort was funded by the Graham Institute at the University of Michigan as part of a research-focused effort to understand community perspective on educational needs. We have done similar work in the Brightmoor Area of Detroit, working with community leaders and several local funders.
  • We set the stage for large scale changes in student access policies by working through partnerships across higher education. Please take a moment to see our recent work on educational opportunity for immigrant and undocumented students by joining us on the National Forum’s uLEAD website. This web based utility was established with support from the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  • In August, 2017 we launched our first massive, open, on-line course (MOOC) that explores the theme of leadership for diversity, equity and inclusion. This effort, organized in partnership with Coursera and the Office of Academic Innovations at UM has already attracted thousands of participants from the United States and around the world.

Our Outcome Goals

The work of the National Forum is less about process and more about impact. It is our goal to increase awareness, understanding, commitment, and action relative to the public services role of higher education. Please join us in our work!