Rebecca Blank, dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, has announced that she will relinquish her post at the end of the academic year.
Blank guided the Ford School through the challenges of the past eight years, including the fundraising for and construction of the school’s new home, Joan and Sanford Weill Hall. The building opened its doors in August.
Blank will officially step down on July 31. She plans to spend a year on sabbatical and then return to the Ford School as a faculty member, where she will pursue other endeavors like research projects.
But Blank said she is keeping an open mind about her future.
“I admit that I am thinking about other options as well, and if the right thing comes along that takes me away from Michigan, I will pursue it,” she said in an e-mail to Ford School faculty on Tuesday. “But I want to organize my life with the assumption I will be returning to the faculty.”
In the e-mail, Blank said that this was an opportune time for her resignation because this is a transition year for the Ford School. She said it’s time for a new dean to develop a strategy for the school’s next five to 10 years.
Throughout her eight-year tenure, Blank helped usher in many changes at the Ford School. In addition to overseeing its relocation to Weill Hall, she has also worked to create a new Bachelor of Arts program in public policy. The school is currently considering its first ever batch of applications.
Students apply for the BA program, which admits 50 students per year, during their sophomore year. If they are admitted, they spend their remaining two years in the Ford School.
“We really – literally – built the Ford School,” she said. “We were responsible for raising the money, constructing the building, getting the right students and faculty and putting the undergraduate program together.”
Paul Courant, a former University provost who is now a professor in the Ford School, expressed his praised Blank’s tenure.
“She is a terrific dean,” Courant said. “She built the school up from where it was, oversaw fundraising for the new building and worked out the new undergraduate program. We’re a much better school now than when she took the job.”
As she prepares for her exit, Blank said she would like to see the Ford School continue to improve on the quality of its education and expand the range of courses it offers. She said she has been honored and delighted to serve as the dean.
“I came to Michigan looking forward to this job, but did not anticipate how much I would enjoy this work and how deeply attached I would become to the Ford School and the UM community,” she wrote in the e-mail to faculty.
The University has begun the search for her replacement.