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Director's Letter

By Shobita Parthasarathy

As we begin a new academic year, there are a lot of challenges and uncertainty still ahead. Here in the STPP program, we are doing what we can to move the needle in a positive direction. In May we released the second report from our Technology Assessment Project (TAP), In Communities We Trust: Institutional Failures and Sustained Solutions for Vaccine Hesitancy. The report identifies less widely recognized causes of vaccine hesitancy, and recommends solutions. This summer the TAP received a generous grant from the Sloan Foundation to study large language models, a type of machine learning that works with very large text-based data sets. Look for our report in the winter!

STPP is also starting to expand! We are in the midst of a search for a new faculty member with a focus on structural racism in technology, as part of the University of Michigan’s Anti-Racism Faculty Hiring Initiative. The new hire will be part of a cluster of three faculty members, who will be appointed in the School of Information, Ford School of Public Policy, and the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, helping to build an emerging interdisciplinary field of research that focuses on structural racism produced and reproduced by information technology, design, and technology policies, with the potential to build a new generation of emancipatory technologies. We also expect to be hiring new staff soon; keep an eye on our Twitter feed to see the announcement!

Earlier this month we launched an all new website. STPP is growing rapidly in all directions, and we are so excited to have a flexible website that can grow with us, especially one that beautifully showcases everything we do across research, education, and public engagement. 

Our fall events will continue to be virtual and easy to attend from anywhere, on topics from environmental justice to international health policy. We hope you’ll join us! 

Visit the new STPP website!

New Technology Assessment Project Report

In May we released the latest report from our Technology Assessment Project, In Communities We Trust: Institutional Failures and Sustained Solutions for Vaccine Hesitancy. Contrary to popular belief, not all vaccine hesitancy is the same. Nor is it simply the result of ignorance or antipathy towards science. The report highlights two main causes of public mistrust: limitations and failures in scientific and technical institutions, and institutionalized mistreatment of marginalized communities. 

Spotlight on STPP Community members

This month we are highlighting two STPP alumni who also serve as a part of our STPP Alumni Board. Ford School senior media and outreach strategist Daniel Rivkin interviewed Dr. Esha Mathew and Michelle Brechtelsbauer. Below are excerpts from the interviews; visit our website to read the full conversations with Esha and Michelle

Esha Mathew 

Photo of Johanna OkerlundWhat did the path to your current role look like?

I used various fellowships to take lessons learned in STPP classrooms to practice. The first was the California Council on Science and Technology, where I worked in the CA State Legislature. From California, I then was a AAAS Science and Technology (S&T) Policy Fellow at the Department of Defense, in an office focused on basic research investments and policy. The collective lessons learned – about S&T policy and myself – led me to the Department of State. 

What did the path to your current role look like?

My work currently sits at the interface of S&T and diplomacy. The day to day can vary quite a lot, but in a nutshell, we work to enhance useful, productive, and good faith S&T engagement around the world. This entails close work with partners throughout the U.S. government and with colleagues in other governments.  


Michelle Brechtelsbauer


Photo of Melvin Washington IIHow did STPP help you in achieving your academic and professional goals?

I was in a chemical engineering PhD program at MIT and then caught the policy bug. I really thrived in that kind of environment of working with your classmates, getting at a problem that’s not just technical, but also political, social, and cultural. I had the opportunity to work at the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) at the White House before I came to the Ford School. I learned that I love this area and also that I didn’t know what I needed to know, and I needed professional training. So going to the Ford School and continuing to have that focus on science and technology policy was exactly what I was looking for. It was a way that through my policy curriculum, I was also focusing on the topic areas that were most important for me to explore. I was coming from OSTP, where you essentially need a lot of science and technology breadth, not necessarily a lot of depth, so it was really important for me to use the STPP program to get broad exposure to a lot of different scientific areas and understand how policy applied to the scientific areas.

My internship was at Science and Technology Policy Institute (STPI), the Congressionally-mandated federally-funded research and development center that supports OSTP, DoE, NIH, and others. And then I went back and worked there for four more years. STPI acts as the institutional memory between administrations, and supplies the actual workforce -- doing the research, doing the surveys, writing reports, drafting executive orders, and then giving that body of work to the sponsors at OSTP who then implement and act upon the recommendations and do the actual policy coordination.


STPP Affiliate Tony Reames Appointed to the DOE

The Biden Administration has appointed STPPPhoto of Tony Reames faculty affiliate Dr. Tony Reames, assistant professor at the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS), as a Senior Advisor to the Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. In this role, Reames will be responsible for energy justice policy and analysis to ensure energy investments and benefits reach frontline communities and Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.

A Conversation on Environmental and Climate Justice


Jacqueline Patterson, Senior Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program

in conversation with

Kyle Whyte, School of Environment and Sustainability, & STPP Faculty Affiliate, University of Michigan.

Monday, September 27th, 2021 
4:00pm - 5:00pm ET
Virtual Event

More information and registration

A Conversation on Health Justice


Fatima Hassan, human rights lawyer, social justice activist and the founder of the Health Justice Institute

in conversation with

Shobita Parthasarathy, STPP Director and Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan

Time and date TBD
Virtual Event

More information and registration

New STPP affiliate on Reimagining Nuclear Engineering

STPP faculty affiliate Denia Djokić, Researcher in Energy, Equity, and Society at the Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences Department, recently co-authored an article about the social, ethical, and public trust challenges facing the future of nuclear energy. The article argues that in order to bridge the pro-nuclear/anti-nuclear divide, the field of nuclear engineering must reexamine its intellectual and ethical foundations and commitments.

Keep In Touch with STPP

As always, we want to hear from you! We want to hear your professional and life updates. You can find us on Twitter and LinkedIn, or email us at

Our mailing address is:
Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
University of Michigan
735 South State Street | Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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University of Michigan Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program · 735 S State St · 4204 Weill Hall · Ann Arbor, MI 48109-3091 · USA

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