Published: Nov. 11, 2008

MSU’s Michigan Policy Network aims to keep residents better informed

Contact(s): Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949, Matt Grossmann Institute for Public Policy and Social Research; Political Science office: (517) 355-6672

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Hoping to help Michigan residents become better informed about key policy issues such as education, taxes and urban affairs, a group of Michigan State University students will launch a unique online resource today called the Michigan Policy Network.


The network, at, will follow what policymakers do now that the Nov. 4 elections are over, providing background information and news reporting on major laws and proposals in 10 key categories.


Under “energy and environment,” for example, there’s a briefing on a new law that gives tax breaks to those who make energy-efficient home improvements. And the “health care” category includes a rundown of the latest effort to ban workplace smoking.


The nonpartisan network is run by 10 MSU undergraduate students under the guidance of both campus advisers and mentors from the policy community. It’s the brainchild of Matt Grossmann, assistant professor of political science, who said many citizens are frustrated by the lack of in-depth policy information that doesn’t push an agenda.


“Teachers might be interested in education and nurses might be interested in health care, for example, but they can’t typically get what they want from the mainstream media and they don’t want to sift through state policy research and government documents,” said Grossmann, director of the network. Joining him as co-chairs are assistant professors Dan Bergan and Mark Axelrod.


Grossmann said he and other faculty members interested in public policy can use the network in their research. “This will provide documentation over several legislative sessions on who was involved, what happened and how decisions were made,” he said.


Participating students – who were chosen through an application and interview process – will have the opportunity to build relationships with policymakers and develop knowledge and skills that will help them in the job market.


Erica Leigh Weiss, a senior from Swartz Creek who’s majoring in interdisciplinary studies of law and society, covers K-12 education for the network. She has researched lobbying groups, bills, proposals and academic policy articles on issues ranging from education funding to the impact of charter schools on the public school system.


“I’ve steadily become a more efficient researcher and more aware of the critical debates in education,” said Weiss, who plans on attending law school. “I also believe the research and writing skills I’m developing in the Michigan Policy Network will greatly benefit my future.”