Skip to main content
U-M Poverty Solutions Logo U-M Poverty Solutions Logo

Engagement Series

The Poverty Solutions Engagement Series tackles poverty-related topics by bringing faculty, students, and communities together to explore ideas, strategies, and potential solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Learn more and view our past events.



Work Force: Solving for Jobs, Mobility, & Poverty in an Era of Rapid Change
March 26, 2019

Rates of upward economic mobility have fallen since the mid-20th century. More and more children are growing up to earn less than their parents, and the lack of opportunity is exacerbated by rising inequality, increased wage disparities, and limitations within our education system. This event explored the future of work and the workforce. It examined the issue from multiple viewpoints, including the private sector and public sector, and encouraged participants to explore what the future looks like and how we can promote equity and economic mobility as the nature of work changes.

How Workforce Works: Participant Perspectives

Shamar Herron, deputy director of Michigan Works! Southeast, leads a discussion with providers and participants on the front lines of workforce development about what works and what doesn’t. Panelists included Jonathan Gonzalez, Arielle Johnson, Coy Mosley, and Beulah Walker.

Rising to the Occasion: Public & Private Sector Roles

Jeff Donofrio, then executive director of Workforce Development for the City of Detroit, leads a discussion about current workforce development strategies and future directions of work and Michigan’s workforce. Panelists included Jim Jacobs, president emeritus of Macomb Community College; Jeannine LaPrad, senior fellow at Corporation for a Skilled Workforce; and Sharon Miller, a certified change management profession and Michigan talent architect at Consumers Energy HR/Learning and Development.

Greg Foran, President & CEO of Walmart US
I have come to believe our country is best seen not on a spreadsheet, or understood in averages, but as a collection of neighborhoods.

The Road Out of Poverty: A Transportation and Economic Mobility Symposium
March 15, 2018

The relationship between transportation and economic mobility seems obvious: if people can’t get where they need to go – whether it’s school, work, healthcare, or an office for social services – they’ll be worse off. Indeed, evidence corroborates this claim, suggesting a strong link between economic mobility and transportation. Investments in housing do not affect employment unless coupled with access to transportation, as demonstrated by the evaluation of the Moving to Opportunity Program. In a study by the Rudin Center for Transportation, researchers found areas with the least access to public transportation also had the lowest incomes and highest rates of unemployment.

This symposium drew from Poverty Solutions’ interdisciplinary approach to solving deeply entrenched social problems. We included voices tackling rural, suburban, and urban challenges as well as the local, state, and federal levels of government.

Getting to Work and School: Barriers to Meeting Basic Mobility Needs

Our breakout sessions featured a multidisciplinary set of scholars and practitioners tackling rural, suburban, and urban challenges, as well as the local, state, and federal government approaches. Learn more about each panel discussion in this briefing (PDF)

Pictured here: Professor Joe Grengs, Teresa Gillotti, Kristin Blagg, and Ryan Buck. Moderated by Joshua Rivera.

Improving Access to Transportation

Panelist and professor Tierra Bills from Michigan Engineering examines how transportation could help alleviate poverty in Benton Harbor. Read the story and watch the video.

Anthony Foxx, 17th United States Department of Transportation Secretary, 2013-2017
We have to understand that when we build transportation systems, we are actually building communities.

Making Housing More Affordable
April 7, 2017

The first Poverty Solutions Engagement Series session, Making Housing More Affordable, took place on April 7, 2017, at the U-M School of Social Work. It featured keynote speaker, Arthur Jemisonthe director of housing and revitalization for the City of Detroit and interactive breakout sessions led by faculty and community experts discussing a variety of approaches to providing more affordable housing.

The event included breakout sessions (PDF) where attendees tackled issues related to affordable housing, including, homelessness in Washtenaw County, property tax exemption, and supportive services for low-income housing.

Keynote Address

Arthur Jemison, former executive director for planning, housing and development at the City of Detroit and now Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Community Planning & Development at U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development delivered the keynote address.