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.

Upcoming Events

Past Events

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 that 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. 

Anthony Foxx, 17th United States Department of Transportation Secretary, 2013-2017


  • License to Drive–How Legal Structures Impact Mobility
  • Getting to Work and School–Barriers to Meeting Basic Mobility Needs
  • The Future of Transportation–Engineering Systems to Enhance Equity
  • Transportation Security–Measurement Tools to Understand Needs
  • Accessibility Across County Lines–Regional Approaches to Transportation Barriers

Breakout Session on Getting to Work and School: Barriers to Meeting Basic Mobility Needs, with professor Joe Grengs, Teresa Gillotti, Kristin Blagg, and Ryan Buck. Moderated by Joshua Rivera.

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)

See the Full Agenda.


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

Poverty Simulation, October 6, 2017

Poverty Solutions partnered with U-M Dearborn’s Office of Metropolitan Impact and Office of Student Success to host a poverty simulation open to all students. Developed by the Missouri Community Action Network, the poverty simulation is a robust pedagogical tool meant to give students an idea of the challenges families in poverty face daily. It is designed to give participants specific realistic barriers associated with poverty including: feeding your family, paying your bills, finding employment, and navigating many more challenges. The goal is to have students reflect and learn ways to take action, promote justice, and be an ally to those living in a real state of poverty.

The event had 80 students participate from across the schools and colleges, including LSA, the Ford School of Public Policy, the School for Environment and Sustainability, and more.The volunteers filling the roles of social service organizations came from community organizations such as the Community Action Network of Washtenaw County, The Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, Food Gatherers and the Ypsilanti Health Center. Read the FAQ.

Students and faculty participate in a simulation to experience poverty and it’s effects following the lecture “Place, Poverty, and Opportunity in America”, presented by Prof. Scott Allard.

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 Jemison, the 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