Speaker Series: Paul Elam, Michigan Public Health Institute

Paul Elam, Chief Strategy Officer from the Michigan Public Health Institute, spoke and inspired MPP students on Thursday, September 13. Elam’s talk covered his career trajectory, advice for future policy makers and analysts, and his own interests, which center on criminal justice issues, public health, and juvenile justice. Elam advised students to focus on building meaningful relationships with mentors, as mentorship was very influential on his own career. Elam emphasized that when he entered Michigan State University in 1991, he did not dream of working in public policy. He did dream of making change, however, and this passion led him to earn degrees in criminal justice, criminology, family and child ecology, and urban studies from MSU.

Working with public policy has allowed Paul Elam to be a creative problem solver. His role with Public Policy Associates focused on using data driven evidence to advise clients on policy decisions through rigorous research and evaluation, insightful interpretation, strategic planning and consultation, technical assistance and training, and program management. 

Elam explained that public policy can be viewed as an intersection of working with academic theory, private or public sector practitioners, and community members. When working with a local community, it is key to have a community liaison who understands the cultural context and history, Elam advised. A key factor to successful, culturally responsive policy work is ensuring it offers a diversity of perspectives; Elam noted that he strives to always embed and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in his work. He encouraged MPP students to identify what they’re passionate about, as their interest will reflect in the quality of the work. Paul Elam also shared his opinion of the most important traits for public policy work: strong writing, the ability to work with diverse teams, critical thinking, and solid research skills. Elam encouraged the MPP students to work on these qualities and consider about the change they wish to see in the world.

The MPP Program thanks Paul Elam for generously sharing his time and knowledge.