Matt Grossmann Talks Taking over from Doug Roberts at MSU

By Susan J.  Demas

Last year, IMP sat down with former state Treasurer Doug Roberts as he prepared to leave his job leading Michigan State University’s acclaimed Institute for Public Policy and Social Research (IPPSR), which also is home to Michigan’s Political Leadership Program (MPLP). We even ran some of the interview in a bonus story online.

We’ve now had a chance to talk with IPPSR’s new director, political science Professor Matt Grossmann. In March, he shared his insights about Michigan’s presidential primary and the rollicking race. We’ll have more in our upcoming May 9, 2016, edition of IMP.

While you’re waiting, here are a few more questions with Grossmann about the IPPSR transition:

IMP: What has been the most surprising part of taking over the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research?

Grossmann: Doug Roberts did a great job of integrating with the state [of Michigan] and we have a lot of friends in a lot of places, and that is very useful to come into. I guess it’s not necessarily that big of a surprise, but there’s a lot of untapped resources on campus that IPPSR had not been traditionally trying to tap. So the other surprise is then just how many people say ‘yes’ if you ask them to do something that is not their main job –– it’s something they might be interested in doing like outreach activities or relations with state government. There are a lot of people on campus who are willing to do that; they just haven’t had the opportunity to do so.

IMP: So Doug was able to bring some of his experience in working in state government for so long and all the contacts he had there and outside in the business world. You’re of Michigan State, so you can bring people from within the university?

Grossmann: Absolutely, yeah. And I think that’s what the university would say, that they want to get more people involved in campus and more connected with faculty. But the nice surprise has been that those people, even though Doug is responsible for creating this large network, they’re still nice to me. [Laughs]. And I’ve been able, to a surprising degree, be able to inherit that good set of relationships that IPPSR already has.

IMP: What was the best piece of advice that Doug gave you before taking over?

Grossmann: [Laughs]. Some of this might be a little inside baseball, but we just have a unique structure. We have a big survey research office; we have State of the State survey, which is connected to [IPPSR], but runs independently; MPLP [Michigan Political Leadership Program], which runs independently and we have two co-chairs [Steve Tobocman and Anne Mervenne] who are not in the office. So it’s a big operation in total, but a lot of things are disconnected from others. So I think the main advice was you just have a lot of hats and watch over a lot of different things, but a lot of things are successfully running independently. So I think that was useful.

The Michigan Political Leadership Program, I already talked to the group. I talked at graduation. They asked for some specific help on a few things that are, I guess, more professor-type. Obviously, if I had no role in it, it would still be running fine. So that’s a very nice part of it.