Professor Michelle Miller-Adams

Michelle Miller-Adams

Fields: international relations, U.S. social policy, economic and community development

[email protected]
Twitter: @mmilleradams
(616) 331-2864 / (269) 501-2453 (cell)

Ph.D., Political Science, Columbia University
Masters of International Affairs, School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University 
B.A., History, University of California, Santa Barbara 

Courses Taught

PLS 301 - Poverty, Inequality, and U.S. Public Policy

PLS 495 - Seminar in Political Science (capstone)

IR 495 Seminar in International Relations (capstone)

Teaching Awards
Pew Teaching Excellence Award, Grand Valley State University

Books and Recent Reports

The Free College Handbook: A Practitioner’s Guide to Promise Research (co-editor with Jennifer Iriti), W.E. Upjohn Institute, December 2022

Bridging Research and Practice to Achieve Community Prosperity (with co-authors), W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, November 2022

The Path to Free College: In Pursuit of Access, Equity, and Prosperity, Harvard Education Press, 2021

Promise Nation: Transforming Communities Through Place-Based Scholarships, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, WE Focus series, 2015

The Power of a Promise: Education and Economic Renewal in Kalamazoo, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2009

Owning Up: Poverty, Assets, and the American DreamBrookings Institution Press, 2002

The World Bank: New Agendas in a Changing WorldRoutledge, 1999

Promise Programs Database.  Co-developed with Brad Hershbein and Bridget Timmeney. W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. 2017 (updated 2022).

A Moment of Opportunity: Strategies for Inclusive Economic Growth" (with co-authors), W.E. Upjohn Institute, August 2021”

“Investing in Community: A Playbook for Connecting Economic and Skills Development” (with co-authors), W.E. Upjohn Institute, June 2020.

“Building Shared Prosperity: How Communities Can Create Good Jobs for All” (with co-authors), W.E. Upjohn Institute, March 2019 

“Understanding the Philanthropic Character of Communities: Insights from Two West Michigan Communities,” Report co-authored with Grace Denny, Teri Behrens, and Michael Moody, Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy, 2017

Recent Op-Eds

Michigan college scholarships are good. We can still do better,” Bridge, October 10, 2022

5 Ways to Get Human-Infrastructure Initiatives Right” (with Kathleen Bolter), Governing: The Future of States and Localities, October 13, 2021

“Free College? Why Wait for the Feds?” (with Brad Hershbein), Governing: The Future of States and Localities, June 14, 2021

“Michigan is offering free college for essential workers. The rest of the country should follow suit” (with Max Lubin), Business Insider, March 22, 2021

“COVID-19 recovery is the time for free college” (with John C. Austin), The Hill, February 11, 2021

“If free college is the goal, start with community college,” Politico, February 4, 2021

“The best medicine for a COVID-19 economy? More education and training” (with John C. Austin), The Hill, October 2, 2020.

“We Need Tuition-Free College. For Adults,” New York Times op-ed, May 14, 2020

“Tuition-free college plan is smart investment in Michigan’s future,” Bridge, May 1, 2020

“What the Free College Movement Can Learn from Kalamazoo,” Washington Monthly, August 23, 2019

Background and Interests

I have been on the Political Science faculty of Grand Valley State University since 2006,
currently teaching courses in U.S. social policy, as well as the capstone seminars for Political
Science and International Relations majors. I have had the privilege of participating in faculty
exchange programs to Perugia, Italy, and Debrecen, Hungary, and was honored to receive a Pew
Teaching Excellence Award in 2012. As a recipient of the Dr. Russell G. Mawby Fellowship in
Philanthropic Studies for two successive years, I collaborated with faculty and staff of GVSU's
Johnson Center for Philanthropy on a study of the philanthropic cultures of Grand Rapids and
In addition to my teaching position at GVSU, I am a senior researcher at the W.E. Upjohn
Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, where I co-direct the institute’s place-based
research initiative. I write about the free-college movement and consult with communities
interested in implementing place-based scholarship programs. I have served on the planning
committee for ten Promisenet conferences and have been co-director of a Lumina Foundation
project to study the post-secondary and community outcomes of Promise scholarship programs
and a Strada Education Network grant to study the workforce outcomes of such programs. I am
co-editor of the Kresge Foundation-funded Free College Handbook and currently serve on the
board of the Campaign for Free College Tuition.
A native of Los Angeles, I live in Kalamazoo with my daughter and dog. My hobbies include
piano, Zumba, cycling, skiing, and quilting.



Page last modified August 28, 2023