You are here

Michigan State University’s top-rated political leadership program is kicking off its call for applications for the 2021 class of Fellows aspiring to public service.

Applications for the Michigan Political Leadership Program (MPLP) are now available online at They are due by an extended deadline of Friday, Oct. 2, 2020.  Applications can also be requested by calling MPLP Administrator Linda Cleary at 517-353-0891.

MPLP is seeking a diverse class of 24 MPLP Fellows from around the state. Each class actively recruits equal numbers of men and women, Republicans and Democrats, said Matt Grossmann, director of MSU’s Institute for Public Policy and Social Research where MPLP makes its home in MSU’s College of Social Science.

“MPLP is one of the nation’s outstanding bipartisan political leadership training programs,” said Grossmann, a nationally known political scientist. “We identify individuals from across the state committed to community service and bring them together to engage in a public policy and leadership curriculum.”

MPLP House incumbents from around the state win seats in this August primary. Now it's on to November. See the list.

Emerging leaders from around the state – from southeastern Michigan to West Michigan, northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula – should apply, he said. “MPLP’s diverse voices strengthen leadership at every level.”

MPLP was established in 1992 to help identify a broad segment of rising political leaders just as Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation limits on legislative terms took effect.

Since then, nearly 700 people from across the state have graduated from the 10-month certificate program. More than half have run for elected office or been appointed to serve in offices ranging from Michigan Secretary of State, to Michigan Legislature county executive, large city mayor, state board, school board and precinct delegate.

In November 2016, the last statewide election, MPLP graduates took six Michigan Senate seats and 11 in the state House of Representatives, won two university governing board positions, three judgeships and a dozen local races.

Each month during the program, MPLP Fellows embark on a weekend of specialized skill-building exercises and hands-on activities.

MPLP Fellows have engaged in in-person budget simulations, media training, corporate and nonprofit tours and personal leadership assessments. This year, in-person weekends have evolved into online sessions in response to the pandemic coronavirus.

MPLP Fellows are guided through the program by two of Michigan’s most experienced political leaders – former Republican Party Chair Susy Avery and former state House Democratic Floor Leader Steve Tobocman.

Fellows have come from all professions, trades and occupations, including lawyers, teachers, military veterans, new university graduates, legislative staff members, business owners, retail managers, sales, marketing, publicity and administrators.

“Our Fellows gain the expertise to tackle public policy issues as candidates for office, as government officials or as citizen activists, said Tobocman, managing partner at New Solutions Group, LLC and a national leader in immigrant economic development as founder and director of Global Detroit and the Welcoming Economies (WE Global) Network.

“We know, from careful research, that completing MPLP doubles Fellows’ chances of running for elected office and triples their chances of winning,” he said. “That is an incredible success story we are proud to share.” MPLP Fellows also gain experience that has propelled them into the highest levels of government, corporate and nonprofit management, he noted.

MPLP is actively seeking to identify, recruit and train the next generation of effective public officials, said Avery, a former executive in the administration of Gov. John Engler. She served as Executive Director of the Michigan Women’s Commission, Director of Travel and Tourism for the State of Michigan and Engler’s Director of Public Affairs.

“Steve Tobocman and I are happy to speak to any organization, any group of people or any individual personally about MPLP. We welcome the opportunity,” she said.

Candidates must submit an application, resume and be available for personal interview. They must be 21 years of age and not seeking elected office in their MPLP Fellowship year, Avery said.

“We also ask them to demonstrate an interest in running for public office, a desire to enhance leadership skills and take part in the political process, be dedicated to sound public policy, have experience in local community activities and electoral politics, and be willing to learn and explore different points of view.”

“Our goal is to build elected leaders capable of building bipartisan and solutions-oriented governing networks and committed to building pubic trust,” she added.

MPLP Fellows traditionally conclude the program with graduation in late winter. Due to the coronavirus, MPLP’s 2019 Fellows will celebrate graduation on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020 with homecoming and keynote speaker Larry Sabato, emmy-award winner, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and founder of Sabato’s Crystal Ball political forecasting newsletter.

Tickets, tables and sponsorships are available online at