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Updated 10:00 AM April 20, 2009

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Ford School student jumps at as many of life's opportunities
as she can

Related story:
Six outstanding seniors share stories of their U-M careers >

Elle Beard is one of those people who jumps at every opportunity, whether it's for recreation or school.

Last April, during a Switzerland trip, Beard agreed to a last-minute skydive, which she says left her terrified and exhilarated as she went hurtling toward Earth.
Among the first class to receive a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy will be Elle Beard. (Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Back on the ground, she attended as many extra lectures as possible in college, networked with professionals and U-M alumni, and enrolled in the new Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy's undergraduate program.

"I took advantage of every opportunity that I came across," says Beard, 22, of Deerfield, Ill. "That is how I ended up with such wonderful and beneficial experiences."

Beard's U-M experience culminates in May, as she and 53 undergraduates become the first class to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy. Beard, who leaves the university with a 3.67 grade point average, is interested in globalization and international cooperation.

"Studying how countries can cooperate to solve the economic and social implications that are involved seemed like the best field for me," she says.

She saw firsthand that cooperation during a trip to Ghana, where a small hospital received contributions from the First Presbyterian Church of Deerfield to buy equipment and supplies.

"Money doesn't make the problems just go away," she says, pointing to the Ghana's high rates of death, malaria and poverty. "Seeing a foreign agent like the U.S. help a country is only part of the solution. We have to work with a community to make improvements."

Ford School faculty members have been impressed with Beard, especially her insightfully written policies.

"The clarity, depth and sophistication of Ms. Beard's oral presentation as well as her written analysis showed she has the skills and motivation to be a success in the world of policy analysis," says Robert Axelrod, a professor of political science and public policy.

Joe Schwarz, a lecturer, describes Beard as a "superb student, interested in everything and a valuable and enthusiastic contributor to class discussion.

"She has a bright future in the policy arena," says Schwarz, a former Michigan senator and U.S. congressman.

Beard will take the GMAT and Foreign Service Exam before relocating to Washington, D.C., where she hopes to find a job.

"It's scary to not have anything definite planned in Washington D.C., but I have faith in my abilities," she says.

As that person who jumps at any opportunity, perhaps Beard's leap of faith isn't surprising.

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