Education and Human Resources

Cooley Law, Ford Museum expand ‘leadership’ ethics class

WMU Cooley student describes first semester of program as ‘life-changing.’

December 2, 2016
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Leadership in Crisis
The leadership class at the Ford Museum encourages students to not only study President Ford’s leadership style but also to put it into practice. Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

It’s official: More people in the community want to know and emulate how former President Gerald R. Ford made decisions.

A “Leadership in Times of Crisis” class was started in September by WMU Cooley Law School, Western Michigan University and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and held at the museum’s new DeVos Learning Center, 303 Pearl St. NW.

Now, program partners will add a second semester of classes on Ford’s leadership integrity. This time, the goal is to expand the course size from 13 to 20 members to include more people from the community, as well as four or five Cooley law students.

During the fall program, topics discussed included President Ford’s handling of the New York City bankruptcy and its relevance today; leadership lessons from the fall of Saigon and the Helsinki Accords; and Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon.

Victoria Vuletich, WMU Cooley legal ethics professor who serves as coordinator for the program, said there will be a few changes to the winter 2017 courses. They also will discuss the New York City bankruptcy and Ford’s pardon of Nixon and the Helsinki Accords but will drop the Vietnam component and instead focus on the human rights aspect of the accord.

“We will also be adding a fourth session, which is the search for common ground in a polarized society,” Vuletich said. “People will be practicing negotiation on how to find common ground when you disagree on the issues.

“It’s one thing to admire and study Ford and how he brought common ground, and it’s another to actually practice it.”

Barbara McGregor, Ford Museum education specialist, said she is pleased with how the first part of the program went and looks forward to its continuation.

“This class truly helps us fulfill our mission and President Ford’s vision for the museum,” McGregor said. “It’s a wonderful collaboration and good fit for all partners. We’re thrilled with it and have high expectations as we move forward.”

Vuletich said community members should consider participating in the course if they want to learn about how to make “calm” decisions with integrity instead of focusing on “partisan” politics.

“The whole goal of this class is there’s no partisan affiliation,” she said. “Calm voices and people who can bring resolution to conflict are needed now more than ever. If people want to be that calm voice and the uniter rather than the divider, they should see this as an opportunity to begin that process.”

WMU Cooley student Matt Levin said the fall course and what he has learned about Ford’s leadership skills during tough times has inspired him.

“I loved this class,” he said. “It really was a life-changing experience.  I found myself emotionally moved and inspired on several occasions.”

The class, which consists of four three- to four-hour sessions between January and March, is offered as a noncredit course for any individual. Students enrolled at WMU and WMU Cooley have the opportunity to earn credits toward completion of their various degrees. Participants who successfully complete the program receive a certificate from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum reflecting their participation.

Vuletich said the program, which will take a break for the summer, has a bright future at the museum’s DeVos Learning Center.

“What we like about the course is that it’s very engaging; it’s not passive,” she said. “It’s not a lecture. People are involved and discussing issues. It’s a search for finding common ground for moving forward.”

Those interested in participating in the winter 2017 session may contact Vuletich at WMU Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus, (616) 301-6800, ext. 6960 or

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