Safiya Merchant is a former journalist and communications professional focused on enhancing equity in K-12 education and improving mental health resources for families. Originally from Chicago, Safiya graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in journalism. She previously worked as a government, crime and education reporter at the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs, and as a K-12 and higher education reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer in West Michigan. At the Enquirer, she reported on school district consolidations, funding challenges and educational equity. Most recently, she worked as the senior staff writer for The University Record, the University of Michigan's newspaper for faculty and staff. In that role, Safiya collaborated with several schools and departments to produce stories about university news, efforts to enhance diversity and inclusion on campus, and the impact of faculty and staff community engagement and scholarship. Safiya serves on the Millennial Board of Ann Arbor's Ozone House, and is a volunteer for SafeHouse Center.
An Ypsilanti native, Alyshia Dyer is pursuing dual master’s degrees in social work and public policy at the University of Michigan. She received her bachelor’s degree in criminology from Eastern Michigan University. Dyer previously served as a deputy sheriff for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, where she focused on youth-related crime in Ypsilanti as a youth resource officer. In this role, she used community policing and family engagement strategies to deter youth crime. At the Sheriff’s Office, Dyer helped implement Washtenaw County’s Handle with Care initiative, which aims to promote communication between law enforcement and schools to help children impacted by trauma. She also assisted with S.U.R.E. (Sisters, United, Resilient, Empowered), a support group created by Florence Roberson and the Sherriff’s Office to empower mothers with children in the criminal justice system. Dyer is interested in restorative justice, poverty mitigation, criminal justice and police reform, and developing the resiliency of youth in the juvenile justice system. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, improv, reading, discovering new podcasts, and listening to music.
Kevin Naud grew up in Ann Arbor and is excited to return to Michigan after spending five years in Washington, DC. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from Denison University in 2014, and was also a member of Denison’s swim and dive team. After graduation, Kevin moved to Washington, DC, to intern with a U.S. Senator from Michigan. He then spent over four years doing policy analysis with the National Association of State Workforce Agencies, focusing on workforce development programs and labor market research. Kevin is particularly interested in studying how education and employment programs can alleviate poverty and expand economic opportunity.
Nick Najor, a graduate of Michigan State University, departed East Lansing in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Urban & Regional Planning. In the years since, he served as both an AmeriCorps member with City Year Detroit and as a Challenge Detroit fellow with DTE Energy. He has also worked at the Detroit Land Bank Authority as a project manager for the Rehabbed & Ready program. Nick enjoys pick-up basketball and is passionate about a wide range of policy topics, including local skilled trades’ workforce development.
Eric Hanss is a transportation planner and policy maker focused on equitable investments in transportation networks and the built environment that promote community- and individual-level prosperity. Prior to graduate studies at the Ford School, he served as an embedded consultant within the Chicago Department of Transportation, delivering policies and projects to meet citywide performance targets to eliminate fatalities from traffic crashes, reduce dependency on private vehicles, and improve health .outcomes in communities of need. Eric is service-driven and committed to work in local government, having witnessed first-hand how cities drive policy innovation. Beyond urban transportation planning, Eric’s policy interest areas include poverty and inequality, public management, and open government.
Jonatan Martinez, a Detroit native, has been working as a program manager at Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies for the past three years. His work has focused on developing and implementing programs that work on the mitigation of lead poisoning and asthma within Detroit. He is also involved in environmental justice efforts as a Clean Air Council fellow and intern at the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. Jonatan attended Michigan State University, where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology. Prior to his time at Wayne State, his work focused on the evolution of spatial cognition and cognitive genomics within Michigan State's Department of Integrative Biology. In his spare time, Jonatan enjoys biking, hiking, and dancing.
Lindsey Barrett is an elementary educator with experience in education and urban policy. Prior to joining the Ford School, she spent four years teaching in her hometown, Detroit, at the Henry Ford Academy Elementary School. While teaching, Barrett served as an Educator Voice Fellow, learning how Michigan’s education policies are formed, building her advocacy and leadership skills, and sharing her expertise with city and state education policy leaders.
Matthew Dobson is a software engineer with an interest in information technology policy. He spent five years in Detroit’s tech sector, where he co-organized events that brought the city’s technology community together to build better solutions for government and nonprofit organizations. He helped establish a Detroit office for the Silicon Valley-based firm Apigee, and promoted the firm’s solutions to large business and government agencies.
Anna Zinkel is an economic development professional with an interest in education workforce development policy. She has spent the last two-and-a-half years as a business development manager with Ann Arbor Spark, a regional economic development organization. Prior to that, she worked on the political campaigns of a U.S. Senator and Michigan State Representative, and worked as a constituent relations director for a Michigan legislator. She currently serves on the Washtenaw Community College Foundation Board, where she focuses on making public education more affordable and accessible.
Abess Makki, a first-generation high school and college graduate whose family hails from Sierra Leone, earned his bachelor’s in nutrition and food science at Wayne State University in 2014. Since graduation, he participated in the Summer Venture and Management Program at Harvard Business School and in a TechTown Detroit business incubation program for college students and recent graduates aspiring to launch technology startups. He is founder and CEO of CityInsight, LLC, which builds agile mobile applications for municipal governments to better communicate with their constituents and streamline their own operations. CityInsight’s first product, CityWater™, empowers residents of Detroit to track their water usage on a daily basis. As a student at Wayne State, he was president and co-founder of the National Student Water Association, which built a gravity water system for 100 homes in El Retiro, Honduras. His policy areas of interest include social entrepreneurism and information and technology management.
Mary Naoum is pursuing a dual-master’s degree in social work and public policy at the University of Michigan. As an undergraduate at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Mary focused her studies on arts for social change, dedicating her time to community arts empowerment initiatives in Detroit and facilitating arts workshops in various youth and adult detention centers in southeast Michigan. Before starting her graduate studies, she served as the southeast Michigan outreach coordinator for the Citizen’s Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending, coordinating educational events in Detroit and surrounding communities. As a social work intern for State Representative Stephanie Chang’s (a former Bohnett Fellow) district service center, Mary developed and facilitated a political leadership program to inspire high school girls of color to pursue careers in civic engagement and public office. Her professional interests include youth development, criminal justice reform, and policymaking for equitable community development.
Mariah Van Ermen earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in international studies and Spanish, with a focus on global environment and health. After graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps member at the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago. She worked to foster healthy food environments by coordinating nutrition education, healthy food access, and food waste reduction efforts for the Chicago public school system. Since 2014, she has worked as a wellness policy specialist at the third largest school district in the nation, Chicago Public Schools. For Chicago's nearly 400,000 public school students, Mariah developed and launched the district's Farm to School program, established two school-based farmers markets, increased summer meal participation, and coordinated accountability for district-wide student health and wellness policies. She has also served as a consultant with FarmLogix, winning a USDA grant to promote local food system technology. Her policy areas of interest include ethical food systems, sustainable food production methods, and urban agriculture. She looks forward to embracing her Michigan roots and learning from the people and city of Detroit.
From 2010 to 2011, Michael Auerbach served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. While there, he compiled demographic data and established professional partnerships to launch a mobile farmer's market program, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. He developed and implemented an agency-wide volunteer recruitment program, assisted with a number of grant applications for educational and supportive housing services, and provided horticultural support for more than 60 community gardens. Since 2012, Auerbach has worked with Detroit’s Gleaners Community Food Bank, where he has assisted with food drive coordination and the implementation of the USDA Summer Food Service Program. Michael Auerbach is a 2009 graduate of the College of Wooster, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in urban studies. At the University of Michigan, he is pursuing a dual master’s degree in public policy and urban planning.
Luz Meza immigrated to Detroit at the age of 13 and quickly became an active and engaged volunteer in political campaigns, city revitalization efforts, and the local immigration reform movement. In 2013, she earned her undergraduate degree in economics and international studies at the University of Michigan. During college, she served as a founding member of the Coalition for Tuition Equality, a member of Detroit’s youth-led immigrant rights group, a member of the University’s task force on undocumented students, and a leader in the successful movement for in-state tuition for undocumented students at U-M. Meza is now serving as a Teach for America Fellow and bilingual educator in Dallas, Texas and will matriculate at the Ford School in the fall of 2015 to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. Her hope is to expand the influence of Latino communities in policymaking circles. The goal: to positively impact the social, civic, and economic wellbeing of minorities in the United States.
Megan Bogaerts earned her bachelor’s degree summa cum laude in history and English from the University of Illinois in 2006. After graduation, she completed internships with the Office of U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin and an architectural planning and preservation firm in Chicago where she researched, authored, and edited content for Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature by Doug Farr (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). From 2007-2014, Bogaerts worked as a neighborhood development program manager at the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, DC. She generated technical content for the LEED for Neighborhood Development Green Building Rating System; provided in-depth technical assistance to communities; and provided editorial oversight for the most recent LEED reference guides. She also managed a committee of 15 internationally known experts in sustainability. At the University of Michigan, Bogaerts is pursuing a dual degree in public policy and natural resources.
Megan Foster comes to the Ford School from the United States Senate, where she served as a legislative aide for Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), supporting her work on a number of legislative issues and committees. Prior to this, Foster was development manager of the Women’s Campaign Fund, a nonpartisan organization that works to increase the number of women in elected office who support reproductive health choices for all. During her time at Georgetown, Foster interned for the chairman and executive director of the Democratic National Committee and worked as a field manager for Grassroots Campaigns. In 2010, Foster graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with a bachelor’s in international politics. She is a member of the National Political Science Honors Society and the National Slavic Honors Society and originally hails from the Detroit metropolitan area. She is passionate about health policy, gender equality, and community development
Brittney Foxhall received her bachelor’s degree in international business with a focus on emerging nations from Howard University in 2013. As the 52nd executive president of the Howard University Student Association, Foxhall managed a staff of 50 students to organize programs and initiatives to enhance the student experience. Her activities included coordinating a university-wide Lobby Day on the Hill to engage students in the policymaking process as well as organizing a series of initiatives to generate student interest in the 2012 Presidential election (including registration drives that resulted in registering 75 percent of the student body). Foxhall graduated magna cum laude, and spent time in Shanghai, China, teaching English as a foreign language to middle and high school students. She is passionate about advocating for policy implementation that adequately responds to the needs of the low-income African-American community.
Zach Ormsby earned his bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Washington, Seattle. While there, he competed at state and national levels in speech and debate, consistently made the dean’s list, was a member of the Mortar Board Honor Society and the Young Democrats, and served as chapter president of his fraternity. Following graduation, Ormsby moved to Detroit, Michigan, as a Teach for America corps member, and taught 7th and 8th grade social studies. From 2012-2014, he co-led the founding of University YES Academy Elementary, a charter school with 25 staff members and 250 students. Ormsby served as manager of school operations, keeping the school and charter management organization in compliance with state and federal laws, overseeing internal and external communications, and planning and facilitating school events. Ormsby is passionate about U.S. politics, urban policy, and urban development.
Brian Garcia (MPP/MBA '16) came to the Ford School after serving as a community development team leader for the U.S. Armed Forces. In that role he planned community and economic development projects in Kandahar City, Afghanistan. He received the Bronze Star for meritorious service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Before receiving the Bohnett Fellowship, he served as a program coordinator at Racquet-Up, a Detroit-area youth develop served as a program coordinator for an organization that uses the sport of squash, in combination with fitness, academic tutoring, community service and mentoring to improve opportunities for Detroit youth.
Brian McMillan (MPP/MBA '16) received his bachelor's in government from Dartmouth College in 2008. Following graduation, he worked for BTS-USA, a global telecommunications operator, where he taught seminars to senior executives. McMillan left the corporate world to serve as a Teach for America fellow in Oakland, Calif. He came to the Ford School to pursue a dual-degree in business and public policy, with hopes of tackling educational disparities through policy. addressing domestic policy issues including education, healthcare, and Detroit revitalization. He is a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician.
Andrew DeLeeuw (MPP '14) came to the Ford School after serving as a senior program manager for City Year Detroit, an AmeriCorps program that provides in-school and after-school tutoring and extracurricular programing to help K-12 students in Detroit. At City Year, Andrew led service and outreach events, recruited and trained volunteers, and managed data collection. Andrew is currently a business analyst with the Washtenaw County Administrator's Office.
Adrianna McIntyre (MPP/MPH '15) received her BS in cognitive science from the University of Michigan in 2011, and served as a clinical research regulation coordinator at Children's Hospital of Michigan and the Waune State University School of Medicine. She has also participated in behavioral research on high-risk youth in the Bahamas. Adrianna edits The Incidental Economist, a blog on health care policy, and writes about health care policy for Vox.
Stephanie Gray Chang (MPP/MSW '14) is a candidate for State Representative in southwestern Detroit's District 6, where she has been endorsed by Rashida Tlaib, the departing current representative. Prior to this, she was a social work/community outreach intern with the James and Grace Boggs School in Detroit, and a research assistant for the University of Michigan’s Program on Intergroup Relations. She served as an organizer for Michigan United/One United Michigan, building local volunteer-led coalitions to mobilize voter opposition against Proposal 2 in 2006, and was president of Asian & Pacific Islander American (APIA) Vote-Michigan, which serves the APIA community through civic participation, advocacy and education.
Diana Flora (MPP/MUP '13) is a Detroit Revitalization Fellow at Data Driven Detroit. She received her BA from the University of Michigan in 2009 and has worked in Detroit as an AmeriCorps member for Gleaners Community Food Bank and then as campaign manager for State Representative Rashida Tlaib's 2010 re-election race. At the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Flora served for one year as the Detroit Outreach Chair for the Urban Planning Student Association board. Flora is specifically interested in the integration of social activism and policymaking to address urban challenges.
Julie Schneider (MPP '12) is a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. She was the head softball coach at Cass Technical High School and has worked with Michigan AmeriCorps Partnership on Detroit's east side, as well as in donor relations with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
Elizabeth Palazzola (MPP '12) is a Strong Cities, Strong Communities Fellow in Detroit. She moved to Detroit in 2007, after graduating from U-M's Program in the Environment, and has worked as a research technician at Wayne State University as well as a crew leader for Greening of Detroit.