Bohnett Fellowship

Improving society through social activism

David Bohnett Foundation Leadership and Public Service Fellowships

Photo of a group of Bohnett Fellows and alumni, and Ford School and Bohnett staff, standing outside The Jefferson in Washington DC

The David Bohnett Foundation Leadership and Public Service Fellowship, generously funded by University of Michigan alumnus David Bohnett (MBA '80), is competitively awarded to three incoming master’s students each year. They offer two years of in-state tuition support and a funded internship in the City of Detroit Mayor’s Office, working directly with a group executive on the mayor’s policy priorities. Through the fellowship, the Bohnett Foundation seeks to improve society through social activism and advance a spirit of community and justice.  David Bohnett describes the fellowship here.


"Through the program, I hope that residents [of Detroit] will meet the next generation of public servants and that might go a long way to increase our faith in the power of good government....I hope to advance a spirit of community and justice."
David Bohnett (MBA '80)

  • Fellows receive

    • 100 percent of in-state tuition expenses (or the monetary equivalent for out-of-state students) for two years*, GradCare, and a $10,000 summer internship stipend.
    • An internship with the Detroit Mayor’s Office between their first and second year of study.
    • An opportunity to participate in the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting, typically held in Washington, DC., where Bohnett Fellows network with foundation staff and fellows from other participating policy schools.
    • Leadership coaching during their summer internship experience.


    • Available to full-time, incoming master’s of public policy students. (Dual-degree students must be members of the fall 2022 cohort, and must start their studies at the Ford School in the same semester.)
    • Students must complete the internship requirement – 10 consecutive weeks of full-time work (40 hours/week) – during the summer between their first and second year of studies. Prior to completing the internship, students must be full-time master’s of public policy students in the Ford School for two consecutive semesters; following the internships, students must return to the Ford School for at least one semester.
    • Strong written and verbal communication skills are required.
    • Strong preference is given to applicants with a demonstrated interest in and commitment to the City of Detroit.
    • Previous experience in local government, public service, social activism, or economic development is desired.
    • The following circumstances may affect the fellowship award:
      1) Less than full-time enrollment in a semester;
      2) Enrollment in a dual degree program;
      3) Receipt of additional funding;
      4) Academic probation/suspension

    Learn more about the current and previous fellows below.

    Los Angeles-based David Bohnett is the founder and managing member of the early stage technology fund, Baroda Ventures. In 1994, he founded, one of the original Internet success stories. He is chairman of the board of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and a trustee of amfAR, The American Foundation for AIDS Research, and of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The David Bohnett Foundation funds a wide variety of innovative programs in major cities across the U.S. At the Ford School, the Foundation supports a prestigious, competitive fellowship that provides two years of tuition support and a paid summer internship in the City of Detroit's mayor's office.

    "In ancient Rome, proclamations were addressed to the city and the world, "Urbi et Orbi." That is our Foundation's lens for social justice: to test programs in the city—the living, breathing, experimental hub of humanity—and then to bring those successes to the rest of the world," says David Bohnett. "The issues that face our cities—from lack of educational and civic engagement opportunities to economic and social roadblocks—are the same issues that face all people, just on a larger scale. The Bohnett Mayoral Fellows and the countless others that they inspire through their work help solve some of the largest issues facing Detroit and Los Angeles and New York, and we hope those successes will be replicated in small towns and communities not just here in the U.S., but around the world."

    The application for the 2024-2025 Bohnett Fellowship is closed.

    City of Detroit Mayor’s Office: Julie Schneider, one of the inaugural fellows, “expected the mayor’s office to be a fast-paced environment,” but left with an even greater respect for the city’s public servants, who face intense daily demands and combat ongoing budget deficits, but work incredibly hard to maintain and improve city services. Mayor’s office fellows have analyzed the city’s foreclosure crisis, looked for ways to expand the city’s curbside recycling programs, mapped the neighborhoods in need of street light repairs, researched innovative funding mechanisms for the city’s recreation centers, and more.

    Depending on the Fellow’s interests and the Mayor’s priorities at the time of the internship, Fellows can be assigned to a range of relevant projects. Past projects have included:

    • Internal process improvement – recreating city systems and processes
    • Neighborhood initiatives – working closely with district managers on community organizing and planning activities
    • Human rights decisions – investigating instances of discrimination by race, gender, or sexual orientation; monitoring contractor compliance with city agreements

    In the past three summersfellows have worked on projects including:

    • Drafting a comprehensive report outlining the existing context of Opportunity Zone implementation, as to inform any potential local policy actions in Detroit
    • Consult and support project manager w/development, implementation, and continuous improvement of workforce development pilot project, making job ready over 9,000 job seekers in 3 months
    • Analyzing disparities in the allocation, administration, and award of state and federal transportation funding in Detroit and Southeast Michigan
    • Machine learning and Salesforce integration with parcel imaging for Detroit Land Bank Authority data analysis
    • Research on gaps an inequalities in early education and childcare networks in Detroit
    • Analyzing the usage of one-stop career centers by people with disabilities
    • Developing partnerships to elevate the voices of youth and residents in the neighborhood planning process
    • Expanding community integration programs for recently resettled refugees
    • Creating a sustainability policy handbook that refined and institutionalized the policies and practices for a Spanish-speaking small business support coalition
    • Evaluating and developing an implementable strategy to support the innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Detroit
    • Creating inventory of existing City of Detroit sustainability initiatives across departments and agencies
Headshots of Kristina Curtiss, Adam Flood, and Clare Knutson

Featured story

Summer of service

The 2021 fellows— Adam Flood (MPP/MPH ‘22), Kristina Curtiss (PPIA ‘ 19, MPP ‘22), and Clare Knuston (MPP ‘22)— spent their summer internship working on some of Detroit's most pressing policy issues.
Read reflections from Summer 2021
Portraits of Madison Prinzing (left) and Katrina Wheelan (right)
Portraits of Madison Prinzing (left) and Katrina Wheelan (right)

Meet the fellows

Fall 2023

Madison Prinzing (MPP '25) is a life-long Michigander with roots at the University of Michigan with undergraduate degrees in International Studies and Spanish. After graduation, she worked for PEAC, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering individuals with disabilities through biking, bussing, and walking. As a result, Prinzing learned about accessible, healthy communities and the current gaps that limit Southeast Michigan. While at the Ford School, Prinzing hopes to develop her quantitative skills and connect with others at the intersection of local policy. She is looking forward to exploring the ways policy can be innovative in local government, especially in regards to creating infrastructure that encourages movement, connection, and community.

Katrina Wheelan (MPP '25) works at the intersection of data science and social science, using quantitative methods and technology to inform policy implementation. Most recently, she served as a research manager for the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs. In this role, Wheelan led several partnerships with federal and state agencies, leveraging machine learning to improve environmental regulatory compliance. She also served as the technical lead for a project evaluating novel techniques for detecting and measuring illegal methane emissions from Colorado’s oil and gas facilities. Previously, Wheelan worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, where she developed a tool to improve the resolution of climate models. Wheelan holds a B.A. in mathematics and history from Williams College.

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    Summer 2023

    Rob Svoboda is a Dual Degree Master of Public Policy student at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a Master of Urban Planning student at Taubman College of Architecture. He previously conducted market research for the semiconductor industry and worked on political campaigns for Wendy Davis and Beto O’Rourke. While at Michigan, he has worked on land bank projects in Youngstown and Flint in addition to preparing a capstone project that applied machine learning methods to disaster recovery in Southeastern Louisiana. Rob has also worked on broadband connectivity at a city and in the electric cooperative space. He is committed to addressing digital divide problems in his work and is particularly interested in the role municipalities and cooperatives can play in digital equity initiatives. Rob holds a Bachelor of Science in Advertising from the University of Texas at Austin.

    As a justice-centered policy student and designer, Kayla Guillory is committed to forging a career that uses design methods in a policy context. By allowing herself to be unrestricted by traditional professional boundaries, she is able to explore the best possible ways to confront problems facing municipalities and their inhabitants. After graduating from Stanford University with a B.S. in Product Design, Kayla worked as a user experience professional in the healthcare industry. Based on this work, she has developed many frameworks to better understand people, their goals, and how they prioritize their lives. Her value as a dual degree student, earning both a Master's of Design in Integrative Design and a Master’s of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, comes from the ability to approach complex problems in thoughtful and holistic ways. She designs with, not for, partners and seeks ways to be a proactive, instead of reactive, change agent. 

    Zoe Salamey is a student of Public Policy at the University of Michigan Ford School. She earned degrees in Political Science and Economics with minors in French and Arabic from Wayne State University, graduating summa cum laude in 2020. She has conducted and published research relating to voting rights, campaign strategies, comparative politics, and populism. Prior to arriving in Ann Arbor, she worked for ComEd, the electric utility for Northern Illinois, to advance the integration of clean-energy technologies into its electric power grid. Focused on development and policy, Zoe contributes globally, as well, advocating to include youth in high-level policy dialogues as a member of United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth Sustainable Development Goal 7 Youth Constituency’s Coordination team.

    Headshots of Emma Jabour, Terri N. O'Neal, and Olivia Vaden
    L-R: Jabour, O'Neal, Vaden (courtesy)

    Summer 2022

    A Michigan native, Emma Jabour is a Master of Public Policy student at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a David Bohnett Leadership and Public Service Fellow. Emma previously lived in Washington, DC and was a Project Officer for USAID Advancing Nutrition, where she backstopped programming in the Kyrgyz Republic, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Ghana. Before pursuing her career in DC, Emma was a campaign staffer for Matt Morgan for Michigan, MI-01’s 2018 Democratic campaign for U.S. Congress. Working on the campaign solidified her passion for grassroots mobilization and Michigan politics—she remained an avid volunteer for candidates across Michigan while living and working in DC. Emma holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a minor in Community Action and Social Change from the University of Michigan.

    Terri N. O’Neal was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. She is a community curator who is inspired by the everyday grassroots initiatives residents create to build and sustain communities. Terri is compelled to engage policy solutions to address equitable community development and neighborhood revitalization in historically under-resourced communities. She has worked in capacity building in Atlanta, New Orleans, Boston, Durham, and Chicago, and was proud to bring all these experiences back to her hometown Detroit. She has since worked in community development in the Gratiot-Grand and Durfee/ Central neighborhoods, engaging residents at The Durfee Innovation Society. She enjoys serving her community by volunteering with the National Council of Negro Women - Detroit Section. In addition, she finds joy in caring for her plants, exploring the City’s hidden treasures, and browsing estate sales. Terri received her BA in Sociology and Anthropology with a concentration in Comparative Women’s Studies from Spelman College.

    Olivia Vaden has spent the last two years as a Council of Michigan Foundations Philanthropy Fellow at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation in Detroit. As a fellow, Olivia worked closely with the Foundation's caregivers and workforce development funding strategies. She received her BA in Public Policy with a minor in Women and Gender Studies from Michigan State University in 2018 and entered the philanthropic sector soon after graduating. Olivia is excited to begin a new adventure in Ann Arbor and particularly interested in studying how the state and Michigan philanthropy can better address real-time issues Michigan residents face. Specifically, Olivia is interested in better understanding how we can reimagine the role of home health workers to justify raising their wages. A proud Michigander and a self-proclaimed Michigan "lifer," Olivia is passionate about creating a better home for future generations of Michiganders to come.  

    Headshots of Kristina Curtiss, Adam Flood, and Clare Knutson
    Kristina Curtiss, Adam Flood, and Clare Knutson

    Summer 2021

    Kristina Curtiss is a life-long Michigander and community development advocate. Currently based in Detroit, her work in the governmental and non-profit sectors bridges opportunity divides across the state by supporting policy innovation in workforce development, economic opportunity, and mobility initiatives. Through this work, she has lent her talents to United Way for Southeastern Michigan, Wayne State University, Transportation Riders United, and the Federal Highway Administration. She also helps maintain the Self Care Project, which provides annual microgrants for Detroit's community activists and organizers to use towards radical self-care. In her free time, Kristina volunteers with the Detroit Urban Debate League and searches for Detroit's best bakery.

    Adam Flood is a dual Master of Public Policy and Master of Public Health student at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and University of Michigan School of Public Health. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. A native of Flint, Michigan, he has worked primarily in his hometown on public health research efforts. He has served as a research coordinator within the Michigan State University-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, working to provide resources to mothers and children affected by the Flint Water Crisis. He also currently serves as a research coordinator for the University of Michigan Stroke Program on a study focusing on lowering hypertension in the Flint community. His professional interests revolve around utilizing public service and social policy to increase equity, access, opportunity and overall health and wellbeing in communities of need.

    Clare Knutson moved to the Detroit area from Canada 4 years ago to work as an engineer in the automotive industry. Clare attended McGill University in Montréal where she received a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. After working as a design engineer on electric vehicles, she decided to switch gears and return to school to pursue a career focused on community improvement. She is passionate about community-based policy focused on neighborhood-specific solutions to address inequality. In her spare time, Clare enjoys playing ultimate Frisbee, baking, and spending time with her two greyhounds.

    Safiya Merchant, Kevin Naud, and Alyshia Dyer
    Safiya Merchant, Kevin Naud, and Alyshia Dyer

    Summer 2020

    Read about the 2020 Bohnett Fellows' experience.

    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.

    Summer 2019

    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.

    Summer 2018

    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.

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