Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellowship

Honoring the legacy of President Ford through bipartisan cooperation and civility, community service, and public sector service.

Give now to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellowship

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellowship creates a lasting impact

President Gerald R. Ford

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellowship supports two graduate fellowships for the most exceptional Ford School applicants. Endowed fellowships (covering full tuition, a generous stipend, internship funding, and professional development activities) provide full support to students and flexibility to pursue unpaid professional experiences and leadership roles in student organizations.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellows exemplify the president’s commitment to bipartisan cooperation and civility, be deeply and positively engaged in community service, and intend to pursue a lifelong career in the public sector.

In President Ford’s name, these fellows will go on to build their own legacies, serving the interests of our state and nation by analyzing issues creatively and objectively, identifying actionable policy solutions, and building bipartisan consensus.

I want to serve the public interest. Whether it be working toward a safer, more transparent healthcare system or developing programs to improve access, I want to become a leader who puts people first and gives back to the communities that have given me so much."

Bilal Baydoun (MPP '17), the first Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellow

About the fellowship

When Gerald R. Ford returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan, from World War II service, he chose to run for public office. It wasn't because he sought the limelight, but because he believed strongly in a bold, constructive vision for a globally-engaged post-war America—a vision diametrically opposed to that of his Congressional district’s five-term incumbent. The voters agreed, and for the next six decades, Ford never looked back, and never stopped leading.

In keeping with President Ford’s legacy, the Ford School seeks to inspire the next century of citizens, public servants, and leaders. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Ford School and the 101st anniversary of President Ford’s birth, we launched an effort to raise $3 million to permanently endow two full graduate fellowships for the most exceptional Ford School applicants. Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellows:

  • Exemplify the president’s commitment to bipartisan cooperation and civility,
  • Are deeply and positively engaged in community service, and
  • Intend to pursue a lifelong career in the public sector.

The fellows

Elena Davert (MPP/MS '23)

Ryan Swick

Ryan Swick (MPP '23) is a first-year MPP student at the Ford School. Born and raised in Connecticut, he completed his B.A. in Human Development and Family Studies (concentration in Early Childhood Development and Education) at the University of Connecticut in 2015. From there, he became a 2015 Bay Area (San Francisco) corps member through Teach for America, where he taught for six years in various classrooms at the early childhood and elementary levels. Throughout his time as a teacher and as an alumnus of Teach for America, he became a staff coach and mentor of incoming TFA corps members for four summers. In order to develop a greater understanding and comprehensive picture of local school operations, he held roles on several school committees and became his site's liaison to the district union and a union organizer for a number of years. In his free time, he was the league manager of Varsity Gay League: San Francisco, a queer kickball league, and a singer in the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. It was in his classrooms and through his interactions with members of his school community and beyond where he saw the impact and intersection of a number of social policies pertinent to San Francisco and the greater Bay Area show up. As he starts his program, he has a number of policy interests under the umbrella(s) of social and urban policy and also has a large interest in democracy and politics. Beyond the Ford School, he hopes to work on a few election campaigns or launch one of his own someday.

  • Rebecca Ackerman

    Rebecca Ackerman (MPP '21) is a data scientist, social science researcher, and technologist who focuses on building systems that work. She is currently a consultant working on technology for abortion rights. Before coming to the Ford School, she was a data scientist at New York County Defender Services, where she developed a program for pairing data and practice for more effective indigent defense. Prior to NYCDS, she worked at Case Commons, using data-driven design to transform child protective services through software improvement. In 2016, she helped redesign California's statewide child protective services information management system. Prior to Case Commons, she was a Code for America Fellow working with the City of San Francisco. She has also done program evaluation and community organizing in Chicago. Rebecca is also a graduate of the University of Chicago.

    Karl Hoesch

    Karl Hoesch (MPP '20), the 2018 Gerald R. Ford Presidential fellow, interned at the Office of Climate and Energy, in the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. The internship, along with Ford School courses nurtured his interest in energy justice, at the intersection of energy, housing and health policy. Hoesch is now pursuing a PhD at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. Prior to coming to the Ford School, Hoesch taught high school Spanish for two years in Memphis, TN with Teach For America before joining the admissions office at Hope College, his alma mater. 


    Megan Nestor
    Megan Nestor

    Megan Nestor, the 2017 Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellow, spent close to a decade working with non-profit organizations that combat the systemic inequities facing low-income students of color. Prior to joining the Ford School, she served as program director of The Opportunity Network, an organization that helps historically underrepresented students prepare for college and careers. During that time, Nestor also served as an avid volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club's Youth Opportunities Program, which works to introduce urban youth to outdoor adventures. 

    Bilal Baydoun
    Bilal Baydoun

    Bilal Baydoun, the 2015 Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellow, is a policy and communications advisor for the Michigan Department of Attorney General. He has also served as a Foreign Policy Associate at the Clinton Foundation and a Government Innovation Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. Baydoun focused his Ford School policy education on government performance management, U.S. social policy, and international affairs. Baydoun was previously a business analyst at the Detroit-based Data Consulting Group, where he worked to deliver solutions in multiple corners of the healthcare sector. As a first-generation college student, he volunteered extensively for Doors of Opportunity, a student-led organization that provides financial aid and college admissions advice to secondary students in Dearborn's Arab community. Baydoun holds a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Michigan and a master's degree in public policy from the Ford School.

Kaltura Video
Megan Nestor (MPP '19) talks about the impact the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Fellowship had on her.