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.
  • Headshot of Elena Davert

    As a passionate public servant, Elena Davert (MPP/MS ’23) has spent most of her career working at the intersection of equity and sustainability. Before joining the Ford School, she spent 5 years designing and implementing grant programs for the State of California, working most extensively in the cities of Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento, and Stockton. During this time, she helped launch the Transformative Climate Communities Program (TCC), a first-of-its kind grant program that funds neighborhood-level climate action in California’s most vulnerable communities.  In addition to funding strategic infrastructure projects, the TCC program takes a holistic approach to community transformation by empowering local residents to develop their own plans for supporting community engagement, workforce development, and anti-displacement work. Inspired by the impact of local action, Elena spent the summer of 2021 interning with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Local Climate and Energy Branch. While interviewing cities about the barriers they face in addressing environmental justice, she gained an appreciation for not only the diversity of climate challenges across the country, but also for the locally driven policy innovations that cities are using to address them. Through her coursework in program evaluation, public management, and environmental policy, she hopes to build additional skills that will make her a more collaborative and effective leader in the climate adaptation policy arena.  Elena holds a B.A. in Environment, Economics, and Politics from Claremont McKenna College, and a professional certificate in geographic information systems (GIS).

    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.