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Sam Geller, 2017 Riecker Fellow, serving in the office of U.S. Senator Gary Peters

April 6, 2017

The Ford School is delighted to announce that Sam Geller (MPP ’17) is serving as the 2017 Margaret Ann (Ranny) Riecker Michigan Delegation Fellow in the Washington, DC office of U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management.

Geller, who worked for six years in the nonprofit sector and on political campaigns at the local and state levels, is enthusiastic about the opportunity to experience the policymaking process from the vantage of the Hill.

“Every decision, every issue that we care about, is either funded by or explicitly outlined through the federal policymaking or budget process,” says Geller. “So this is an opportunity to see how it all fits together.”

It’s a chance, too, to experience federal policymaking during a momentous time. Geller’s six-month assignment began on January 17, just days before President-elect Trump’s inauguration.

For Geller, the election drove home the lesson of ”how separated we are as policy students and believers in ‘government as a vehicle for change,’ from a lot of the rest of the people who participate in the political process.”

“The extent to which we’ve underestimated people’s fear and apprehension at the way the country is moving has really kind of shaken me awake, personally,” says Geller, who will be looking for opportunities to “find common ground and reconcile our differences.”

Geller says he has a great deal of respect, in particular, for Senator Peters’ work on economic and community development initiatives, and the way Peters went to bat for Flint—helping to ensure federal funding for the community’s infrastructure improvements in the wake of the Flint water crisis.

“He was one of the first political leaders to speak out about the need for federal funding and action,” says Geller, “and his persistence and resilience, in following through and calling out obstructionists, made me proud to know he represents me in the Senate.” Geller looks forward to supporting that work, and learning in the process.

“I think that this type of applied experience is really what makes the Ford School program exceptional,” says Geller. “There aren’t many opportunities to remove yourself from academic study for an extended period of time and develop the skills that are required to implement policy change….I wish dozens of Ford students had this opportunity.”

The Riecker Michigan Delegation Fellowship, a permanently endowed fellowship at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, was established in 2015 through an estate gift from Margaret Ann “Ranny” Riecker, a longtime friend and generous benefactor of the Ford School. A supplemental gift from the Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation will allow the Ford School to extend the opportunity to additional fellows in the years ahead.